11-year-old runs marathon on every continent for charity
Provided by USATF
INDIANAPOLIS -- Eleven-year-old Nikolas Toocheck of West Chester, Pennsylvania, conquered the dream of his barely-over-a-decade lifetime while raising money to help kids across America stay warm during the cold, winter months.
His campaign, Running the World for Children, began in 2012, when at the tender age of nine years old, Toocheck set out to complete a marathon on every continent with the task of raising a single dollar every step of the way.
Toocheck made history as the youngest person to accomplish the seven-continent feat when he completed the Kazbegi Marathon in Tbilisi, Georgia, Saturday, Sept .6 in Asia. Leading up to the race, he had raised more than $40,000, providing more than 2,000 coats for the non-profit organization, Operation Warm.
“I guess the past couple of years we have had rough winters,” said Toocheck. “We got tons of snow down here, and it was freezing. With five layers and a couple coats on, I was still freezing. I couldn't think of a kid with only one layer like a t-shirt and pants, and that definitely helped me pick Operation Warm.”
“Running always came pretty naturally to him and he always enjoyed it,” said his father Daniel Toocheck.
The young marathoner has been a member of USA Track & Field since 2008. In 2012, he was a six-time qualifier for National Junior Olympic Championships, where set an American record for the fastest 1500-meter race walk among 9-10-year-olds. That same year, he was also a three-time USATF All-American before winning the 2013 Youth Outdoor and 2014 Youth Indoor race walk titles. In addition to race walk, the younger Toocheck also competes in shot put, high jump, and long distance races.
“My dad was always a runner and he had done two marathons,” said the young athlete. “I was always moving around and being active, so I decided to run with my dad one day. I went from a one-mile, to a 5K and then to a 10K.”
Continuing the gradual increase in distance, the father-son duo took on two half marathons in 2012, as a then nine-year-old Nikolas was the 12 & under winner and the youngest finisher at both events.
After the second, 13.1-mile race, Toocheck realized he still had a tremendous amount of energy, and he began convincing his dad that he too could run marathons. They started in 2012 with the Fortitude for First Descents Marathon in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after which the younger Toocheck grew an idea that he could run all over the world.
“I think it was one of those things where it was something he loved, so it was natural to try to utilize it,” said his father.
“Sometimes as parents we have to just get out of the way. You’re not supposed to be able to run a marathon in Antarctica, but we immediately began researching, and found out that you could.”
With dad in tow, a nine-year-old’s vision began to take shape, and Running the World for Children was born.
Their first international race came in February 2013 at the White Continent Marathon in Antarctica, followed by marathons on the five remaining continents.
Here’s a list of their completed marathons.
· Kazbegi Marathon 2014 - ASIA
· Swissalpine Marathon 2014 – EUROPE
· Victoria Fall Marathon 2014 – AFRICA
· White Continent Marathon 2014 – ANTARCTICA
· Brisbane Marathon 2013 – AUSTRALIA
· White Continent Marathon 2013 – ANTARCTICA
· Punta Arenas Marathon 2013 - SOUTH AMERICA
· Fortitude for First Descents Marathon 2012 - NORTH AMERICA
The 11-year-old notes his favorite races were not the partly cloudy, 50-degree days, but the ones with what he calls “action.”
“I think Switzerland was probably my favorite,” he said. “I like rain, and I like sleet. With the rain and the view - everything compiled into one - it made the perfect marathon for me.”
The journey wasn’t always the best with nights spent sleeping in the airport and some challenging adventures along the way, but Nikolas was resilient.
“After completing my first marathon, I definitely thought that now I have done one, so I’m sure I can do the rest. I was definitely tired (after races), but I knew I had the strength to reach my goal.”
His father Daniel Toocheck believes “sports are that great analogy for life. I think it’s something he has learned very early that you get out of it what you put it into it. It's one of those things that transitions into other parts of your life.“
His parents remained cautious throughout the adventure, taking him for regular check-ups and gaining expert opinions from doctors on the extreme distances he was setting out to run. They also made sure that there was never any pressure.
“It was his plan and his dream,” said his father. “If at any point he wanted to step away, we told him we would be good with that.”
In the end, Nikolas Toocheck learned a very valuable lesson: you don’t have to be big to make a big difference.
Click here to learn more about his journey on the Running the World for Children website.