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Around the World in Seven Races

Follow Nick Jesdanun ’91 on his continental quest


Antarctica Marathon

Bellingshausen, Antarctica

Feb. 26, 2007

There’s a certain “because it’s there” mentality in starting a quest to complete marathons on all seven continents. It began in 2007 as I boarded a boat to Antarctica for a race through four research stations and a glacier on King George Island. To this day, it remains my slowest—at 6:24:11, or nearly twice as long as my personal best of 3:43:49. I blame the photo stop for a penguin in my path.

South America:

Fin del Mundo Marathon

Ushuaia, Argentina

March 6, 2007

The boat got back to civilization a week later. As we were already in South America, why not knock off another continent? This race was warmer, but lacked penguins. Instead, we were treated to the beautiful mountains and forests of Tierra del Fuego at the bottom, or end of the world—fin del mundo.


Spitsbergen Marathon

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

June 9, 2007

The name of this Arctic town translates to “Longyear Town,” though Long Day would have been more appropriate. This part of the world gets 24-hour daylight during the summer months. Friends persuaded me to run this. When else, they reasoned, would I get to both the Arctic and Antarctica in the same year? We didn’t spot any polar bears, though race marshals stood ready—just in case. In an emergency, I knew I just had to run faster than the runner next to me.


Sydney Marathon

Sydney, Australia

Sept. 18, 2011

It’s back to the Southern Hemisphere for a race that begins on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. You might recognize it from Finding Nemo.

North America:

Chamber Chase Marathon

Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. and Ontario

Sept. 22, 2012

I’ve done dozens of marathons in North America, but this one stands out because it’s my first to cover two countries. We crossed briefly into Canada before turning back as immigration officials stood guard. It’s the only time I’ve earned an age group award, as I finished second among men ages 40–44. Never mind that there were only two men ages 40–44. My trophy is a piece of steel cut off from the bridge we crossed over. Good thing I didn’t know this before I crossed.


Ayutthaya Marathon

Ayutthaya, Thailand

Dec. 11, 2016

This race in  Thailand’s ancient capital brings me back to the home of my ancestors. The start and finish were near one of the statues my grandpa had sculpted back in the day. It’s the first race that some of my cousins in Thailand got to see. We started at 4 a.m. to beat the tropical heat and were treated to the soothing sounds of Buddhist chants as we ran by temple ruins. With this trip, I got to catch up with Jim Wallace ’91 in Bangkok.


Victoria Falls Marathon

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

July 1, 2018

And so the quest is completed, and I got my second two-country race with a brief stretch in Zambia. Half-marathoners got to run by a stray elephant, which I learned could have been dangerous if it had been spooked by all the charging runners. Nonetheless, I was disappointed to miss it. The closet I got was some elephant dung, quite fresh from the smell of it.

What’s next?

Though my seven-continent quest is hardly about saving the world, all the travels have opened my eyes to a bigger world. Races have taken me to corners that tourists wouldn’t normally stumble on. And it has spawned other goals, such as eating chocolate on each continent (though in retrospect, I probably should have eaten my chocolate and run marathons on the same trips).

My next quest is to run marathons in every European Union country. I knocked of the U.K. in April (and visited Jess Hobart ’91 in London) before it would be too late. Austria, a week later, was my seventh EU marathon. Just 21 to go!