As I've been saying for years now, the passions of the fitness and travel community quite often intersect. People driven to get out and enjoy the wonderful experiences the world has to offer are quite often the same type who push themselves in the gym or on the running track to stay in shape and meet certain goals or challenges.
And sometimes just telling the story of one such person brings forward others who are willing to share their similarly amazing tales.
I wrote recently about how ultra-runner Dane Rauschenberg is planning to run a marathon on Crystal Serenity. Crystal Cruises says this will be the first official marathon at sea and is working to get the run certified by the USA Track and Field organization and even recognized by Guinness World Records.
When my articles about Dane hit the Internet, it shook free a few more stories of avid runners who also have run marathon distances on cruise ships. The best part of these runners is why they have done so. I learned about Steve Eaton, a British runner who ran a marathon on Princess Cruises' Grand Princess in 2011 in 5 hours, 16 minutes, as part of a charity effort called Help for Heroes for wounded military members.
Also, Sean Tolkin of the United States ran a marathon for charity onboard Norwegian Breakaway in 2013, raising almost $50,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, while finishing the run in 3 hours, 43 minutes.
But Joe Church of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, tops them all with his cruise ship running exploits. Joe was a reluctant cruiser who worried that he would gain to much weight during a sailing because of all the enticing food available (I can attest that this is a legitimate concern). But his wife convinced him to go on his first Royal Caribbean Cruises sailing in 2008, and almost nine years later, Joe, a retired 64-year-old who was a director of financial management for a Pennsylvania state agency, is just two ships away from having run a marathon on all 27 of the ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet.
I started running them (his personal cruise ship marathons) because of my late wife.
She had cruised a few times with her sisters and kept pushing me to go on one. I did not like the idea of going on board and putting on weight, but she told me the ships she had been on all had running tracks.
So I agreed, with the statement: "I will go and run a marathon the first night, and then I will eat whatever I want for the rest of the trip."
So in January 2008, we boarded the Liberty of the Seas, and at 1 a.m., I got out of bed and ran 118 laps around the ship. It took me 4 hours, 44 minutes.
Over the next couple years we took a few more cruises on Royal Caribbean, and each time I ran a marathon, mostly on the first night. It was when we learned that Royal Caribbean was moving the Monarch of the Seas to one of their other lines that I decided I would see if I could run one on all of the "of the Seas."
At first it was only one or two ships a year. But then I retired, and shortly after that, my wife passed away. Since the beginning of 2014, I have run one on 16 ships.
I ran track when I was in high school, but later -- when I joined the Army -- running became a chore rather than fun, so I stopped. When I turned 50, I realized I was overweight and out of shape and I decided to do something about it. I tried different exercise programs, and they helped, but one day I decided to try running a loop near my house.
It was three miles, and my first goal was to be able to run it without stopping. It took a couple weeks, but I found I really enjoyed running. In 2005, I ran my first official marathon. I have now run 70 of them. I have run one in all 50 states, all seven continents and recently running them in more foreign countries. I've also run 100 miles around a track, and at the age of 61, finished an Ironman Triathlon.
The most challenging (cruise ship run) was the Radiance of the Seas. We were on an Alaska cruise. The temperature was in the low 40s, the apparent wind was 50+ knots -- and off and on there was a stinging rain. My favorite ship(s) to run on have been the Oasis-class ships because the running deck is on the fifth deck where it is sheltered and you aren't having to avoid a lot of people like you do on the upper decks.
I have run the Allure and the Harmony during the day because I don't need to worry about a crowded track. The length of time to run the 26.2 miles varies greatly. The two biggest factors are the weather, particularly the winds, and the length of the track, which translates into the number of turns you must make. My fastest was 4:11 and slowest was 5:23.
Fellow passengers and more often, crew, will notice I've been out there running for a long time and will ask me what I am up to. One of my favorite stories was when I ran on the Adventure of the Seas. It was about 2 a.m. and there were a few couples sitting in the hot tub on the deck below. After I had run a few laps, they yelled up to me asking what I was doing. I told them I was running 26.3 miles, or 141 laps. They asked what lap I was on, and I told them.
They then began to count down each lap as I ran it. They sat in the hot tub for about four hours while I ran, and when I reached the last lap, they all jumped up and cheered, and then they headed to bed.
I don't really celebrate after finishing one, but I do spend I next day or two relaxing and then take walks around the ports or the deck to keep loose.
The two remaining ships are Oasis of the Seas, which I will board on November 27 at Cape Canaveral, and Rhapsody of the Seas on December 10 in Tampa. I had set a goal of getting them all finished by my 65th birthday which will be in February.
One question people have asked me is whether I will continue to run them on more ships.
I think as more ships are added to the Royal Caribbean fleet, I will probably get on board and run, but I won't feel compelled to do it within a timeframe.
Awesomely inspirational! Thanks for sharing your story Joe.
Now, we have no reason not to be able to get up for a quick morning workout or walk around the track to get our days started on our cruises. And I bet we'll all think twice about using those elevators to go up two floors, too.
Thanks for reading, and always travel happy!