Running for Jonny
Over the next three months, Fallon followed his training plan religiously, doing two to three long runs each week while simultaneously working toward his goal of raising $77,777. His highest week came in at a total of 102 miles.
On Christmas Eve 2015, Jonny Wade passed away. But there was no way Fallon was going to stop now.
On January 17, 2016, Fallon boarded a plane to Chile and then another to Antarctica, where his World Marathon Challenge was set to begin. He ignored the doubtful eyes of the 14 other runners as he shared that he was about to embark upon his first-ever marathon.
Not sure what to expect, he set out in the frigid Arctic conditions. Between a forgotten hat, wearing regular shoes (instead of snow-running spikes) and a bout of over-hydration, Fallon made it to mile 14 before exhaustion set in. The inexperienced marathoner, weary from the preparation that claimed much of his mental space leading up to the event, contemplated changing course and downgrading to the half marathon challenge.
Looking up at the cloudy sky, Fallon saw a tiny hole where sunlight beamed through and prayed for strength. A calm wave washed over his mind and body as he thought of Jonny Wade, knowing he had to continue moving forward to finish what he started.
With a time of 5:47, Fallon completed his first marathon before frantically showering and boarding a plane that whisked him and the 14 other runners off to marathon number two.
Six More Marathons
The second race, in Punta Arenas, Chile, delivered perfect marathon conditions. Running on only three hours of sleep, Fallon broke the five-hour mark with a time of 4:52.
Marathon number three was in Miami, where Fallon was joined by a group of supporters including his wife, a family friend, his parents and the Wade family. The most emotional event in the series, Fallon ran the last half-mile with Jonny's surviving twin brother, Jacky.
The race organizer recognized the importance of the event for the Wade family and gave Jacky a coveted North American race medal to remember the day.
After saying goodbye to family and friends, Fallon boarded another plane bound for the fourth marathon in Madrid. Past challenge finishers had warned the fourth and fifth events would be the most difficult, but nothing could have prepared him for the physical test they delivered.
Fallon managed to finish in Spain and moved on to marathon number five in Morocco. After a midnight start, he crossed the finish line in his slowest time, feeling as though he'd met his physical limit. After boarding the next plan to Abu Dhabi, Fallon finally slept while his body tried to recover.
Before setting out on his penultimate race, Fallon checked his phone and read a message from his wife. She told him how Jonny's mother, Kimberly, had been struggling after losing her child, and that she'd had one of the worst days of her life while coping with the pain.
Fallon did what he knew he could do in that moment, and steeled his tired body to run for her. He clocked his fastest time yet, crossing the finish line in 4:19 and dubbing his fifth-place finish the "Miracle in Dubai."
As if making it to the seventh marathon in seven days wasn't enough, Fallon went into the last race in Sydney hoping to break the four-hour mark. One of his fellow runners, an ultrarunner named James, scoffed at Fallon's aspirations before revealing that he, too, was shooting to finish in under four hours. The more experienced runner, who had become like family over the course of the journey, offered to pace him to the finish.
The two men ran together until James starting pushing the pace even faster. Fallon held on as long as he could, but eventually fell behind. Now angry and tired, he pushed forward not knowing exactly how close he was to reaching his goal.
Luckily, several pacers joined him at different points and encouraged him, never telling him the exact time. He crossed the final line of his seventh race seven minutes shy of four hours, and finished third overall.
A Chance to Reflect
Back home in Texas, Fallon is now one of only 26 people to have ever completed the World Marathon Challenge (and the first to do it as a first-time marathoner). On February 7th, a $7,000 donation from his church helped him reach his goal of raising $77,777.
"[Jonny Wade] is the reason I got my health back, and the reason I couldn't use my age as an excuse anymore," Fallon says. "He saved my life."
Want to learn more about the Pediatric Cancer Foundation or donate to the cause? Visit fastercure.org.
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