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Toronto man completes 242 marathons in 1 year, with eyes set on Guinness world record

Just over a year ago, Toronto native Ben Pobjoy set off on a challenge to break the Guinness world record for the most marathons completed in one year. 

Pobjoy closed off 2023 with a total of 242 freestyle marathons over the span of 365 days —  taking it one step further and completing his treks across nearly 70 countries around the world.

Dubbing it the “Marathon Earth Challenge,” Pobjoy said his solo attempt to break the world record was no walk in the park.

“This past year has been mentally and physically taxing, but it’s an incredible feeling to have achieved this momentous goal of mine and meet incredible people along the way,” Pobjoy said in a news release.

“From trekking in Ulaanbaatar’s chilly -20 degree temperatures with makeshift winter gear to enduring extreme levels of humidity in Malta, my year-long, earth-spanning adventure has been an unforgettable experience.”

Pobjoy set off on his adventure on New Year’s Day, running solo, freestyle marathons, that took place on hills, mountains and regular streets — without a course or official finish line. He said the purpose of the challenge was not to race others but rather to “transform physical exercise into a creative one and observe our world up-close.”

American Larry Macon has held the title of the official Guinness record for most marathons completed in one year by a male, with 239 marathons finished in 2012. Pobjoy submitted his application to Guinness this week with 242 marathons in the books, but it has not been assessed as of yet.

A man takes a selfie in front of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
Pobjoy trekked over 11,465 kilometres by foot with marathons completed in South America, the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. (Ben Pobjoy/Handout/The Canadian Press)

In August 2022, Pobjoy quit his job as an executive creative director at an advertising company, after craving change.

“The pandemic really showed me [that] the world can be upended in a week. I felt compelled to re-prioritize my life on what makes me happy, which is traveling and trekking,” he told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Jan. 12, 2023.

Pobjoy’s challenge took him throughout South America, the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, trekking over 11,465 kilometres by foot. 

“Essentially I have a backpack: 30 pounds with everything that I need. Kind of like a human snail, and my pace is kind of like a trot where it’s faster than a walk and not a jog,” he said Friday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“I did pee my pants four times,” he said, when asked how he found washrooms along running routes.

Pobjoy said that in total the challenge wound up costing him roughly $38,000 in U.S. dollars.

“This was definitely a big ticket price, but very frugal day-to-day.”

What’s next on Pobjoy’s bucket list? Getting a job, he says. But this won’t be his last adventure.

“My total awe for the physical world and my growing appetite to move through it remains and I’m excited to see what my next adventure holds.”

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