A 27-year-old Chicago man was among 15 athletes who accomplished the unthinkable: run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.
Daniel Cartica, a U.S. Marine Corps captain who lives in Uptown, not only completed the World Marathon Challenge, he won the event -- and in record time.
He completed seven 26.2-mile courses in 24 hours, 46 minutes, 56 seconds -- an average of 3:32:25 per marathon -- beating the 2015 winner and record holder by more than 49 minutes. He dedicated his run to the four Marines and sailor killed in July when a gunman attacked a U.S. Naval Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn.
"It was a pretty cool thing to do," Cartica told the Tribune on Friday in a phone interview from Sydney, site of the last marathon in the challenge. "I wasn't out there to do this for myself. The ultimate reason was for the four Marines and one sailor who were killed."
Cartica, a Pleasant Valley, N.Y., native, crossed the finish line at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday in Sydney, the seventh stop in the group's quest that began Jan. 23 in Union Glacier, Antarctica. From there, the runners went to Punta Arenas, Chile; Miami; Madrid; Marrakech, Morocco; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Sydney.
Competitors squeezed the seven marathons in a span of 168 hours -- 59 spent trying to recover aboard charter flights that shuttled them 23,560 miles to all the continents. Becca Pizzi, of Belmont, Mass., won the women's event in 27:26:15 -- an average of 3:55:11 -- shattering last year's record by nearly 13 hours.
All 15 competitors completed the seven marathons.
Among Cartica's biggest challenges were eating and sleeping -- "nutrition was not adequate; it was awful." He estimated he slept a total of "about 15 to 18 hours" over the seven days.
"Sleep was ... optional," he said. "If you slept, it was on the plane, and I had a very tough time. On the (14-hour) trip to Sydney, I slept maybe two, three hours. Really the last few nights. You're already running four, five, six marathons in a row. Super-fatigued mentally and emotionally."
Cartica said he made it through with the help of the 14 other runners, one of whom was Patrick Fallon, a member of the 1988 Notre Dame national championship football team running his first marathons.
"It was just a (rare) and outgoing group," Cartica said. "I'm very fortunate to have met all of them."
--Associated Press contributed.