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Rob Preston: Nothing Is Impossible!

Written by Matt Hollingsworth

Base Camp—Rob Preston stands 17,515 feet above Sea Level, where the air is smotheringly thin, waiting for the start of the marathon. He is at the Mount Everest base camp, a veritable city of yellow tents at the foot of the mountain where climbers stay before making the dangerous trek to the summit, but Preston isn’t here to climb the mountain. Rather, he’s here to run a marathon on it, and the base camp is the starting line.

Rob Preston is a marathon runner, although perhaps that’s putting it too mildly. The director for the Athens, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce has run marathons in all fifty states and all seven continents—including Antarctica. He once ran an entire race with a torn meniscus and another time with a poison ivy rash. Once he took a wrong turn, ran an entire extra mile, yet still won first place. But perhaps his grandest accomplishment is running a full 26.2-mile marathon on Mount Everest.

The Starting Line—After a breakfast of porridge, toast, and eggs, Preston and the other racers gather by the starting line marked by two Sherpas holding a long piece of tape. Preston arrived over a week ago at Lukla, Nepal, at what is known as the most dangerous airport in the world due to the extreme elevation and short runway. It’s taken him and the other racers days of hiking just to reach the starting line, but perhaps this was a good thing because it’s given him time to adjust to the thinner air. Surrounded by the majesty of the Himalayas, he prepares to run.

As soon as the race starts, the local Nepalese runners sprint across the rocky, uneven landscape as if it were perfectly flat. Everyone else maneuvers more carefully, as they are used to flatter terrain. After the first few miles, the two hundred runners begin to spread out, as they follow the red flags that mark the path.
Preston began running marathons in 1997 when a friend invited him to the New York City Marathon. Since then, he has run 115 marathons of which he won 60. For training, he often runs over 60 miles per week, usually at night or in the very early morning.

Mile Seven—Preston likes to think about the marathon in “portions.” Instead of imagining the goal 19 miles off, he’s just thinking about getting to mile ten. After that, he’ll just be thinking about getting to the half-way point. Finally, when he gets near the end, he’ll be taking it one mile at a time. Preston checks his pace on his smartwatch as the wind whips past him. In the distance, the peak of Everest reaches, seemingly forever, into the sky.

Preston has seen incredible things during his mission to run a marathon in every state and on every continent. His race in Italy started at the Roman Colosseum and took him past St. Peter’s Square and the Pantheon. He has run upon the red earth of the Australian Outback, beside the Pacific waters lapping at the shore of Chile, and across a bridge near Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world. He won a marathon on the white continent of Antarctica, running past glaciers and penguins while wearing shorts.
Mile Nineteen—Preston’s legs burn as he races up a winding set of “Everest steps” and into a maze of trees. He has run countless marathons but never one so high or so cold. When he emerges from the trees, he sees a beautiful monastery in the background. The scenery would be breathtaking if he had any breath left to take.

There’s a cutoff point coming up. Those who didn’t reach before a certain time would have to finish the race the next day. Fortunately, Preston has made it with plenty of time. Unfortunately, what comes next might be the most difficult part of the race—an extreme decline of what feels like 45 degrees followed by an extreme incline that seems just as steep. But Preston isn’t giving up.

To many people, running seems like a chore—something necessary to stay healthy yet far from enjoyable—but not to Rob Preston.
“I love running,” Preston said. “I think about this morning. I got up at 2:45 a.m. This morning was just beautiful… The stars were out. I can just kind of get alone with my thoughts and think about just the blessings that I have… It’s a great time to get alone… and focus on how blessed I am.”

Preston loves running, but even more than that, he loves God. In his book, Preston wrote, “I have accomplished a lot with my running, and I am proud of what I’ve done. However, it really means nothing if I do not honor my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and recognize that all of this was made possible because of Him. Through all my travels, I have seen an incredible beauty that God has created.”

The Finish Line—After a 26.2-mile race through the frigid cold, Preston finally reaches the finish line. While he hasn’t won, just finishing may be his proudest accomplishment because of the incredible difficulty. It’s by far the hardest race he’s ever run, a fitting capstone to a journey that has taken him all around the world.

Order Robert Preston’s book on Amazon: “Running Marathons in 50 States and 7 Continents: A Runner’s Inspirational Adventure Around the World”

Click below to scroll through some of the amazing photos Rob has taken during his adventures.

About the author

Matt Hollingsworth

Matt Hollingsworth is the chief writer for the Bingham Group where he writes articles for Monroe Life, Farragut Life, and McMinn Life magazines. He has a degree in publishing from Belmont University and has previously written content for Aspire—Clinton, TN's largest park. In his spare time, he writes science fiction with Christian themes.

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