The 66-year-old Singaporean wheelchair-racer, William Tan on February 6 became the first person to complete seven marathons across seven continents in seven days in a wheelchair. The Paralympian and neuroscientist raced alongside 48 participants in the 2023 World Marathon Challenge, which had circuits in Antarctica, South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Brazil and the United States from January 31 to February 6.
Tan completed the last two marathons in Fortaleza, Brazil, and Miami in his everyday wheelchair. It took him five hours to complete each race instead of the usual two. His racing wheelchair, which has a single front wheel and two at the rear, allows him to be in a horizontal position to reduce wind resistance. It also has larger wheels and a lighter frame than an everyday wheelchair.
Covering a total distance of 295km within a week was physically challenging for Tan, as he spent most nights in the plane and struggled with jet lag. He also had to race through harsh weather conditions, with the temperature in Antarctica dipping to minus-20 deg C as he battled head winds of 97kmh. But the physician, who was diagnosed with stage 4 leukemia in 2009, was determined to tick this off his bucket list.
Tan, who represented Singapore in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, has been wheelchair racing for 50 years. He has competed in over 100 races, with the previous in Boston in 2019. He also raced in the Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon in 2018. In 2007, he set the world record for the fastest person in a wheelchair to complete seven marathons across seven continents in 26 days. With this latest record-breaking feat, he aims to raise $77,000 for seven charities – five local and two overseas.