Runners are becoming more worldly

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Here’s how you can combine fitness, culture, and a challenge.

Movement sparks progress. For high performers, this forward momentum is powered by currents in science, technology, and subculture. To celebrate the launch of ASICS GEL-CUMULUS® 21, Furthermore and ASICS have partnered to harness the power of these currents and show you how to channel them and turn them into actual results.

“Yoku yatta!” “Omedetōgozaimasu!” On a sunny day in February 2016, Japanese voices that translated to cheers of “well done” and “congrats” magnetized me toward the Tokyo Marathon finish line. It wasn’t just another race for me—it was the last part of my quest to complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors (WMM). My pursuit started with the London Marathon in 2013, followed by New York City, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and finally, Tokyo, where I became one of the first thousand people to receive the coveted Six Star Finisher medal. In the years since, another five thousand runners have earned one.

This uptick reflects a larger trend: RunningUSA stats show that 46 percent of runners traveled to a race in 2018 and 55 percent plan to do so in 2019. Membership to the Seven Continents Club has increased threefold in the last two years, notes Jeff Adams, president of Marathon Tours & Travel. He cites a recent survey that found 82 percent of Six Star finishers want to run marathons on the remaining continents. “There seems to be a trend of putting off marriage and kids in lieu of experiences,” he says, especially in runners who are 35 and younger. “They’re the ones who are prioritizing Patagonia, Madagascar, and Antarctica.”

Meanwhile, a separate group is traveling extensively within the United States. The Road to 50 is the domestic answer to the Seven Continents Club, pushing people to run a race of any distance in every state. “In this sport, there’s always another mountain to climb,” says George Rose, race director of The Road to 50, which started gaining traction in 2013. “You reach that one, look in front of you, and see nine more you want to conquer.”

Equinox is also delving into the run-luxury-travel space. First up: a half marathon in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in November 2020. “When we get to a new place, every one of us should put on running shoes,” says Leah Howe, New York City-based senior director of retreats and member experiences at Equinox. “We’re results-oriented: In the clubs, that could be a lower body fat percentage or the ability to do a handstand. From a travel perspective, it could be an achievement, like finishing a race or summiting the highest mountain in Morocco.”

Plus, pairing travel and fitness helps you disconnect. “You can café-hop in Paris with your work emails coming through,” Howe says. “You can’t run a half marathon in Cambodia while checking your phone.”

For more inspiration to put unique and far-flung miles on your sneakers, read about three runners who are going after travel-focused race goals.

Kevin Thoma

His pursuit: the WMM

It all started in May 2012 with the Prague Marathon, which Thoma ran with his father. In 2013, the Swiss duo saw the WMM booth at the Berlin Marathon expo. “It was the moment when the fire ignited,” Thoma remembers. Their whirlwind travels took them to Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, and London over the next three years, but a near-fatal car accident in July 2017 shifted the younger Thoma’s focus.

“I was overwhelmed by everything and didn’t see a reason for anything anymore,” he says. “My father visited me at the hospital, reminded me of our common journey, and I found motivation to come back.” It wasn’t easy, but Thoma made it to the start line of his last Major in November 2018. “The following twenty-six miles were the most emotional of my life. They brought me not just to the finish line of the NYC Marathon but also that of our WMM journey, making my twenty-ninth birthday the best day of my life.”

Quick facts:

How I recovered: After every marathon, I did nothing but a few two- to three-mile runs for three weeks. 

My essential race gear: My Garmin—I'm addicted to the data.

My favorite race memory: Passing a gospel choir in front of a church in Brooklyn. It gave me goosebumps all over.

My mantra: 

“Start early and stay late.” 

The worst on-course surprise: The nutrition in Tokyo, which included tomatoes, bread, and pickles. 

My next race: The Brooklyn Half in May.

My favorite location: Chicago.

Elizabeth Wallingford

Her pursuit: the Seven Continents Club

When Wallingford graduated from college in 2012, her dad gifted her a trip to her destination of choice. She decided on Kenya, where she wanted to run the marathon. While there, they met several runners on their journey to complete marathons on every continent and thus, the father-daughter goal was set. To date, they’ve run Rio de Janeiro, Dublin, Tokyo, Boston, the Outback, and Antarctica. “It’s just amazing to run with my dad and see the world at the same time,” says Wallingford.

For her, the travel experience is typically more important than any pace goal. Still, after finishing between five and six hours in both Kenya and Rio, she set an ambitious goal to get a BQ. She earned her bib in Chicago with a time of 3:27. “I followed a strict schedule for about twelve weeks, waking up at five every Saturday morning for my long run,” she says. “Working so hard for something and finally achieving it was one of the most satisfying feelings.”

Quick facts:

How I cross-trained: Cycling and bodyweight strength classes.

My mantra: “Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident. Sweat, on the other hand, is for the ones who know it’s a choice.”

My go-to pre-race snack: Bread and peanut butter.

The best on-course surprise: Spotting rhinos, zebras, and monkeys during the marathon in Kenya.

My  favorite race memory: An elderly Irish runner I passed on and off in Dublin, who encouraged me to keep going.

My favorite location: Antarctica.

Ayrin Hamner-Ripperger 

Her pursuit: the Road to 50

A 27-year-old administration sergeant for the Iowa National Guard, Hamner wanted to find something active to do while traveling for work. “I saw others post on social media about participating in half marathons all over the world, and I wanted to be one of them,” she says.

She started in March 2018 with the Little Rock Half Marathon in Arkansas. Every month from April to August, she ran either a half or full marathon—each in a different state. Now, with an ongoing goal of running three such races each month, she’s crossed off more than half of the states.

Hamner has faced emotional, mental, and physical hurdles along the way. “It’s made me a stronger person inside and out,” she says. She’ll complete her Road to 50 this October in Mitchell, South Dakota, running the Palace City Kiwanis Half Marathon.

Quick facts:

How many days a week I ran during training: I only run on race weekends. During the week, I focus on volleyball and work.

My mantra: “Be true to your dreams. Some will judge you, some will stand beside you cheering, and some will be jealous—but that’s what makes you stronger.”

How I cross-train: Conditioning workouts, volleyball, and yoga.

My favorite race memory: PRing by three minutes (1:38) in the Big Beach Half Marathon in Gulf Shores, Alabama, after running in Jackson, Mississippi, the day before. Afterwards, I went to congratulate my friend who also PRd and I tripped over a curb, breaking a toe and getting a few bloody road rash marks. I was so excited for her I jumped up and continued to run to give her a hug.

The biggest on-course surprise: The Halloween Half in Fort Worth, Texas, didn’t have any course markings and it started early enough that it was still dark. I was at the front of the pack with about 14 other runners when we made a handful of wrong turns. We ran more than 13.1 miles that day.

My most memorable finish: At the Madison Marathon on Veterans Day 2018 in Wisconsin, they recognized all military with flags on their bibs, I (and other military runners) got a lot of “thank you’s” leading up to the course. When I crossed the finish line, the bells on the Capitol building were going off. The lady who handed me my medal told me it was 11:11 a.m. on 11/11, and that’s what the bells symbolized.

My favorite location: Delray Beach, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

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