Two and a half years ago, then-Marlins president David Samson was pitching a seemingly ludicrous idea to Jeff Conine of running seven marathons (each 26.2 miles) on seven continents on seven consecutive days. Samson prefaced it this way: “Don’t say no right away.”
Conine agreed to do it but never thought it was especially likely to come to fruition.
Yet here he stood Monday at his annual charity golf tournament, just days away from a Thursday flight to launch this 183.4 mile racing odyssey that will benefit 11 charities.
So why put your body through this?
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“Basically, David is very convincing and it’s for charity,” Conine said at the golf tournament in Fort Lauderdale. “You can’t pass up a life experience like this. I’ll never have the opportunity to do something like this ever again. Why not?”
Conine will be joined by two other former Marlins officials (Samson and broadcasting executive P.J. Loyello), two current ones (president of baseball operations Michael Hill and equipment manager Jon Silverman) and 11 others — including Paralympian triathlete Sarah Reinersten, who will become the first single amputee to participate in the event; and Bret Parker, Samson’s best friend who is battling Parkinson’s Disease.
Forty others not associated with Samson’s group are also participating in this annual World Marathon Challenge, which began in 2015. A sponsor donated the $44,000 entry fee for each of the 16 members of Samson’s group.
The group will fly by charter to run marathons, in order, in Novo, Antarctica; Cape Town, South Africa; Perth, Australia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Madrid, Spain; Barranquilla, Colombia; and Miami beginning Jan. 30 and ending Feb. 5.
The finish line will be near the beach on Fifth and Ocean on South Beach.
The longest plane flight on their journey: 13 hours, 15 minutes from Cape Town to Perth.
If they can run the sixth race in Colombia in five hours or less, they will be able to catch the second half of the Super Bowl on television in their airplane.
Conine, 51, said he’s “not concerned about anything other than orthopedic issues that might arise that might keep me from finishing. I’m not worried about health. I’m not worried about keeling over. I just want to be able to stay healthy enough to finish the whole thing.
“This is unchartered territory. I don’t know about foot pain, blistering, chafing, knee [issues]. Anything can go wrong with that many miles in that short a time.”
The place Conine is most excited about seeing: “Antarctica. Not many people get to go there let alone run a marathon. Dubai is another one I’m very interested in seeing.”
Conine’s strategy? “I’m not looking to break any records. I’m looking to finish each one and kind of manage my body as it goes along.”
Even while running the equivalent of the distance between Boca Raton to just north of Orlando — and flying between seven continents to do it — Hill still plans to carry on club business while away, with his cellphone in hand, according to the Marlins.
So, yes, Christian Yelich trade inquiries will be fielded while Hill runs through South Africa, cellphone service permitting.
Hill, who lost his father to pancreatic cancer two years ago, declined to do interviews in recent days but previously told WSVN-Fox 7 that doing the World Marathon Challenge “was not an easy sell but when you think about the charitable component to it, it made all the sense in the world.”
As for Conine, known by fans as Mr. Marlin, he’s not sure what he will do next after rejecting new ownership’s offer to remain with the Marlins with a much lower salary and diminished role.
He also won’t return to Marlins telecasts; Fox Sports dropped Conine, Preston Wilson and play-by-play man Rich Waltz.
“I want to get through the 7, 7, 7 thing and find out what I want to do with the rest of my life,” said Conine, whose annual golf tournament has raised more than $6 million over the years for Conine’s Clubhouse at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
“Baseball’s my life. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. It’s probably a direction I would like to go in, who knows what other opportunities might be presented.”
For more information on the marathons or to contribute, go to www.777marathon.com. Samson’s group already has raised more than $1 million.
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