Alyssa Clark: The Ultramarathon Runner Who Ran 95 Marathons in 95 Days
With stay-at-home orders in place throughout much of 2020, many people experienced cabin fever, coming to appreciate the great outdoors in a way we never had before. This included Alyssa Clark, a runner and high school teacher originally from Burlington, Vermont, who was living in Italy with her husband when the pandemic started. In response to soaring infection rates in the north of the country, the Italian government quickly imposed stringent lockdown rules, forcing everyone to stay at home.
Clark never imagined that she would be prevented from walking or running outside. Nevertheless, with COVID-19 spreading rapidly through Northern Italy, she concedes that the government was forced to take “fast and necessary” action to keep the rest of the country safe. The Clarks went from being free to walk, run, and travel to being confined in their home, only going out to attend work or travel to and from the grocery store or hospital.
A runner since high school, she watched as all of the races she planned to run in 2020 were cancelled. Having trained all through the winter, she knew she needed to set herself a new challenge. After discussing it with her coach, she ran her first marathon distance at home on a treadmill on March 31, 2020(3). From that day, Clark ran daily, covering 26.21 miles every time.
Alyssa Clark explains that running simply became part of her daily route. With so much disruption around her, her time on the treadmill gave her structure and purpose.
Attempting the World Record
After running each day for a month, Alyssa Clark discovered that she was almost halfway to setting a new world record of a female runner covering a marathon distance 61 times in 61 days. She decided to keep pushing through. Initially fueled by binge watching hours of reality TV, as soon as she was able, the 28-year-old high school teacher started running outdoors again, taking along with her two necessities: audiobooks and candy bars.
As Clark neared her 61st marathon, her dream of entering the record books almost unraveled. Her husband, who serves in the Navy, was transferred back to the US. Clark would have to relocate to the US, leaving her job and finding a new home, all without interrupting her marathon-a-day running streak if she wanted to set a new world record.
An International Move and a World Record Set
A transatlantic migration would be stressful for most of us at the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic, mired in COVID-related travel restrictions, especially so. With commercial flights out of Italy grounded, the couple travelled aboard a military cargo ship.
Rather than adding to her stress, Alyssa Clark explains that running a marathon every single day was soothing. It provided her with consistency and routine in her life. Their first port of call was Germany. When they landed, Clark slept for a couple of hours, then jumped on the treadmill, running a marathon overnight.
En route to their new home in Florida, Alyssa Clark and her husband made several stops in the United States to enable her to complete her daily marathons. After completing her 61st marathon-distance run in Charleston, South Carolina, Alyssa Clark officially set a new world record.
Setting a New Goal
When they arrived at their new home in Panama City, Florida, Alyssa Clark found that she was not ready to quit running just yet. Clark explains that she actually found it incredibly hard to stop, having come to see the daily marathons as a source of comfort. As she points out, sometimes it is a lot easier to keep going, than stop and face the unknown. Clark decided to push on to 100.
In early July 2020, however, she started to experience tightness in her chest. Finding that running marathons had grown significantly more difficult, Clark paid a visit to her doctor. She was diagnosed with COVID-19, which cut Alyssa Clark’s epic challenge short five days before she was able to reach her target.
Returning to Ultramarathons
Once Alyssa Clark had returned to health, with social distancing requirements and travel restrictions easing, she returned to her ultramarathon career, running formal races again. In the summer of 2021, Clark completed a 100-mile race in Colorado.
She is currently training for a 335-mile trek along the Pinhoti Trail. Skirting the Appalachian Mountains, the harrowing feat of endurance encompasses 50,000 feet of elevation change.
Ultimately, Alyssa Clark’s 95 marathons helped her through a pandemic and a transatlantic move. Finishing the challenge in July 2020, it was not until a year later that Clark received the news that the Guinness Book of Records recognized her achievement, earning her a place in history as the woman who ran a marathon for the most consecutive days.
Alyssa Clark says she will remember her 2020 challenge forever. It was an amazing achievement: she covered 2,489 miles on two continents, three countries, and three states. Sometimes running in 100-degree heat, sometimes running through the middle of the night, Alyssa Clark was spurred on by thousands of messages of love and support.