West Chester’s Jim Glendon Has Laced Up His Running Shoes On Every Continent
Who can say they’ve run a marathon on every continent and in all six major world marathons?
Jim Glendon of West Chester can.
And he didn’t start until his late forties.
Glendon, 69, is one of only 60 people in the world to hold both esteemed medals for these racing groups. He completed the six Abbott World Marathon Majors and is a member of the Seven Continents Marathon Club.
And he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“[Finishing] is a great sense of accomplishment, depending upon how well you run,” Glendon says. “You’re elated with your time or disappointed, exhausted, and for some people it’s ‘I’ll never do this again.’ But I’ve never had that feeling. [I say] ‘Okay, what’s next?’”
Glendon’s perpetual goal-setting is exactly what has taken him so far in the running world, especially given the fact that he didn’t start running until he was 49. Inspired by his brother, John Glendon, Jim ran his first marathon in 1997.
Now, he’s completed 34 marathons and three ultramarathons.
“It’s amazing that he started something like this so late in life and became so good at it,” says daughter-in-law Shannon Glendon. “It appears effortless. But knowing that he gets up early every day and trains, goes to the track and works on speed work…he deserves anything he puts his mind to.”
Training is key, and even the world’s best athletes face challenges regardless of training time. While Jim was running his first 50-mile ultramarathon in Key West, Florida, he passed out at mile 25 due to the extreme heat and ended up in the emergency room. Though an event like this would deter many, Jim persevered. He went on to complete two more ultramarathons, one that was 100 miles long. Ultramarathons are grueling and notoriously dangerous races that a participant has to complete in less than a day.
Thanks to Jim’s inspirational but humble nature, he’s motivated multiple generations of his family to run. The Glendon family has traveled to most major marathon destinations with Jim, some even running alongside him.
In 2013, Jim and brother John traveled to Boston to run the Boston Marathon together. It was a marathon they would never forget, when terrorists detonated two bombs at the finish line.
Jim recalls the terrifying moment he realized it was a bomb, and says his wife was supposed to be waiting for him at the finish line. However, she decided to stay at the hotel that day.
“Next thing you know there’s police everywhere, a SWAT team, helicopters,” Jim says.
From there, it was chaos.
“I remember calculating the time and thinking he was at the finish line when it happened,” Shannon says. “And at first, [the family] couldn’t get a hold of him.”
Two minutes behind his typical pace, Jim gratefully avoided the finish line at the Boston Marathon.
The horrifying experience only encouraged Jim to keep running. He has taken on the six World Major Marathons—Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City—and then joined the elite Seven Continents Club. As the name describes, this prestigious club is achieved only by those who have completed a marathon on every continent.
Jim checked the final continent off his list in 2015, when he and sister Mary Kay found out they were accepted to run a marathon in Antarctica. Two flights and a two-and-a-half-day boat ride later, they joined 98 other runners on the coldest continent.
“What’s Antarctica like? It’s 25 degrees and windy, snowy, hilly, muddy and wet the whole time,” Jim explains.
And that’s not just during the race. In order to be at the start line, Jim says, “You get off the ship, you go to shore, step off into icy water, climb up the hill, take your cold gear off, and you run a marathon.”
Then repeat—in order to get home.
“Jim is one of the most meaningful men in my life,” Shannon says. “He’s fast…[He] pushed me to finish my marathon when I stopped at mile 20 and thought I couldn’t do it.
After accomplishing so much, what could be possibly want to pursue next? Jim, who placed ninth in the Senior Olympics at the national level, now wants to place in the top three in the Senior Olympics.
After that, who knows? But knowing Jim, he will probably say, “What’s next?”