An undeniable passion for running has given Arcadia resident Jonathan Negretti the opportunity of a lifetime: competing in the World Marathon Challenge, where he will run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

Jonathan, who moved from Ahwatukee to Arcadia with his wife in 2014, said that traveling the globe in pursuit of his athletic ambitions is very exciting. It’s even more amazing to know that he’s only been running long distances for a few years.

“I really didn’t run any significant distance until 2016,” Negretti said. “In fact, I never ran in high school or college. I picked it up late, and before that, the longest I had run was the Pat Tillman Race (4.2 miles).”

While Jonathan never thought of himself as a runner, when he ran his first official half marathon in 2018 and posted a decent time, he was hooked. He hasn’t looked back since, pounding the pavement, particularly in preparation for the biggest race of his life.

The 2020 World Marathon Challenge is scheduled for February 6-12, when Jonathan will join dozens of other runners in 42.2 km (26.2 mi.) marathons set for Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America within 168 hours, or seven days. 

With the first marathon in Antarctica fast approaching, Jonathan is feeling good about his chances, although he’s never run an official full marathon before. “I figured why run one, when you can run seven in seven days on all seven continents,” Negretti said.

Jonathan is attempting this challenge to benefit Heather’s Mission, a nonprofit that helps those who have been affected by ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease.

“Heather’s Mission has a teddy bear called Ollie the Ostomy Bear, and the charity sells these for $50 each,” Negretti said. “They give these to patients who have had a surgery like mine – I also have an ostomy. My goal is to raise money to donate 1,000 bears before I go. According to the race organizer, I will be the first person in history to attempt this marathon with an ostomy.”

He credits close friend Rick Steele with introducing him to the World Marathon Challenge.

“He is always leveling up, looking for the next big challenge. When he told me about this, my first reaction was ‘that’s not even possible.’ The second thought I had was ‘where do I sign up?’” Negretti said. “I imagine that there isn’t a large pool of people that are willing to put themselves through something like this.”

Jonathan has come a long way since his entry into the world of competitive running, starting with obstacle course races like Spartan and Tough Mudder. “Eventually, that turned into ultramarathons, like conquering the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim run, which is over 50 miles,” Negretti said.

His recent experience with ultramarathons has taught him the power of patience and remaining mentally present.

 “I ran another in the Hollywood Hills and we looped that course a few times, so things started to look the same,” Negretti said. “When that happens, your mind can wander. When you let your mind wander, you can lose your running form and can let the course easily defeat you.”

While there will undoubtedly be challenges in this competition, Negretti is thrilled for whatever the race has in store. “I am probably most excited about the adversity that comes along with a challenge like this,” Negretti said. “It’s going to be hard both physically and mentally, but it’s what you do with that, that matters.”

The World Marathon Challenge is a big step toward Negretti’s ultimate goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Although he says he’s not a fast runner, Negretti relies on his determination and drive to keep moving forward.

“I hired a running coach and he said that long distance running is like building a diesel engine,” Negretti said. “It takes time to get your body to the point that it can sustain long efforts at a manageable heart rate. I’m still working on building that diesel engine because I don’t have years and years of running experience.”

“I am told that this is the first time in history that the same airplane will touch down on all seven continents in a seven-day period,” Negretti said. “It’s rare in life that you can say you were part of the first people to do something. I’m looking forward to etching my name into the history books.”

For more: heathersmission.org.