Seven marathons, on seven continents, in seven consecutive days. That is 183 miles of running and 30,000 miles of air travel, in only 168 hours. Would you be up for the challenge? The World Marathon Challenge has only been completed by 26 people so far, and Texas House of Representatives legislator Pat Fallon joined this narrow list of 26 in January of this year. If this is not impressive enough on its own, he also became the first person to complete the challenge as a non-marathoner.
Rep. Fallon has resided in the North Texas area for the past 25 years, along with his wife, Susan, and sons, Thomas and Mac, who are 9 and 6 years old. Since moving to Frisco in 2006, Rep. Fallon has been an active member of the community. He served on the Frisco City Council from 2009 to 2012 and served as mayor pro tem from 2011 to 2012. Rep. Fallon is also an active member at the Holy Cross Church, located in The Colony, where he participates in the Knights of Columbus
Before becoming Denton County’s representative in the Texas State House, Rep. Fallon experienced an extensive history of government involvement. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, he continued on to serve in the U.S Air Force as a second lieutenant for four years. He then proceeded to start his own business, Virtus Apparel, which is a clothing line dedicated to providing items that reflect his customers’ political views and values.
Rep. Fallon has never been a serious runner. So, when he signed up for the World Marathon Challenge, at the end of 2015, he was not doing it just for the fun of it. Rep. Fallon had heard stories several times before about the Wades and their struggle, as their 9-year-old son, Jonny, fought pediatric cancer. Although he did not know this family personally, Rep. Fallon’s close friend, Jill McMillan, knew the Wades very well. The family’s story touched his heart. Naturally, Rep. Fallon hurt greatly for Jonny, as well as his parents, Jon and Kimberly, and his twin brother, Jacky, but felt incapable of lending any actual help in a tragedy as devastating as this one. When he came across the marathon, however, he formed a plan to participate in the challenge in support of the Wade family, making it his overall goal to raise $77,777.77 for pediatric cancer research in Jonny’s name. Although he was knowingly going out on a major whim, he called the organizer and took the final spot without giving it a second thought.
Seven back-to-back marathons provide a difficult challenge to even the experienced runner, so Rep. Fallon had a crucial need to prepare, and prepare fast. He began with research, hoping to find a plan that could get him physically ready in time. Unfortunately, the reality was that he had only 90 days to complete training that he really should have been able to dedicate 15 months to. “I was basically breaking all the rules of marathoning,” stated Rep. Fallon.
The challenge began in the coldest of conditions, on the barren continent of Antarctica, which certainly is not the most ideal place to run a marathon for the first time. Bundled in huge overalls and topped with oversized coats, the runners arrived, ready to spend the next few days acclimatizing to the weather conditions. Even with precautions, the runners faced dangerous and difficult circumstances as they began their race. About halfway through, Rep. Fallon came very near to giving up, but, luckily, it was in that moment that he came to an important realization. “I stopped and said to myself, ‘Fallon, this is not about you, it is about your wife and the 291 people who donated to this cause, and the Wade family, and Jonny and Jacky and the thousands of people at home praying for you.’” In this, Rep. Fallon found a resurgence of energy and hope and finished the race in five hours and 47 minutes. He came in 13th place out of 15 runners.
After getting little sleep, the group continued on to Punta Arenas, Chile, where they faced much more desirable weather conditions and running grounds. Having confidence from success in his last race, Rep. Fallon made it his new goal to break five hours in the next, which he accomplished with a four-hour and 52-minute finish time.
The next marathon was also very memorable for Rep. Fallon. He was accompanied in Miami, Fla., by his wife, his parents, Ms. McMillan and her sister, Jenny, and finally, the Wade family. Due to Jonny’s passing this past December, only Jacky and his parents attended, wearing their “Team Jonny” shirts and bracelets. Being the first time Rep. Fallon met the family, it was an emotional experience for all, especially when Jacky decided to join him for the last half mile of the race.
As soon as it was over, Rep. Fallon was rushed to Spain, where things became very difficult. As past successors of the challenge warned the runners, the fourth and fifth races were by far the hardest. At this point, the fatigue and jetlag began to settle in. He only had a miniscule five-hour “break” between the end of the fourth race in Madrid, Spain, and the beginning of the fifth in Marrakech, Morocco. Afterwards, it was straight to Dubai for race number six.
Dubai was a bit of refresher for Rep. Fallon, and not just because of the beauty of the city. “I only got 18 hours of sleep the entire week and only six of these hours were in a bed,” he explains. Two and a half of these rare hours were in his hotel in Dubai, and they were certainly much appreciated. Right before he began the race, Rep. Fallon received a text from his wife. She was concerned about the hard time that Jonny’s parents were having due to their tragic loss. Immediately, he came to a revelation. “I could not give the Wades what I wanted, which was to give them their son back, but I could give them what I had. So, today, I was not only going to run, I was going to compete.” With this goal in mind, Rep. Fallon pushed with all he had and miraculously finished the race in fifth place, the best he had done so far. This accomplishment was vastly celebrated by both followers of his journey as well as other members of the race, leading Rep. Fallon to pursue another seemingly impossible goal at his final race in Sydney, Australia. With a large crowd cheering him on and Jonny as his guardian angel, Rep. Fallon succeeded in his goal of breaking four hours in his finish time, a success that was only accomplished by four other racers (who were immensely more experienced) throughout the course of the challenge.
The entire week was a series of hard-earned successes, ones that Rep. Fallon emphasizes were not earned solely on his own. “Throughout the races, I would remember the thousands of people praying for me. Every time I faced a crisis in this journey, I would feel their prayers.” Thanks to these supporters, Rep. Fallon recently reached his donation goal, and is now aiming even higher. For anyone who feels moved to contribute to this cause, donations can still be made at fastercure.org.
As a father, husband, Air Force veteran and member of the Texas House of Representatives, Rep. Fallon can now add the title of “World Marathon Challenge Successor” to this lengthy list of accomplishments. He has been an emblem of hope to the Wade family and to the thousands who followed his journey and supported his cause. “This is the way we should all live our lives,” Rep. Fallon remarks about his journey. “Love thy neighbor and do things selflessly for them.”