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Maroa grad takes worldly challenge


Tim Durbin, shown running a marathon in Antartica in 2012, will compete in the World Marathon Challenge beginning Friday. The former Decatur resident and 11 other competitors will do seven marathons on seven continents on seven days. 


Even to most marathon runners, Tim Durbin is out of his mind for attempting what he's about to start.

Understandably, it's hard for them to wrap their minds around someone running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

That's Durbin's plan.

“ 'Are you crazy,' because running one marathon is hard enough. That's kind of the main reaction,” said Durbin, 31, a one-time Decatur resident and Maroa-Forsyth graduate.

Weather-permitting, Durbin and 11 other runners from around the globe will begin the World Marathon Challenge on Friday in Antarctica. He's the only U.S. competitor.

In Antarctica, the racers can't start until there's a clear weather window synchronizing with their flight out. The first marathon begins when they know the plane is in the air on the way to pick them up.

The challenge begins and ends in completely different climates, Antarctica to Australia, but Durbin is used to the tundra of the first stage because he's already run an arctic marathon.

Actually, Durbin probably wouldn't be participating at the end of this week without that marathon two years ago.

There, he met the race organizer, Richard Donovan who set up this first World Marathon Challenge after doing it on his own in 2012 in a baffling amount of time.

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“He essentially organized it himself, mapped out the courses at each different location and put crews there,” Durbin said. “He did it in under five days. We have 48 extra hours.”

Donovan sent out emails a year ago, testing the idea with some of the runners he knew. The challenge grabbed Durbin's attention instantly.

“That's kind of how it piqued my interest to try to do this,” Durbin said. “Once he had logistics confirmed, I jumped at the opportunity.”

More than a decade ago, it would've been impossible for Durbin to imagine ever doing this. He's come a long way. At Maroa, Durbin was a track and field athlete, running the 800-meter and mile-long races.

“It wasn't any blazing speeds or setting records,” Durbin clarified. “I just did it for the enjoyment of running.”

He slowed down quite a bit in college, then graduate school, without a team or structure for running until his great uncle inspired him.

“My great uncle ran marathons and half-marathons into his mid-70s,” Durbin said. “I was sitting there, in my 20s, thinking about that.”

He ran Antarctica, then set a goal to run and walk 1,000 miles in 2013. He blew the total out of the water and set his sights on the distance around the equator (24,901 miles) before he turns 40.

Since committing to the World Marathon Challenge, Durbin has increased his output into an extensive daily training regimen.

“I would run four miles a day and walk another seven, basically for two-and-a-half hours a day over the course of 2014,” said Durbin, who lives in San Francisco. “I would also do back-to-back-to-backs, sometimes 20-plus miles a day, just to make sure my body could recover and be prepared.”

But Durbin said the toughest aspects of the challenge will be the parts he can't simulate at home in California.

“The greatest unknown is the impact of altitude and flying, and sleeping on planes,” said Durbin, who's only time to rest is during the flights.

The challenge moves through Union Glacier (Antarctica); Chile (South America); Miami (North America); Spain (Europe), Morocco (Africa); Dubai (Asia); and Sydney (Australia).

There will also be four competitors from Great Britian, two from India, and one each from Brazil, Hong Kong, Australia, France and Finland.

Accompanying the race, Durbin is trying to raise $77,777 for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a disease he's seen his mother, grandparents and friends battle throughout his life.

“That's the driving force,” Durbin said. “I remember, back when I was 10 years old, watching the first ESPYs and Jimmy (Valvano) giving his speech. That's something that really stuck with me."

During his historic speech, Valvano said: "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

“That motto applies perfectly to this race," Durbin said. "I know, along the way, I'll be very tired and beaten down, but find that inspiration."

To follow Durbin along the way or to donate, visit his website


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