RUNNING a marathon is a huge challenge in itself, but passionate runner Adrian Bol didn't stop at just one.
Adrian set himself the challenge of running seven marathons, in seven days, on seven beaches in seven of Australia's states and territories to raise funds for Foodbank Victoria - and to celebrate his 60th birthday.
The school teacher and running fanatic self-funded the challenge, spending $20,000 to make it happen.
As well as raising funds, Adrian also wanted to inspire people of all ages. "I want to inspire people young and old and prove that even at the ripe old age of 60 people can do whatever they set their minds to."
Adrian has always been a keen runner, but about 20 years ago he began experiencing problems with his back and legs from running on hard surfaces.
"I love the beach, so I started running on beaches and thought 'Wow, this is much easier on my back; it might be a good way to keep running'," he said.
The beach was the perfect fit.
The seeds of his idea to complete the challenge were sown after his 2014 meeting with adventurer, pilot and mountaineer Mike Allsop, who famously ran seven marathons in seven continents in seven days.
Adrian had never run a marathon prior to January this year and 18 months ago could not run a single kilometre because of problems with his left calf.
But he was determined, so he enlisted an extensive support team and underwent a thorough preparatory program which involved strength and conditioning, Pilates, medical consultations and ensuring he met nutritional requirements.
Throughout the challenge he went through a rigorous recovery program that included wearing compression gear on flights and between runs, and extensive stretches before and after each marathon.
He said the most challenging part of the experience was his run on Casuarina Beach in Darwin - the first of his marathons, on his birthday, June 6.
On top of the 28-degree heat and high humidity, a wrong turn saw his team become lost and they started the marathon about 30 minutes late. An even bigger problem was the tide, which had reduced the length of sand he would be running on to around 400 metres.
"When we went there to train, the beach was wide and you could see for miles," Adrian said. "You can't get any rhythm when you've only got 400 metres to run on and you constantly have to turn and push off."
He completed the run and said while running a marathon is never easy, the mind becomes tougher with experience.
"As much as running a marathon breaks you down, you grow stronger with each one, not so much physically, but mentally," he said.
"The mind drives the body, which is pretty much already shot. Whenever I was doing it really tough, I thought about what I was doing it for."
Adrian completed the challenge at Bonbeach in his home state of Victoria on June 12.
Now he's experienced the trials and rewards of running marathons, he foresees more challenges in the future, but his first priority is to have a good rest.
"I've put this body under all kinds of pressure, but it has handled things extremely well. "I'm missing it already, so I'm sure I can come up with something else."
Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara described Adrian's efforts as inspiring. "The fact that he went to such extreme lengths to support us - and inspire all those around him - is truly extraordinary," he said.
To donate, visit give.everydayhero.com/au/7777-60