Ultramarathoner's mission complete
- Paul Danzer
- Portland Tribune - Sports
If not for dyslexia, Jared Blank probably would not have been hobbling along the cobblestones in Lisbon, Portugal, on Feb. 6.
If not for that learning disorder, the 35-year-old Portland man probably would not have been motivated to enter a crazy event like the World Marathon Challenge — to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.
But run Blank did. And — despite a knee problem that hampered him over the final four days of the excursion — Blank successfully completed the challenge.
He posted the 12th-best total time — 31 hours, 45 minutes and 49 seconds — among 35 men and 12 women who finished all seven races in the 2018 event.
Blank's average time was 4 hours, 32 minutes and 16 seconds. Despite a balky left leg, he posted his fastest time in the last of the seven marathons, running 26.2 miles on Feb. 5 in Miami in 4:03:36.
Each of the seven marathons was a looped course requiring runners to complete multiple laps. It started in Antarctica on Jan. 30, a race Blank completed in 4:05:12. On Jan. 31 in Cape Town, South Africa, his time was 4:27:53. On Feb. 1 in Dubai, his time was 4:46:20. On Feb. 2 at Perth, Australia, he finished in 4:46:20.
That was where his challenge changed, when he heard a pop in his left knee on Mile 22.
"I'd been running at a pretty good clip and felt like I was in a groove," Blank says, calling the injury his most disappointing moment of the week.
It also was a moment he'd prepared for during his six months of training, including work with accomplished ultramarathoner Yassine Diboun — who he spoke with after the Perth race.
"I was able to reprogram my mind to accept where my body was at from a physical standpoint and then work within that framework to do the best I could," Blank says.
Later in the remaining races, Blank's leg locked up due to what has been diagnosed as an Iliotibial band injury.
His slowest race was on Feb. 4 in Lisbon, which took Blank 5:25:59 to complete. That course was over cobblestone and wood roads, and Blank's left leg locked up on him five miles from the finish — which he ran straight-legged.
His brother, Josh, joined him for the final lap, offering moral support.
By the time the plane reached Cartagena, Colombia, for the sixth marathon, advice from friend Rob Scheidegger helped Blank release some of the IT band pressure. He posted his third-fastest time of the seven, finishing in 4:14:02.
During the final race in Miami, Blank's leg locked up with more than five miles to go. But he was able to stick with a group of runners who tied for third in 4:03:36.
Blank was able to get adequate rest during the flights between races. His routine also included two rounds of stretching during each flight.
He credits his training with Diboun for developing the mental toughness to complete the World Marathon Challenge.
"Part of that training was to be able to be hit with a sledgehammer and keep going," Blank says. "And to be in an environment where we got to test that out was pretty cool. And to make it through dealing with those challenges was exciting for me."
Mission accomplished, Blank is anxious to heal so he can resume running. He isn't sure what his next race will be, but says more marathons and ultramarathons are in his future.
Blank will focus on sharing his World Marathon Challenge experience to raise money and awareness for the International Dyslexia Association. He took on the World Marathon Challenge to represent TeamQuest, an endurance training and fundraising project for the IDA.
"Dyslexia is a superpower for me," he says. "The way I grew up with those learning challenges and figuring out workarounds was really applicable to the race, especially dealing with that injury."