Hofmann: New Lenox man, 78, runs half-marathon in seven countries
By Maryellen Hofmann Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org January 31, 2013 9:14AM
James Barry recently completed his seventh and final half-marathon. | Supplied Photo
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:12AM
James Barry Sr. recently celebrated his 78th birthday — quite a milestone. The New Lenox resident is socially active, mentally alert and physically fit. For most of us, that would be accomplishment enough.
But Barry set a much loftier goal for himself. At the top of his bucket list: to run a half-marathon on seven continents.
Barry started pursuing his quest 15 years ago. The retired teacher and lifelong running enthusiast thought it would be an interesting way to see the world.
He signed up with Marathon Tours, a Boston-based travel agency that specializes in tour packages to runners.
In 1995, the inaugural Antarctica Marathon on “The Last Continent” made it possible for runners to conquer a marathon on all of the earth’s seven continents. The tour company created the Seven Continents Club to motivate and recognize participating runners.
Barry joined the Seven Continents Club and originally set out to run a marathon on every continent. After completing several, he traveled to China in 2005, ready to compete. Barry walked the race course, which included parts of the Great Wall of China, in preparation. He quickly realized it was going to be too difficult.
“There was no way I was going to be able to run that course,” Barry said.
Barry switched to the half-marathon. But the previous marathons did not count toward the Seven Continents Club goal, so he had to start over at the new distance.
In addition to North America, Barry has competed in such locations as Brazil, Iceland, Antarctica, Kenya and Madagascar.
Barry finished a half- marathon in Oceana, New Zealand in 3:00:02, his last of the seven, making him part of an elite group of men and women who have completed this feat.
“They were all great places to go,” Barry said. “You meet the most interesting people.”
Barry said he also saw great poverty in Kenya and experienced the remoteness of Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest in the world, above the Arctic Circle.
Barry jokes that he’s never placed first in any country.
He runs recreationally, competing in local races such as the Lockport Park District’s annual Jingle Bell 5K and Thornwood Track Club’s Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot.
He is known for wearing brightly colored sweatpants and mismatched caps.
Barry credits regular physical activity for his relative good health.
“I try to get my neighbors to get out and walk,” he said.
But he shakes his head and says many of them are reluctant.