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Around the world in 52 marathons

The thought of traveling around the world in 80 days may be an appealing idea for an adventure, but frankly, it’s a bit clichéd. What about running across the world in 52 weeks instead? Well, not really running, but hopping from country to country to partake in a 42.2km marathon race in each.

Meet Tristan Miller and Darren Foss, also known as T-Bone and The Dazzler. The two best friends–Miller from Australia and Foss from New Zealand–are spending a year hunting down marathons all over the world.

For Miller, 2010’s New Year’s countdown didn’t end with the usual “hurrays!” and champagne bottles cracking, but with the start of a marathon in Zurich which he finished close to 4 AM. Six weeks later, Miller had run marathons in India, UAE, Israel, Spain, Morocco, Germany, and finally, Luxor, Egypt. If all goes to plan, he’ll have added another 44 marathons from around the world to the list by the end of the year.

Foss, not a runner himself, is joining his buddy on the world tour as day-to-day organizer, masseur, and perhaps most importantly, partier. To keep himself in his best, positive mental shape, Miller draws on Foss’s “extraordinary capacity to party.”

“It’s hard to explain how much of a mental game running a marathon is,” says Miller.

Al-Masry Al-Youm met the two last week in their downtown Cairo hotel before they headed to Luxor. “It’s all well to have fitness, but so many things could go wrong over 4 hours. You need someone to keep you upbeat, keep you at your peak.” That’s were Foss comes in.

Officially a tennis coach, Foss spent five years travelling in Europe, and upon returning to Melbourne to start over last year, was met with Miller’s suggestion for “a trip around the world.”

“It was actually quite hard to get him on board,” says Miller, still a little in disbelief. Miller is paying for both of them, saying it was crucial for him to have a companion to see the world with, “and who better than my best mate?” Foss plans to attempt competing in two of the marathons.

The catalyst for the idea was the global economic crisis. Miller, who’s been a runner for the past five years with an itch to see the world, used to work for one of Google’s satellite offices in Melbourne, which shut down last May.

This left him with a bit of redundancy pay, his savings, and an apartment, which he later sold. A month after losing his job, he was off to South Africa for a 90km ultra-marathon, coming back to Melbourne to spend the next six months planning for 52 marathons around the world over the course of 2010.

“Then I realized if I was really going to do this,” says Miller, “I had to do it for a decent cause.” So Miller set up a website, Run Like Crazy, and partnered with UNICEF Australia, running his marathons on behalf of the organization, raising money for children while he’s at it. Anyone accessing the site for the duo’s latest updates can directly donate to UNICEF, and they have already raised US$4500, hoping for US$100,000 by the end of the year.

Yet the cost of the entire adventure itself will amount to US$150,000, “and I don’t actually have US$150,000 on me,” Miller admits, “only about half of that.”

The plan is that once he has proved his seriousness to others, the two will try to bring sponsors on board. “If people appreciate what we are doing and are enjoying it,” he says, “then we’ll start to contact potential sponsors to help fund the rest of our trip.” If not, they’re likely to run out of money by July, at which point Foss will head back to Australia so that Miller can stretch their budget for another month or so. But they are optimistic.

As for their latest marathon in Luxor, it came as a bit of a surprise for the two, something they later realized pointed to the fact that “in Egypt, everything is open to interpretation.” Held last Friday, it drew hundreds of runners, many from around the world.

“After about the fourth kilometer, I realized that the organizers had the distance signs of the race all wrong,” recounts Miller, who used his distance tracking wristwatch to keep a record of how much terrain he actually covered. When he reached the end of the race, which was supposed to be 42.2km, he found that he still would have had just under 2km to go if the distance was properly measured.

“So I got to the finish line, turned back, ran for another kilometer, and then turned again and headed for the finish line once more.”

Apparently, the running course also began to be dismantled after two and a half hours, “so there was no guidance left on the fourth lap circuit,” he says, and few or no water points.

Disappointed, the Aussie was ultimately not too fussed. “It’s all about the experience mate,” he said. For now, he needs to focus on his next marathon in Verona, Italy, which will be followed by races in Japan, USA, Cyprus, and 39 other marathons across the globe if all goes well.

“Maybe one day I’ll get my money back by writing a book about this or something,” Miller says, half joking, “but right now I don’t really care. I just want to get out there and do it!”

You can follow T-Bone and The Dazzler as they continue their adventure on Twitter @RunLikeCrazy or their Facebook fan page.

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