Nihar “Neil” Ray Ran a Marathon in Each Continent
Running a marathon on every continent is an unusual and challenging life goal. And, in the mind of Nihar “Neil” Ray, it is a life goal, a goal that is his gateway to a longer and healthier life. As far as Neil is concerned, running is virtually a panacea for physical ills.
Diabetes is a part of his medical history, and his blood pressure and cholesterol levels were not very good when he went to a seminar that changed his life. In June 1992, Neil attended a seminar at work (Idaho National Laboratory (INL)) about health issues. He learned that it might be possible to help control his diabetes through watching his food intake and vigorous exercise, like running. The diet was no problem, and he started running.
In 1999, after INL transferred Neil to Maryland, a friend opened the subject of running a marathon in Stockholm; he immediately accepted the challenge without even knowing the difficulties of running a marathon. He was in a manner of speaking off and running.
It would be great to be able to rhapsodize about what fantastic experience it was—but it was not. In
addition to the threats posed by diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, Neil has gout. Soon after Neil arrived in Stockholm on Thursday for a Saturday race, his big toe started to hurt. Sensibly, he headed for a local hospital, but once he explained his problem and learned the lengthy protocol for treatment there, he not so sensibly went back to his hotel. He carried with him prescribed gout medicines; however, those were already expired. He took the gout medicines and hoped for the best. Friday, the toe felt better, but a huge stomach upset followed by another huge headache kept him awake all night. When Saturday morning finally arrived, his headache was gone. At this point, he was sorely tempted to give up the idea of running but eventually decided that no matter what, and despite the fact that he had had virtually no sleep, he was going to run.
The first ten miles of the race were fine, but then his right foot began to hurt. He removed his shoe and discovered big blisters. Again, the temptation to stop was strong, but he convinced himself, “I am going to do it.” Finally, he did it.
That began his marathon running life. However, it was not smooth.
He had to go through three surgeries to correct several problems so
that he could continue running. The doctors told him that those
surgeries were needed to correct inherent problems to continue
running. In other words, the surgeries were not caused by running.
Between 1999 and 2005, he ran several marathon races. He made a
rule for himself of not running the same marathon twice. The only
exception he made for New York City marathon, which he ran twice.
In 2005, he decided to run with a specific goal. He has set a goal of
running a marathon on each of the earth’s seven continents.
In 2005 December, Neil ran Singapore Marathon as part of Asian
continent. It was one of the most difficult marathons, because of very
hot and humid condition. At the start, the temperature was about 082F and rising and humidity was close to 90% and above.
Neil ran his South America Marathon in Rio, Brazil. It was quite
scenic and organized. The sun was very bright and the route was entirely next to the Ocean.
Neil ran his African Marathon in Luxor, Egypt in 2007. Neil became extremely sick because of stomach upset the previous night of the marathon. Neil and his wife were in a cruise boat because, the hotel they reserved were overbooked. From about 3:00 am until the marathon start at 7:00am, he was continuously going to the bathroom. He took several Imodium AD but, apparently not working at all. At that point, his wife was begging him not to run. He just told her, “let me try, if I can not, I will stop.” There were no
toilets on the path, although the good thing was, it was four loop courses and he could have easily stopped. The marathon, he finished with two glasses of water and a glass of Gatorade. Well, after all he finished the race in a respectable time.
In 2007 September, he traveled to Australia to run Sydney Marathon (picture above). He was physically in good shape. The marathon was quite well organized. The day was almost perfect for running a marathon. Neil finished the marathon without any unusual events.
A specialized travel firm organized a marathons at the bottom of the world and it had set up a complete package to seemingly impossible doable for the dedicated. Neil flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to Ushuaia, where he boarded the Russian ship Lybov Orlova for the race. One of the major challenges was to cross the Drake Passage, where ships go through rough seas of rolling up and down for forty to sixty hours. Neil used prescribed patch against motion sickness. Fortunately, while going to the King George Island the wave was not bad at all. The ship reached King George Island on March 4 afternoons.
The marathon was set for March 5, 9am. The race was run in King George Island where the course loop through the scientific research bases of Uruguay, Chile, China, and Russia. Zodiacs (a rubber air inflated boat) carried the runners from the ship to the shore. Neil reached the starting point a few minutes late after 9 am. He got less than 2 minutes time to change clothes and shoes for running the marathon. By the time, he reached the foot of the Colin Glacier, his shoes and socks were all muddy and wet because of the course he had gone through. In this marathon, the runners were pretty much of their own. They had to handle their drinks along the course by placing their water and electrolytes along the course. The toughest part was the glacier. It was filled with ice. It was quite a challenge to go upward of the steep glacier. It was much tougher to come down. He fell at least five to six times on solid ice and had bruises on his hand and back. The fall was quite hard and for a while, he thought of his own craziness but never thought of quitting. In addition to the icy glacier, the course was on hard soil, mud, small water stream, and rocks with lots of hills. In addition, last six miles or so, he had to face light freezing rain. Finally, Neil finished the race. At that point, his entire outfit was soaking wet including socks shoes, and gloves. He was feeling severe cold especially on both his hands. Fortunately, the Zodiac trip was short and he reached to his warm cabin without much suffering from cold.
An almost impossible mission of running a marathon in all seven continents became realty for Neil. In addition to running a marathon in each continent, he also ran and completed fifteen different marathons in USA, one in Mexico, and another in Canada. His family and friends were celebrating his success. However, to him, it was no big deal. Rather, he asks himself, “what next?” Stay tuned.