March 16, 2009— -- Chris Cuddihy, 55, and Stuart Kershaw, 28, are running 30 miles in Los Angeles today. They ran 30 miles in Chile Sunday, and the day before that, it was 30 miles in Antarctica.
The daring duo and two other athletes are determined to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. The adventure, which began March 14, begs an obvious question: are they nuts?
Not insane, they say, just driven. Cuddihy and Kershaw developed a plan to raise $200,000 for Isaac's House, an orphanage in Uganda, by finding people to sponsor their run.
"We have just asked people whether it is a penny or a pound, a cent or a dollar, whatever our friends on both sides of the Atlantic can donate," Kershaw said. "Every little helps because it really is the difference for the children there, between getting into school and growing up without any formal education."
After today's run in Los Angeles -- with legs in Antarctica and South America already under their belts -- Cuddihy and Kershaw will fly to Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa and end their journey in London.
From the start, Cuddihy, a computer specialist and Kershaw, a documentary filmmaker and CEO of "In the Dark Productions," knew it was a daunting and dangerous quest.
"He said, 'I am going to be in so much pain that I will be crying by the end and need emotional support,'" Kershaw said of his running mate. "And I was like, 'Well, you are not getting any off me. I'll give you a good slap and get you back on your feet again.'"
The two men actually raced against each another in a 2008 world record Transatlantic rowing competition. Cuddihy lost to Kershaw and his 14-man crew of La Mondiale, but decided to join forces for their latest adventure.
The two trained by running ... a lot. But little can prepare even athletes of this caliber for the physical strain of burning more than 6,000 calories a day -- with your feet pounding the ground 35,000 times each leg, each day. With strict landing and takeoff times, the team has only been able to sleep periodically, mainly during their commercial flights from continent to continent. They have contingency plans for layovers and a logistics team ready to get them on the next flight to achieve their goal.
Marathoners Go to Extremes
The good news so far is that the weather in Antarctica was beautiful (30 degrees), helping them avoid some of the icy terrain and blistering winds. The bad news: Kershaw has lost several toenails and Cuddihy has picked up several blisters in the first two stints of the race.
"There's nothing that will stop either one of us from completing these marathons," Kershaw said. "Even if we have to crawl over the line, we'll do it."
But the biggest roadblock in the way of their record came before it even began, when they discovered that someone else had already done it. Irishman Richard Donovan completed his seven marathon run across seven continents Feb. 5.
"I was absolutely destroyed, simply because we put so much energy into this," Cuddihy said. "And my initial response was, 'That's it, why bother?'"
But they didn't quit. Instead, they gained momentum, picking up two other runners, 32-year-old Oliver Dudley and 25-year-old Jack Jones. The foursome upped the ante, running 30-mile "ultra" marathons each day, compared to Donovan's 26-mile-a-day effort.
With 120 miles left to run in four days over four continents, the men are arguably crazy, depending on to whom you're talking. Still, their commitment to the cause is what has driven them to run these lengths.
"The important thing is the charity, and that's what you have to refocus, you have to go, you have to step back and go, it's not about us," Cuddihy said. "We have got a saying that we started, which is, 'Pick a cause, choose a challenge, change a life.' And that really is it each time I've done it. It's changed certain parts of me."
To follow their journey, or make a donation, you can visit their Web site, www.7in7on7.com.