British runner Susannah Gill has won the World Marathon Challenge after completing seven marathons across seven continents in seven days. Gill, the 34-year-old Communications and Corporate Affairs Director from London, was one of only two British runners to take part in one of the toughest endurance races on earth. She ran 295 km (183 miles) in a world record time of 24 hours 19 minutes nine seconds. Gill finished the final race in Miami in a time of 3:26:34 to set a new world record. She completed the 183-mile challenge after finishing second in the first marathon in Antarctica and won each of the six remaining races.
"It was a crazy ambition that I wanted to do. The challenge seemed absolutely irresistible to me," she said. "Ten years ago, I just wanted to get fit and run the London Marathon. Now, marathon running has literally taken me around the world." Over the past decade she has completed 45 marathons, including 10 London Marathons, with a fastest time of 2 hours 58 minutes. American Mike Wardian won the men's title after completing the final marathon in Miami in 2:53:03 for a total time of 20:49:30 for the seven races.
Gill finished second in the first marathon in Antarctica, but won each of the remaining six marathons - all run over the standard 26 miles 385 yards (42.2 km) - on her way to overall victory. Competitors landed in Cape Town, South Africa on 29 January before travelling to Antarctica for the first marathon, where temperatures dropped as low as -35C. Just two days later in Perth, Western Australia - and having run a marathon in Cape Town the day before - Gill battled soaring temperatures of 35C. 'I ended up getting an hour's sleep on one flight because I just had to get up and eat a packet of peanuts, two packets of crisps and a chocolate bar.”
Fewer than 200 people have completed the gruelling '777' challenge since Sir Ranulph Fiennes first achieved the feat in 2003. Competitors take in the sights of Nova in Antarctica, Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Santiago and Miami, flying more than 63 hours over 55,000 miles across the globe, providing vital time for rest and recovery in between marathons.
"It's been an extraordinary week. I've loved it but it's been tough," said Gill. "Although none of us have slept in a bed for a week, and we've probably never had more than three hours' sleep at a time in a plane seat, strangely none of us want to go to bed because that means it's all over. It's actually more fun to be here and support other runners and make sure everyone gets home and gets their medal, which is what it's all about.”