If you’re yet to hear of a man named David Kilgore, know that in the world of endurance sports and ultra-running, his is a revered presence. Known simply as ‘Florida Man’ (he currently lives in New York City, but hails from Palm Bay, Florida), Kilgore possesses an incredible ability to dig deep and occupy space within the Pain Cave, that cavern in which our muscles plead with us in agony, demanding our body to stop. And yet with a man like Kilgore, stopping is never an option – not least until you’ve crossed that finish line.
While the ultra-running scene abounds with many a runner who takes on the insane and seemingly impossible challenge, Kilgore’s latest feat has stunned viewers around the world. Selected as one of 35 runners to compete in the World Marathon Challenge on February 6, the enterprise involves sending runners on a weeklong journey where they are tasked with running a marathon in Antarctica, South Africa’s Cape Town, Australia’s Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Brazil’s Fortaleza and Miami.
Naturally, when you’re globetrotting to such an extent like this, entry comes with a rather hefty fee, and entrants needed to pay $45,000. The event, which has been organised by Richard Donovan of Global Running Adventures since 2015, sees athletes complete a run on multiple-loop courses in each of the cities, all of which add up to the marathon distance of 42.2km.
Participants for the 2023 event met up in Cape Town, South Africa, where they flew on a chartered plane to each of the race venues. In total, they spent 68 hours that week in the air, which was the only time they had to rest and recover, and ensure they had adequate nutrition to power them through yet another marathon upon landing. “Nutrition, sleep, and keeping the body nimble are what I usually focus on,” said Kilgore. “I actually got a fair amount of sleep. The most I think was around nine hours when we had a 12-hour flight over to Perth. In between that all of our flights were at least seven hours. Definitely some good time for some cat naps.”
Remarkably, Kilgore’s epic achievement actually saw him get faster with every race during the World Marathon Challenge. He achieved 3:23:17 on the icy aircraft runway in Antarctica, 2:58:15 in Cape Town, 2:55:07 in Perth, then 2:52:05 in Dubai and 2:44:27 in Madrid, and 2:55:59 in Fortaleza. He then finished strong in Miami where he won with a time of 2:41:50, just 14 minutes shy of his personal best of 2:27:59 that he achieved at the 2019 New York City marathon. “Honestly, as the challenge went on I began to feel better and better, as if this was the new norm for me day in and day out,” said Kilgore. “I’m a bit beat up from the magnitude of climates, miles, and broken-up sleep, but it’s nothing I haven’t faced before.”
But while you’d think running seven marathons in seven days across seven continents deserves an extended recovery period, Kilgore will instead make his way to New Zealand where he’ll race in the 50km run as part of the Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB.
Speaking about the achievement and how his body was feeling after the seven marathons, Kilgore only had good things to say. “I feel incredible. Events like this make me fall in love with the sport all over again. It’s a large challenge that I am uncertain of what the outcome might be. It brings it all full circle for me as it has the familiar feel of something I love to do but splashed with a new edge of something completely unique,” he explained.