British Couple Runs the Entire Length of South America

woman running on nature trail...
Shutterstock / Warren Goldswain

If running a marathon seems like an exhausting prospect, then spare a thought for the British couple that ran a marathon every single day for 15 months. The mammoth feat was part of an epic plan to run the entire length of South America– ,504 miles to be precise.

Katharine and David Lowrie became the first people to ever run the length of the continent when they crossed the finish line in Venezuela last week. But their arduous journey began way back last year on the first day of the London Olympics when they set off from the southern tip of Chile.

The intrepid pair was determined to complete the journey and strode on despite all sorts of unpleasant conditions, be it hurricane-force winds, knee-deep mud or slippery ice. The temperatures they faced were no better, ranging from one extreme (14 F) to another (113 F). And if running miles in these conditions wasn’t bad enough, the couple did it all while they dragged their supplies behind them. There wasn’t much reprieve at night either, with the couple hunkering down in wonky tents as they tried to gather their energy for the next grueling day of running.The Lowries say they went through 10 pairs of shoes during the trip, although they ran a significant portion of their journey barefoot, kind of brave when you consider the Amazonian insects that were swarming them and the snakes that assaulted them. Those critters did come in handy a few times, however, with the couple admitting to eating termites for breakfast when they ran out of food at one point.

The pair says they made the record-breaking run to raise awareness about the importance of the planet’s forests and ecosystems and to raise money for conservation.

World’s craziest race – the Barkley Marathons


Barkley MarathonsWould you be tempted to enter a race that covers 100 miles, has no set trail, and only nine people have completed? How about if you add a cumulative elevation of over 59,000 feet – that’s twice that of Mount Everest, natural obstacles of all varieties including thorns and rats, and no aid or resting stations along the way? Hundreds have entered and attempted the Barkley Marathons in Tennessee each spring, known as one of the world’s most challenging races. Even if you “only” complete the 60-mile “fun run,” chances are you’ll come out bleeding, sleep-deprived, and a little insane (though perhaps no more so that when you agreed to enter this run) and if you give up, you still have a few hours’ walk back to camp.

This month, Believer Magazine has a fascinating account of the people behind this insane race and the culture that has developed along with it. Gary Cantrell – known as Lazarus Lake or just Laz – started the race 25 years ago, inspired by the prison escape attempt of James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King Junior’s assassin. Ray ran around the same woods for 55 hours during his attempt and made it only 8 miles, prompting Cantrell to imagine he could do at least 100 miles in that time. Now, Cantrell begins the race each year not with a starter pistol or bullhorn, but a lighter and a cigarette. Runners depart from Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, about 50 miles from Knoxville. There’s no set start time (runners camp out the night before and await the warning via conch shell from Cantrell) and runners have to chart their own course from a map made available the day before the race. Participants have 12 hours to complete each of 5 loops, and have to tear out a page matching their race number of a book on each loop to prove they made it.
You can read another account of the race on Runner’s World, and the author’s post-script is another amazing story: after attempting the Barkley and making a documentary about running across the Sahara Desert, he’s now serving prison time for mortgage fraud.

Still want to enter? Hope you have good Googling and writing skills – there’s no official website or entrance instructions and only 35 will be allowed in each year, after completing an essay called “Why I should be allowed to run Barkleys Marathons.” The race is held in late March or early April each year, giving would-be runners a head start on figuring out how to enter.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Michael Hodge

Jog at rest stops – Road trip tip

When you pull into a rest stop to refresh, include a 3-5 minute jog or brisk walk.

It helps relieve the stiffness from sitting in the car and gets the blood pumping. It also provides children an opportunity to run and scream.

When you finish, do a quick stretch. Now you can be awake and alert for the road.

[Photo: Flickr | MikeBaird]

Six ways for road warriors to stay in shape

Business travel can be brutal on your body. One night, you’re out with clients, sipping that extra cocktail and scarfing down dessert – you don’t want your client doing these things alone. The next day, you stuff fistfuls of French fries into your mouth between meetings and devour a fast food “snack” as midnight is closing in. The project needs to stay on track, so you eat what you can while you work, and sleep is out of the question. This happens over and over … making it close to impossible to take care of yourself while you’re on the road. Before you know it, you’ve gained (or lost) too much weight, dark circles are forming under your eyes and your complexion has gone to hell.

There has to be a better way …

All is not lost. There’s plenty you can do to take care of yourself while living the road warrior life. None takes too much time (important, since you don’t have any), and your bag won’t have to get much fuller. If you decide you want to recapture some vigor while traveling frequently, check out the six tips below.

1. Decide you need to make a change … and mean it
When I was a management consultant, I came across plenty of lists like this one. Occasionally, I’d give something a try, but the path of least resistance always won. None of those writers seemed to have any idea how hard it is to motivate yourself in the land of the 16-hour day, endless meetings and crushing workloads. For the first few weeks, you have to make the clear and difficult decision to knowingly turn your life for the worse. After that, it starts to get better.

2. Workout “lite” is your only option
Short workouts will probably be your only option. So, don’t plan to hit the weights for an hour or more. Instead, stick to cardio. If you run, use the treadmill in the hotel gym instead of turning to the streets. Cardio machines (e.g., treadmills and exercise bikes) have the added advantage of multi-tasking: you can read reports (or the newspaper), check your Blackberry or take notes on what you need to do that day.

3. Make time to walk
Short walks during the day give you a chance to clear your head. Step outside a few times and walk around the parking lot. Each jaunt shouldn’t last much longer than a leisurely trip to the bathroom. To recapture some productivity, bring something to read, or catch up on calls or e-mails. You’ll be moving your body, at least, and the change of pace will do you good.

4. Back to basic (training)
My drill sergeants always found a way to cram exercise into my life. While you probably don’t want to bust out a few sets of pushups during a conference call, their method for squeezing workouts into short periods of time can be helpful. When you can back to your hotel room, for example, do a few pushups and situps before you go to bed – maybe while you watch some television. Over time, you’ll find yourself doing more reps.

5. Watch the booze
When someone else is picking up the tab, it’s all too easy to have another glass of wine, especially if you’re accustomed to slurping vino from a box. All those team and client dinners add up, though, and you wind up paying for it in the end. At some point in the evening, switch to sparkling water or soda water with lime. It looks like liquor and feels different from the nonalcoholic stuff you normally drink. The best part: it’ll be easier to get up in the morning.

6. Roam when you call home
Having a family can make the road warrior’s life even harder. Any chance to call home becomes incredibly valuable, and just about anything else will be sacrificed when you want to dial those all-important digits. Instead of calling from your room, walk the hotel grounds while you talk. If you’re staying in your room, do some flutter kicks or toe-raises while you chat away. Don’t work out so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation, but do use more muscles than those in your jaw.

Pacific Running Guides Show You Where to Run in Vancouver

Pacific running GuidesIf you’re a runner and you find yourself in a different city, what do you do? You could map out your own route. You could ask someone if there are any good trails nearby. Or — if you’re headed to the Vancouver area — you could hook up with Pacific Running Guides, which offers guided running tours to local and visiting runners.

You can choose among three different options:

  • Scenic City: run through scenic and/or historic sections of town.
  • Energizer: new runners can team up with a personal trainer in Vancouver’s outdoor “gym” to help create their exercise program.
  • Off Road Adventure: trail runners rejoice! The area boasts over 20 miles of off-road goodness.

Afraid you may slow the pack? Don’t worry, the guides are experienced at dealing with runners of different fitness levels and paces. Happily, PRG supplies towels, bottled water, sports drinks, energy snacks, (and transportation if needed) for your tour. Happy trails!