TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Imagine travelling to every continent in the world in a week. All seven of them in seven days.
It already sounds exhausting and logistically challenging. Now, imagine running a full 26.2 mile marathon each time you landed. That’s the World Marathon Challenge, and a St. Petersburg woman just came home from completing the feat.
KellyAnn Jenkins trained for 2.5 years to get in the best shape of her life. Then, in late January, 2023, she took her first major solo trip and flew to Cape Town, South Africa. That’s where she met up with the other 51 runners from 16 countries who would tackle this challenge together.
“It was an absolutely incredible group. Everyone had a story to tell. People were really engaging, really smart, and we became family by the end of it,” recalled Jenkins.
Their first marathon turned out to be the toughest. They took a cargo plane from Cape Town to Novo, Antarctica. Conditions were beyond brutal with temperatures more than 20 degrees below zero and 50 mph wind gusts.
“Running in those conditions had to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. After about 10 miles, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish it, let alone six more marathons,” said Jenkins.
But she did finish. She got her first medal and boarded the plane back to Cape Town. That’s where she ran her second 26.2 mile trek in 90-degree heat.
Due to a bureaucratic issue, they got delayed in Cape Town and lost nearly a full day of travel time, which means the rest of the trip would need to be sped up to make the 7-day deadline.
Finally, the runners took off to Perth, Australia for their next marathon. Then, it was Dubai in Asia where Jenkins remembers seeing rows of extremely expensive sports cars parked down the street. There wasn’t much time for sightseeing before the runners got back on the plane and headed to Spain.
Jenkins says the European marathon ended up being one of the most fun. Because of their delay, the route and location were changed. They were supposed to run on an F1 racecar track in Madrid, but instead they ran a small loop in the small town of Torrelaguna, Spain.
“What I loved was being in a small town, and it felt very much like small-town Spain. A lot of the locals came out to cheer us on, and some of the kids ran with us,” Jenkins recalled. “You felt like you got the full town experience,” she continued.
From there, it was back across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil in the peak of their summer. Again, the delay meant running after the sun rose, and temperatures soared. Jenkins remembers dumping a bunch of water on her head after the race, but there wasn’t even time to shower before they were back in the air.
The final stop and the final race was in Miami. When the bus full of runners arrived at the start line, they were greeted by many of their friends and family. Still, the clock was ticking. The race director said they had just two minutes to line up and start running. The gun went off a few minutes before the midnight deadline on the 7th day.
Jenkins’ sister surprised her in Miami, and they shared an emotional hug before the race. During the Challenge, Jenkins raised money for her charity “The Foundation for When MS Happens.” The money is still coming in, but so far she has raised about $30,000. She started the charity after her sister was diagnosed with the disease.
“I started a foundation to raise money for MS patients locally where the money is going directly back to the patients and their families for bills, excesses medical costs or even cleaning services,” said Jenkins.
For Jenkins, her charity, her sister, her love of running, her desire to be challenged all came together for a life-changing experience.
“It’s something that I would definitely do again,” she exclaimed.