Marathon Madness: What It Actually Took To Run 7 Marathons In 7 Days

Jens Voigt ran seven marathons in seven days.Following last year’s Everest Challenge, where I raised money for Tour de Cure by riding my bike up and down a local hill 100 times until I reached the accumulated vertical elevation of Mount Everest, I wanted to continue to kick off the new year with another crazy challenge that benefited a good cause.  This year, I decided on Jensie’s Marathon Madness. The idea was to run seven “marathons” in seven days. While they weren’t official races, each consisted of a pre-planned 4.4-mile loop. Completing this loop six times meant I was running 26.49 miles in totaljust a few extra kilometers to be sure.

In talking to experienced runners, I realized that preparing for a marathon isn’t a straight shot. I had to incorporate things like interval training, stair running, and distance runs into my routine. A new experience for me was discovering that, unlike in cycling, runnerseven world-class athletesalmost never cover the entire race distance in training. Instead, they cover about 18.6 miles.

When marathon week finally arrived, I felt excited and ready but humbled by this adventure. I had learned that running is a lot harder on the body than cycling and would require more recovery time, so I planned to have an ice bath every day and lined up massage appointments.

Marathon #1

On January 2nd, I ran my first “marathon” of the year. As with the Everest Challenge, supporters showed up throughout the day to tackles the miles alongside me. I started my first lap in the company of four other runners. By lap five, it was just me and my daughter riding her bike next to me. On the final lap, another runner showed up and we finished the run together. After a hot shower followed by an ice bath and protein shake for muscle recovery, I did two quick Facebook Live sessions. Later that day I had my first massage.

Marathon #2

Waking up the morning of the second marathon was great because it didn’t feel like I had run at all the day before. My muscles were only slightly sore; I felt almost completely recovered. During this run I also had more company10 fellow runners started with me and two ran the entire distance. Having company was fantastic, but the next day my partners said “That was my effort for the week; I ain’t gonna come tomorrow.” Haha. I still knew I needed to forge on.

Marathon #3

By the third morning my project was gaining momentum. I met about 25 runners that morning, and Danish TV and four radio stations were present. I was slightly sore at the start, but by the end I felt some burning in my left shin. The pain wasn’t too bad, but it was definitely there. That night my shins became more red and swollen. I had them taped during physical therapy.

Marathon #4
In retrospect, marathon four was brave but stupid. Right after I completed it my shin pain was too bad to be ignored. This was not a case of going “shut up legs”; it was a more serious problem. My wife and I went to a doctor who diagnosed me with a bacterial infection, put me on antibiotics, and told me to rest and cool the leg—no running or walking.  

I rested that night but then came up with a plan B so the project wouldn’t fall apart. I would still go to the starting line and then have my fellow runners come and support me. They’d be my ambassadors and carry the torch for me.

Jens Voigt ran seven marathons in seven days.

Marathon #5

Day five was a total display of loyalty and friendship by my fellow runners. After the initial shock of my diagnosis, 100 runners ended up running in my place in an effort to raise awareness and garner donations for the fight against cancer. I was touched by all the support. I received messages from South Africa, Europe, North and South America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. It made me proud to be able to count on folks to help me with my project when I struggled.

Marathon #6

After five successful days, we decided to make day six the grand finale and end on a high note. We managed to raise about $15,000 in donations, exceeding our goal of $10,000. Despite my injury, it turned out to be a great event. People loved the atmosphere, and it became a social gathering. During the last two days, we had as many spectators as active runners.

Overall, the races went well. My only painful experience: Not being able to run as planned and realizing that I’m not 21 anymore. My 46-year-old body needs a little more rest. But hey, as soon as I can run again, I’ll finish the missing marathons.


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