By Jerry Del Priore
When most people approach the retirement age, they think of winding down, and relaxing for the rest of their lives. Perhaps swinging in a hammock and reading to pass the time. Not many people have thoughts of pushing their body to the limits, however, like Glen Avery does.
Avery, who will retire from his position of Houghton College technology librarian in June, has set his sights on running the World Marathon Challenge, which compasses seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, in January.
It’s a monumental, demanding feat that the soon-to-be 66-year-old is relishing in, and believes he has something to prove to the world.
“I think retirement is the time to free me up to do things that are extraordinary,” Avery said. “In a sense, I have something to prove. What I want to prove is doing something 20 year olds don’t ever think of. Just because you’re old, doesn’t mean you can’t do extraordinary things.”
Avery is no stranger to running long distances. The Houghton, N.Y., native has completed seven marathons on seven continents twice before. The first time it took him nine years to finish, and the second go-around, it took four years, with the completion coming on March, 20th of this year in the Falkland Islands.
In addition, Avery has completed the grueling 56-mile, 12-hour Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa in 11 hours, 55 minutes and 26 seconds, just under the cutoff point of 12 hours.
“That was one of the most phenomenal experiences ever,” he exclaimed. “It’s a brutal race. They only give you 11 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds to run 56 miles. There are cutoff (points), that they will stop you if you don’t make them,” which, of course, he did.
Avery’s running adventures didn’t start until the age of 51. Out of shape and a bit heavier, he decided to do something about it in November 2001. He ran a lap, and walked the other three of the mile he eclipsed the first time he undertook running.
Slowly but surely he built up some endurance. He ran his first 5k in April 2002, and gutted out the Athens Marathon in November of that year in a little over six hours.
“I did develop a hamstring issue,” he recollected. “I did finish, but my time wasn’t the best. But it was quite an experience for me. My hamstrings started causing me trouble three miles into the race. It was 23 miles of sheer will power.
“I never been in a long distance race. It was quite a learning experience for me.”
A month later, Avery ran his second marathon, the Honolulu Marathon, snapping the tape in just under seven hours, amidst mid 80s temperatures and high humidly.
In total, Avery has completed 93 ultra and regular marathons to date, with his best marathon time coming at 4:12:17 at the Buffalo Marathon in 2008.
He plans on participating in a few ultra-marathons to prepare for the WMC, including the Mind the Ducks 12-hour run in Webster, N.Y., this weekend, and the Beast of Burden 100-mile summer ultra-marathon in Lockport, N.Y., in August.
Though he realizes the WMC—which starts in Antarctica in possible sub-zero temperatures and finish in Sydney, Australia during the summer, with short flights and little sleep in between—will test his physical and mental fortitude like never before, Avery still has lofty aspirations.
However, he does grasp the punishing nature of the seven-day event, putting everything into healthy perspective.
“I want to do every marathon under five hours,” Avery said. “But my number one goal is to finish all seven marathons in seven days, and be able to stand after that. And head home after that alive and well.”
Retirement, be dammed.