Rare Disease Inspires Man's 63-Marathon Streak

Tim Borland in one of the 63 marathons he ran in as many days. i i

Borland ran most of his races pushing a jogging stroller that was often occupied by a child or teenager with ataxia-telangiectasia, a rare genetic disease. Courtesy of Tim Borland and the A-T Children's Project hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Tim Borland and the A-T Children's Project
Tim Borland in one of the 63 marathons he ran in as many days.

Borland ran most of his races pushing a jogging stroller that was often occupied by a child or teenager with ataxia-telangiectasia, a rare genetic disease.

Courtesy of Tim Borland and the A-T Children's Project

How'd He Do It?

How do you prepare for 63 marathons in as many days? What toll do so many miles take on a body? How much fuel keeps you going? Tim Borland, who has been running for 11 years and had run about 15 marathons before beginning his 1,650-mile quest, offers a glimpse into his training program and how his body fared.

Ultramarathoner Tim Borland set out last year with a goal for 2007: call attention to ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), a rare degenerative children's disease that combines the symptoms of cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and cancer.

His answer: run a marathon every day for more than two months.

Borland's quest started on Labor Day with a half-marathon in Anaheim, Calif. — he ran it twice — and ended with Sunday's New York City Marathon. That's 63 marathons in 63 days. He logged some 1,650 miles in 26 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Montreal.

Borland formed the idea after meeting Catherine Achilles, who has been battling A-T all her life. He said he was inspired to raise awareness in her honor.

Borland ran most races while pushing a jogging stroller that was often occupied by a child or teenager with A-T.

Most marathon runners are told to take it easy after race day to avoid injury. Recovery plans recommend that marathoners go for light runs of a few miles in the days after the race. So how did Borland's body cope, when his recovery runs were 26.2 miles?

"The first weeks were tough," Borland said. However, he suffered no injuries beyond some soreness and some stomach problems. His body adapted, he said.

"It got easier and easier as the weeks progressed," he said.

He said he didn't even get blisters, nor did he endure extreme chafing, a problem that many runners experience when their clothes rub away skin on long runs.

"My body was made for it, I guess," he said.

"My body is capable of even more than I thought it was capable of," Borland said. "I was pretty amazed at my body's ability to adapt."

Borland discusses his experience with Michele Norris.

How'd He Do It? Logging 1,650 Miles in 63 Days

Tim Borland i i

Tim Borland sought advice from researchers at the Stanford Human Performance Lab, who helped him train and also monitored him during every one of the 63 races. Courtesy of Tim Borland and the A-T Children's Proje hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Tim Borland and the A-T Children's Proje
Tim Borland

Tim Borland sought advice from researchers at the Stanford Human Performance Lab, who helped him train and also monitored him during every one of the 63 races.

Courtesy of Tim Borland and the A-T Children's Proje

How do you prepare for 63 marathons in as many days? What toll do so many miles take on a body? How much fuel keeps you going? Tim Borland, who has been running for 11 years and had run about 15 marathons before beginning his 1,650-mile quest, offers a glimpse into his training program and how his body fared:

Food: Borland burned 7,000-8,000 calories each day. He ate an average of 1,200 calories during a run. At first, he consumed food specifically targeted to athletes trying to regain energy, but he said he grew tired of that and began eating bagels and pizza. He could even eat a full meal before a marathon.

"I had an iron stomach at that point," Borland said.

After several particularly hard races early on, he ate easily digestible carbs such as white rice and Pedialyte.

He expected to stick to whole grain and unprocessed foods – lots of whole wheat pasta, fruits and vegetables. But after a few weeks, it became clear his fuel intake was not matching the calories he was using up. So he quickly decided to change course and eat whatever he wanted.

"If it sounded good and it was available," he ate it, Borland said. He ate brownies, cookies and Subway sandwiches – one-and-a-half in one sitting.

Borland lost about 10 pounds, body fat and several sizes, but gained muscle mass.

Training: To prepare, Borland stepped up his mileage over the spring and summer. He started out with 12-to-14-mile runs six days a week, then built up to 20-to-30-mile runs five days a week, before he started tapering at the end of the summer. Often, his easy runs were 15 miles long. He also cross-trained with high-intensity bike rides.

Borland sought advice from the Stanford Human Performance Lab. Researchers helped him train and also monitored him during every one of the 63 races. Researchers prepared him for how he'd feel for the first few weeks, but after a certain point, he would be treading territory for which they had no data.

Gear: Borland brought 10 pairs of shoe and a stockpile of socks, shorts and shirts. He went through seven sticks of Body Glide, a deodorant-like stick that protects the body against chafing. Borland attributes his injury-free experience in part to sticking to what had been working for him for years. "Never do anything new on race day," Borland said.

Finishing Times: Borland's times gradually improved over the 63 races. Early on, it took him over four-and-a-half hours to finish. He finished his last marathon in 3:29.

What's Next: The 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which offers a 5K, half- and full-marathons over three days. Borland is running all three.

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