MARS HILL, N.C. – Completing a marathon is an accomplishment reached after many months of intense training. The physical and mental endurance required during the 26.2 miles are demanding for a typical race. For Mars Hill University alum and cross country student-athlete Becca Pizzi, the ultimate challenge is yet to come. Pizzi has completed marathons in 25 different states, but her next seven marathons will be her toughest yet as she looks to become the first American female to complete the World Marathon Challenge.
"I first read about the World Marathon Challenge on the Marathon Maniacs running club website," Pizzi explained. "It was definitely a well thought out decision for me to race this as I own a day care, manage an ice cream shop and am a mom to a seven-year-old. Being the first American woman to run this and getting to represent the United States is a huge honor."
The 2016 World Marathon Challenge consists of seven marathons on seven continents over the course of seven days. Runners will compete in a marathon and then travel to the next event. The Challenge begins on January 26, 2016 at Union Glacier in Antarctica before continuing on to Chile (South America), Miami (North America), Madrid, Spain (Europe), Marrakech, Morocco (Africa) and Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Asia) before concluding in Sydney, Australia on February 1.
"A big obstacle that I'll face in the World Marathon Challenge is the unknown", Pizzi said. "When I run a marathon I study the course, weather and fly in a few days early for a few shakedown runs on the race course. With the World Marathon Challenge I'll run a race and then fly to the next race without the benefit of being able to spend a few days adjusting to the weather and course conditions where the race will be held."
The opening race of the World Marathon Challenge could prove to be the toughest as the competitors compete in sub-freezing conditions on Antarctica's Union Glacier. In order to prepare for this challenge, Pizzi is taking her training north of the border as well as relying on her experience of running in the snowy streets of Boston last winter.
"The best way for me to prepare for the freezing conditions is to head to Canada to do my long runs, which I've done in the past," Pizzi explained. "The weather in Canada should be about the same as Antarctica, so I will be fully prepared to race in colder temperatures with the proper gear. I was very pleased with my 3:28 Boston Marathon time training through the heart of a winter of record-breaking snowfall, and that has given me confidence for this first event."
Pizzi was part of the first Mars Hill cross country team to reach the NCAA National Championship meet in 2000. She earned All-South Atlantic Conference second team honors in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and was part of a SAC Championship team during each of her four years. Pizzi held a leadership role during her senior year as the team captain.
"I really do miss my Mars Hill days; I loved training and trail running in the woods, which is something I don't get to do living in Boston," Pizzi said. "When we qualified for the NCAA meet we had the entire campus supporting our team. Everyone was so proud! That was a big deal for us and so much fun," Pizzi recalled. "I greatly enjoyed running under Coach Owens and still keep in touch with my college running friends. I'm proud to have attended Mars Hill and have Mars Hill to thank in making me a better person, runner and friend that I am today."
For more on the World Marathon Challenge, click here.