Self proclaimed “Marathon Man”, Trent Morrow, has run 160 marathons, across seven continents, in 12 months. Even he can only begin to explain what motivates him to run
Trent Morrow does not look like a guy who has run a marathon every two and half days for the last 16 months. He looks more like a former rugby player than a distance athlete, standing at 6”3’ with a thick chest and broad shoulders.
Yet that’s exactly what the 41-year-old native of Sydney, Australia has done, setting a world record in April 2014 by completing 160 marathons across seven continents in 12 months (and a not-too-shabby 200 marathons if you include the four months before that). During that time he’s notched up 8439 kilometres in 42 kilometre increments, along with enough frequent flyer miles to travel to the moon.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about those mind-boggling numbers is that Morrow had never run any major distance until 2007. Back then, he was a largely desk-bound pharmaceutical rep whose focus was climbing the corporate ladder.
Morrow mightn’t have worked in the corporate world for years, but he still has the unmistakable clear diction and confidence of a salesman. His conversation is peppered with well-rehearsed lines and motivational phrases – every anecdote contains a life lesson.
When I put it to him that he might be addicted to running marathons, he agrees, but he’s obviously not your garden variety, 5km a day exercise addict. His admission that he’s never done an easy marathon points to a darker attraction.
“I love it, I wouldn't do it if I didn't. I love what the marathon represents. I get a lot of personal satisfaction and connection with others. I also have really been focused on making it not about me, in as much as I've shared it with a lot of people along the way.”
The nitty gritty
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a man who has spent most of the last two years pounding the pavement, Morrow walks with short, ginger steps, hardly bending his legs at the knees.
Though he says he’s only lost a few toenails and “the feet don’t look too bad”, Morrow’s record was incredibly stressful on his body. After running 13 marathons in 13 days in California, he was experiencing extreme pain in his right shin – painkillers helped him over the line at the Paris Marathon and after a week of rest and an x-ray that showed no fracture, he ignored doctors’ advice and raced in Bonn. Later in the year he had to have a sebaceous cyst surgically removed from his neck, and ran with a bandage covering the wound.
“When you do what I've been doing, you get to a point where you realise you're going to hurt, you realise there are going to be injures, you realise there's going to be pain, but you have to push through it,” he says.
If pain was a constant companion, so too was financial stress. Though Morrow originally wanted to do his record attempt in conjunction with corporate partners in order to raise money for cancer charities, he realised only a few months into the journey that that approach would be difficult.
Without corporate backing, Morrow reluctantly turned to the kindness of strangers on Facebook. Much of his accommodation around the world was provided by a network of supporters who identified with his dream, along with people in the distance running community he met at races. After seeing him explaining his undertaking on TV before the Chicago Marathon, one woman even paid for his flights back to Australia.
Of course, things didn’t always go to plan. Morrow often found himself sleeping in his rented car, as the logistics of running travelling to officially sanctioned marathon events in 39 US states and 12 countries were complex. A delayed flight could mean missing the start of a race, which often forced Morrow to adapt and run races closer together.
In September, the 2013 Colorado Floods left him stranded at Denver airport the day before the Montana marathon. So he rented a car and drove through the night, crossing three states, arriving at the start line in time to park, get changed and catch up to the stragglers. It wasn’t the only time he ran back to back marathons without sleeping.
Other marathons were challenging for other reasons. Running 160 of an indoor track every day for four days in Goshin, Indiana nearly broke Morrow mentally and left him feeling like a hamster on a wheel.
He’s never more animated than when he’s relating a tale of running in the cold or without sleep. There’s a masochism there, but also a machismo; no-one else has been tough enough to do what Morrow has done, and he knows it.
Glory on the tarmac
“I often get asked which race was the best and which was the worst, it's almost like asking a parent which kid they like the most,” he says. “At the end of the day if there's one thing I can guarantee it's that I've never done an easy marathon. They've all been tough. You've just got to respect the distance.”
The best, though, seem a bit easier to pick. Morrow rates the Dubai Marathon where he ran as a guest of Standard Chartered and met Liverpool football legend Robbie Fowler, as a highlight. It was his first marathon on the Asian continent, and he hopes to return and run it again in 2015.
“Dubai was a fantastic experience. It was great to get out there and certainly the expat community was amazing. It was great to be able to experience that and it was a flat course, it was good conditions and it was a really well organised event with some great support on the day.”
Now back in Australia, Morrow has no plans to slow down. There are plans afoot for a book and from there, Morrow has ambitions for TV projects and even a movie. He’s also looking into the possibility of starting the Marathon Man Academy to encourage first time marathoners.
Like most of what Morrow says, it’s inspirational. The guy treats life like he does a 42 kilometre race.
“You're almost there when you can see the finish line. I hear ‘you’re almost there’ quite a lot, especially from supporters by the side of the road.
“I say, ‘Really?’ I can't see the finish line.”