Running 7 Marathons in 7 Days for Charity

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By Instructor Michael Stashin

In October 2011, I was able to use my ChiRunning technique to give back to my local community of Ottawa, Canada. I organized an event where I ran 7 marathons in seven consecutive days to raise awareness and donations for a mental health prevention and intervention program for youths called YouthNet that is delivered through the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. YouthNet helps youth develop and maintain positive mental health as well as healthy coping strategies for managing stress, while decreasing stigma around mental illness and its treatment. They do this through education and intervention. I was excited to support this cause — although, I would have never completed the 295km of running in a single week if not for the incredible energy efficient and injury prevention benefits of the ChiRunning technique!

As of May 2010, I had been running for six years and had six marathons under my belt. I had recently been certified as a ChiRunning instructor and my running technique was improving to the point that I felt ready to try running ultra distances. In June of 2010, I set the goal of running the 2011 Marathons Des Sables (MDS), a seven day, 250km foot race through the Sahara desert in Morocco. Fortunately I was able to enlist the coaching services of world ultra runner and founder of Impossible2Possible, Ray Zahab. Ray is a person who knows no boundaries and was responsible for helping me dispel my own ingrained marathon-based distance running boundaries (i.e., longest weekly training run of 32km and 42km on race day). Ray is no stranger to coaching long distance runners. For those of you familiar with Marshall Ulrich’s epic 2008 run across America, Ray served as Marshall’s running coach for that event. Danny Dreyer, Ray and Marshall all know each other well and even taught together at one of Marshall’s “Dreams in Action” Death Valley training camps.

With the winning combination of Ray’s coaching and Danny’s pain-free ChiRunning technique I completed the MDS in April 2011. The idea of running 7 marathons in seven 7 days was developed during a peak weekend of training for the MDS. That weekend involved a 42km run on Saturday followed by another 42km run on Sunday, both while wearing a 20 lb. backpack. At the end of the Sunday run, I felt I could run another 42km the next day if I had to, and decided at that point a week of marathon running would be my next event.

In June of 2011, I pitched the idea to Ray while studying his face intently to gauge his response. If Ray would have been hesitant at all I would not have pursued the idea any further. But he wasn’t. In fact, he was very enthusiastic. This was a great confidence booster as Ray had coached me for a year at that point and knew what I was capable of running better than I did myself.

The four months that followed involved many weekends of back-to-back running maximum distances of 42km on each run. My girlfriend, Trish Liddle, ran all the Saturday runs with me regardless of the running distance. This was amazing in that she only runs a maximum of three times a week and has never trained for, nor signed up for, a marathon. However she has run the marathon distance numerous times with me in training. How does she do it? Have you guessed it? Trish is my best ChiRunning student and is a constant reminder to me of the effectiveness of this great technique.

The running of the event itself went better than expected. I maintained a low comfortable gear for the week and finished all seven marathons at an average time of 4:11. The only issue was a progressively inflaming achilles tendon resulting from a trigger point that developed just prior to the start of the event. Interestingly, the week was more about the post-run recovery and logistics than the running itself. In fact, I would finish each day’s run around 1:15 pm but only finish the day’s activities (eat lunch, drive home, ice bath/hot tub intervals, answer emails, answer Facebook messages, update web site and fan page, pack for next day, eat supper, massage therapy, etc.) around 8:00 pm.

The event was a novelty within Ottawa, and as a result received significant media attention from the local newspaper, radio and television stations. Every news piece was used to raise awareness of the existence of the YouthNet program and the great service it provided to the Ottawa youth. Financially, the event was a success as well, raising over $10,000.00 to fund future YouthNet initiatives. The success of this event and its positive contribution to the YouthNet program was made possible by the ChiRunning technique!

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