John “Maddog” Wallace took part in his very first marathon on September 19, 1982. This was the Silver State Marathon in Reno, Nevada, United States (USA) – and upon crossing the finishing line that day, in about 3 hours and 28 minutes, he had sworn to himself that he would never run a marathon ever again.
To Wallace, a 71-year-old Canadian retiree who lives in Florida, in the USA, running a marathon, at that time, had been a challenge. He said, “I ran my first marathon as a personal challenge and then when I started training, I found that running was a great stress reliever.”
An avid marathoner and traveller
Yet more than 33 years later, Wallace has completed 376 marathons – in over 125 countries. He has run in all 50 states in the USA, all 13 provinces in Canada and all seven continents around the world. And within each world continent, Wallace has completed a marathon in at least eight countries (except Antarctica) – and till today, his current marathon personal best stands at 2 hours and 58 minutes.
Said Wallace, “I later found that I always had to have a marathon scheduled to provide motivation for training and running. So the quantity of marathons just started to accumulate. But I never had a goal to run lots of marathons because I didn’t think that my body would last for hundreds or thousands of races, because I pushed too hard in races that that resulted in many injuries.”
Set a goal to complete a marathon in every country in Europe
He continued, “But the goal of running a marathon in 100 different countries, had started when my wife was transferred to England for a one-year work assignment. While she worked, I travelled around Europe running marathons and at the end of the year, I had completed 31 marathons in 31 countries. So I set a goal to complete a marathon in every country in Europe.”
And once he was done with Europe, Wallace then decided to run marathons in other countries – and before he knew it, he had run a marathon on 90 different countries. So Wallace then set his sights on the world record, which had then been doing a marathon in 99 different countries. But upon reaching that goal, Wallace realised that he was completely hooked onto marathon running. He has since surpassed that record many times over.
Said Wallace, “In the past, I would sign up for a marathon to complete a goal. For example, taking part in the biggest marathons in the USA, the 50 states, etc. At other times it might be because it was a fast course and I wanted to break 3 hours or to qualify for Boston. Then it was to complete a specific country. Now I only run a marathon in a country that I have not run before, so that I can add more countries to my world record.”
Has visited some exotic places on his marathon travels
As a result, throughout his travels, Wallace has been to some rather exotic places to run. He said, “I picked exotic countries such as Nepal (Everest Marathon), Peru (the Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu), Antarctica and Bhutan because I wanted to run these challenging marathons and visit those countries too.”
Challenging and memorable marathons
Added Wallace, “The location, terrain and altitude made these four races very challenging. In fact the Everest Marathon and the Inca Trail Marathon are the toughest marathons in the world!”
But besides being challenging, many of these marathons were also memorable to Wallace. He said, “The Antarctic Marathon, Sahara Marathon in Algeria, Everest Marathon in Nepal and the Inca Trail Marathon in Peru were memorable particularly for the challenge and adventure. And the Rivne Trail Marathon in Ukraine was memorable for the wonderful experience and friendship of the Ukrainian people.”
Continued Wallace, “There were a few other runs that I enjoyed and had memorable experiences, such as doing my 200th marathon, where I competed in the same marathon as my first one (Silver State Marathon in Nevada, the USA). And 20 years and 200 marathons later, I had beaten my time in my initial marathon!”
Takes time to explore the country too
And when he visits other countries, Wallace does not simply run. He also takes the time to explore the country and enjoy himself there. Said Wallace, “After I retired in 1999, I was fortunate and smart enough to stay for 1 to 2 weeks in most countries where I ran marathons, to explore the country, learn the history and enjoy the major sights and culture of the people. Because I would meet and become friends with local runners, I was often invited to stay in their homes and experience the local customs and culture.”
His wife has travelled together with the marathoner too, for some of his runs. Said Wallace, “My wife accompanied me on more than half of my marathons in other countries. She stopped travelling though, when the countries became smaller, poorer and more remote and difficult to get to – and when toilets became holes in the floor or ground!”
Tips to run a marathon overseas
So then, considering that he is so well-travelled, what advice does Wallace have, for people who want to try running a marathon in a new country?
Wallace said, “Go with an open attitude. Local runners in other countries will welcome you and show you around and will be eager to share their culture and be interested in learning more about yours.”
With regards to health, he says that you should never eat food that has not been cooked and if you must eat raw fruit and vegetables, only eat those that can be peeled. And do not touch salads or any ice-cold drink that does not come in a bottle with a top on it, such as water, pop and beer. Regarding hot drinks, you should only drink coffee and tea that have been boiled and are still hot to the touch. This is especially so, when travelling to developing countries to run marathons.
Said Wallace, “If you follow these rules, you will have a much better chance of not getting sick or catching a nasty parasite or bacteria.”
Wallace has published a book, entitled Global Runner – World Record Marathon Adventures of Maddog, which is currently available in both print and Kindle on Amazon for USD$15.00. This book took the marathoner two years to write and has detailed reports of his races, beginning from 1999 onwards.
Other blog posts
- She Runs 366 Marathons in 365 Days
- Marathon Man runs 160 Marathons across 7 Continents
- Running 5 marathons in 48 Hours
- A runner who has done more than 200 marathons