Becca Pizzi’s favorite training schedule goes like this: 20-15-20-15-10-10-10.
That’s miles per day. Running. Seven days — 100 miles.
Even for the most seasoned marathoner, that’s a tad steep. But Pizzi is trying to do what no American female runner has done: compete in seven marathons, across seven continents, over seven days.
Her quest began Saturday in Union Glacier, Antarctica, about 600 miles from the South Pole. From there, she and 14 runners from around the globe will run a marathon a day — 26.2 miles each race. Sunday, they ran in Punta Arenas, Chile (South America); Monday, Miami Beach (North America); Tuesday, Madrid (Europe); Wednesday, Marrakech, Morocco (Africa); Thursday, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Asia); and Friday, Sydney (Australia).
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Sleep. Eat. Run. And fly — 59 hours in the air, assuming no delays (charter to Antarctica, commercial business class — extra leg room — for the other flights.) They’ll cross 16 time zones and tally more than 23,000 miles skyward. On the ground, they’ll run 183.4 miles in seven days.
Pizzi’s mother, Sue, thought so when her daughter, a 35-year-old single mother, daycare center owner and manager of a Massachusetts ice cream shop, first pitched the idea.
“What are you going to do with your daycare center? Your daughter Taylor? The money? It was all too crazy.’’
Her 8-year-old daughter, Taylor, doesn’t disagree.
Her school pals think her mom’s “crazy. And I tell them they’re right,’’ she quipped.
In the next breath, though, Taylor’s beaming: “It’s fun thinking that she’s the first American female to do it. It’s just cool.’’
Pizzi says inspiring her daughter, and people of all ages, to go beyond their everyday norms — work, home, comatose in front of the TV — is what led her here.
“I’ve had so many people who’ve said to me, ‘You’ve inspired me to start running again, to be a better parent, to be a better teacher.’ That’s what this is about. It’s my favorite compliment.’’
The man behind the marathon madness is Richard Donovan, an Irishman who was the first to run marathons at the North and South Poles, who ran from San Francisco to New York last summer (3,200 miles) and who holds the world record for running marathons on seven continents: 4 days, 22 hours, 3 minutes.
Last year, Donovan, owner of Polar Running Adventures, launched the World Marathon Challenge — the race Pizzi and the others are doing this year. A Hong Kong runner — David Gething, 39 — won the title, running in an average time of 3:39:26, or an average pace of 8:22 per mile. Gething, a veterinarian originally from Australia, is a triathlete.
Only one woman competed last year — Marianna Zaikova, 30, of Finland, who averaged a time of 5:46:06, or a 13:12 pace per mile.
This year, 15 people are competing, up from last year’s 12. Of the 15, five are Americans — Pizzi and four men. Others hail from Australia, Germany, Japan, Morocco and Singapore. Three other women are contending with Pizzi for the top female prize.
The runners did not run in Sunday’s Miami Marathon. Rather, they ran Monday in Miami Beach on a marathon-certified course. The route: Start at South Pointe Park, run up the paver pathway along the beach, to the boardwalk off 29th Street, then back — four times around for 26.2 miles.
She finished first among the women Monday in Miami Beach. Her time: 3:41:20.
After Miami, they are off to run Tuesdayin Madrid, then onto Morocco in Africa, United Arab Emirates in Asia and the final stop, Sydney in Australia — a one-stop flight at nearly 17 hours, and the hottest race of the seven. Expected temperature at the start — 80 degrees.
Pizzi said she is prepared for the rigorous schedule. She’s been running marathons half of her life — starting at 17 with the Boston Marathon, which she has run for 15 years, 10 in a row. She has since run 45 marathons in 27 states, more than half her goal of running a marathon in every state. She’s run the Miami Marathon twice.
In fact, she’s been running she was 6. Her father used to jog with his three daughters accompanying him on their bikes.
“One day, Becca said to me, she wanted to run with me,’’ said her father Fred, a sprinter in high school. “I didn’t think it was a good idea, but she insisted. She ditched the bike and has been running ever since.’’
When Pizzi learned of the World Marathon Challenge, she wrote to Donovan. She had to find sponsors to help defray the $36,000 cost. He gave her extra time, and she lined up three sponsors: a local car dealership, Ultima Replenisher, an electrolyte drink maker, and Dr. Cool, which makes compression socks and sleeves. The three are paying most of her costs.
After getting the sponsors, she said, “I’m all in.’’
The first person she talked to about her quest? Her daughter, Taylor.
“What do you think about mommy running this? And she said, ‘Yeah.’’’
Pizzi began training in mid-January last year. Living in Belmont, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb, she is used to training in the cold. Indeed, she regularly runs along the Heartbreak Hill of the Boston Marathon — in the snow and ice.
She runs seven days a week before Taylor gets up to go to school. In the evenings, when Taylor’s in bed, she does yoga for runners and works with a personal trainer.
She did the 20-15-20-15-10-10-10 runs — the 100-mile-a-week schedule — three times, starting in March. Otherwise, her regular routine is 15-10-15-10-10-10-10 — or 80 miles a week.
Pizzi runs about five marathons per year. The most she’s run in one week was in the spring, when she ran the Boston Marathon and six days later, the New Jersey Marathon. Her coldest marathon? Minus 2 in New Hampshire.
Her best marathon time: 3:25. Chicago when she was 29.
In the seven days/seven continents challenge, she’s hoping to average a 3:50 pace per marathon, or an 8.46 mile.
Her running partner, Jenny Rikoski, a Boston attorney, is confident she’ll make it. Rikoski ran with her in Chile.
“A couple of weekends ago, we did a run together,’’ Rikoski said. “We had gone about 12 miles and Becca realized that she had 10 minutes to get home — and we still had three more miles to do. She did an all-out sprint for those three miles.’’
Mom had to be home for Taylor. For Pizzi, the hardest part of her quest will be not seeing her daughter for nearly two weeks. She plans to Skype with her every day and write a daily note for her lunchbox.
Taylor, meanwhile, has big plans for her mom when she returns. An ice cream party for all. Pizzi manages Moozy’s Ice Cream, which most certainly will donate the ice cream.
And one more thing, Taylor says.
“I’m going to make a sign, put tape on it and put it on our front porch so she can drive into the driveway and see it.’’
What’s the sign going to say?