For the past few years, marathoners who have wanted to take their sport to the ultimate extreme have competed in the World Marathon Challenge, an event that challenges athletes to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. Yes, you read that right. That's 183.4 miles of running and more than 22,000 miles of traveling in the span of one week. This year, 51 runners will set out to complete the endeavor, which began Jan. 30 in Antarctica, the first continent in the trek. From there, they will they will fly to Cape Town to run a marathon in Africa, and on to Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America — within 168 hours.
And 25 seventh-graders from East Hampton, New York, plan to tag along for a virtual ride.
Among this year's World Marathon Challenge runners is Cara Nelson, a social studies teacher at East Hampton Middle School. Nelson has spent the last few months not only preparing physically for this challenge, but preparing mentally by coming up with a ton of ways that she can share this amazing experience with her students.
"While participating in the World Marathon Challenge, I will be simultaneously implementing an interdisciplinary virtual classroom with my seventh-grade students," Nelson tells MNN. Using Google Apps for Education, Nelson plans to send continual updates to her students while running and flying around the world.
The kids won't just be watching, though. Nelson's students will play an active role in helping their teacher succeed. The seventh-graders have been tasked with analyzing race data, mapping Nelson's route, calculating the miles she has traveled and researching how geography and climate influence the development of culture in each of the seven race cities. Nelson plans to send her students live blog updates at mile 20.8 of each marathon (to signify her classroom, room 208) along with videos before and after each race.
Earlier this year, Nelson (left) completed the Walt Disney World 'Dopey' Challenge by running a 5K, a 10K, a half-marathon and a marathon over the course of four days. (Photo: Courtesy of Cara Nelson)
Teachers throughout EHMS have incorporated Nelson's adventure into their lesson plans. In math classes, students will calculate her pace per mile and the rate of change from marathons one through seven. In science, students are learning about cellular respiration and lactic acid and what happens to the body when it works out over extended periods of time. In health, they've created and analyzed nutrition plans that would be suited for this type of extreme endeavor. Students in Spanish class have been focusing on the two Spanish-speaking cities that Nelson will visit (Cartagena and Miami) and using her training plan to learn the days of the week.
Outside the classroom, Nelson organized a marathon relay event, with each seventh-grade homeroom attempting to complete a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles. All together, the students ran 131 miles while learning first-hand about "perserverance," the school-wide theme at EHMS this year.
"I was so proud of the effort, positivity, perseverance and grit the students showed throughout the event," says Nelson. "They have truly inspired me and my teammates to feel like we can complete the World Marathon Challenge."