Luke DeCock

DeCock: UNC grad ready to run around the world

Tim Durbin runs in the 2012 Ice Marathon in Antarctica. It was the second of only two organized marathons he has run.
Tim Durbin runs in the 2012 Ice Marathon in Antarctica. It was the second of only two organized marathons he has run. PHOTO COURTESY OF TIM DURBIN

The prospect of running a marathon is daunting enough for most who attempt it that it’s tough to sleep the night before. If Tim Durbin has trouble sleeping Friday night, it’ll be because the Antarctic winds are buffeting his double-walled tent and the sun is still out.

OK, so this is unusual enough: Weather permitting, Durbin will run 26.2 miles across Union Glacier on Saturday, a mere 600 miles from the South Pole, in sub-freezing temperatures. What’s really difficult to comprehend is that it’s merely the beginning for him, the first of seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

Just as surprising is Durbin’s running resume as he undertakes this journey. He has run only two organized marathons in his life: Austin, Texas, in 2009 and Antarctica in 2012. But he has run several in training during the past year, part of a personal goal to run or walk the 24,901-mile distance of the equator over a 10-year span.

This week’s World Marathon Challenge is just one dramatic part of that journey.

“It’s just a unique way for an average person to challenge themselves mentally and physically, to see what you’re capable of doing,” Durbin said this week by Skype from Chile, the 12-person group’s staging area, before he flew to Antarctica on Wednesday.

Durbin, 31, grew up in Illinois and graduated from North Carolina in 2005 with a business degree. He lives in San Francisco, where he’s part of a boutique consulting firm specializing in nonprofits and the social sector. Over the course of 2014, he averaged 11 miles and more than two hours of running or walking each day.

His goal is to raise $77,777 for the V Foundation by taking on this challenge, soliciting donations through his website, When he left Chile for Antarctica on Wednesday, he was about $75,777 short of that figure, which leaves him with some work to do.

He’s hoping any media coverage he gets as he travels around the world will help him get the rest of the way.

“It’s a good professional lesson for me, how hard it is to raise money in the nonprofit sector,” Durbin joked.

If all goes well Saturday, he will run 26.2 miles on Union Glacier to begin seven days of running and flying and running and flying and running and flying that will take him from Antarctica to Chile, to Miami to Madrid to Morocco to Dubai to Sydney. Some will be run in the morning after overnight flights, others in the middle of the night after flying all day.

The circumstances are as unique as they are difficult. Running seven marathons in seven days is crazy enough, but almost all of the recovery time between them will be spent on airplanes – in business class, at least.

Perhaps the most amazing feat: Durbin managed to pack all of his post-Antarctica equipment – shorts, shirts and three pairs of shoes – into a single carry-on bag. That alone would get him into the frequent flyer Hall of Fame.

Durbin exhausted his personal savings and borrowed money from his parents to cover the entry fee of 32,000 Euros – which at current exchange rates is about $37,700 and includes the charter flight to and from Antarctica and commercial airfare on the other legs – but said all the money he raises will go directly to the V Foundation.

All that’s left is to find out whether he can do it.

“It will definitely be a challenge,” Durbin said. “The travel is kind of the greatest unknown. I feel prepared as far as training for the distances. The big challenge will be the back-to-back days of flying and sleeping on planes – or at least hoping to sleep.”

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