Focus, drive help Claremonter reach marathon goals

Claremont resident Ken Corhan blew out the candles of his 50th birthday cake a little over a decade ago with a unique wish in mind. Albeit 13 years later, and with challenges peppered along the way, his wish has finally come true.

At 63, Mr. Corhan has completed an ambitious mission, competing in 8 marathons across all 7 of the world’s continents. The journey has taken his wife, Suzanne Hall, and children—Chad, 19, and Laura, 23—across glaciers, The Great Wall and along the world’s tallest mountain.

Navigating the challenges of injuries, the bird flu and unruly weather has made him a living lesson to his children in perseverance and commitment.

“I think it meant something to my children to see me take on a challenge and make a commitment to making it happen,” Mr. Corhan said. “I feel a real sense of accomplishment in that.”

Mr. Corhan’s journey began as a personal goal “to prove to myself that I wasn’t totally decrepit” and to explore his passion for travel. When he first announced his 50th birthday wish to family members, they didn’t quite know what to make of the idea.

“I thought it was a very random mid-life crisis for him to have, but I was also supportive of it,” said his son, Chad, who told his dad that if he made it to his last continent, he would join him in the race. “Little did I know that I would have to hold up my end of the deal!”

Mr. Corhan finished his last race in Easter Island last month with his son by his side. Beyond being able to prove to himself that he is still capable of such feats, Mr. Corhan has prized the way the trips have strengthened family ties and provided him with a strong and appreciated support system.  

“It’s really been a great family endeavor,” Mr. Corhan said. “Even though I’m doing the run, the whole family got into it.”

His marathons became family vacations and a way for him to include loved ones in his desire to travel. With the support of his family, Mr. Corhan began training for his first marathon in the late 1990s. Though a former Marine and a man of athletic interests, marathon running was a new and unique challenge for Mr. Corhan.

“Training for a marathon takes a lot of time, and I’m not the fastest person in the world. It takes me a while,” he admitted. Mr. Corhan would wake up at 4 a.m. or earlier to get in his training before leaving for work. “It’s a commitment.”

The lack of sleep was worth it with the completion of his first marathon in Paris that spring, where he crossed the finish line at the famous Arc de Triomphe.

“Knowing I could actually do it was invigorating,” Mr. Corhan said. It was the first time he had run the full 26-plus miles. “I just kept one foot in front of the other.”

It was the first of many extraordinary marathon experiences for Mr. Corhan and his family. Some of the more memorable moments include finally racing across The Great Wall of China after a postponement because of the bird flu epidemic, and running along the base of Mt. Fuji, though the weather was so cloudy “we were there for 2 days and never saw the mountain,” Mr. Corhan laughed. In Venice, participants ran across about 20 barges rigged together across the Grand Canal toward the finish line.

“He can now say that he can walk on water,” his wife joked.

Though all the marathons have been momentous, some interesting challenges have sprung up along the way. In Antarctica, Mr. Corhan had to climb a glacier as part of the marathon route. The race organizer had assured racers that no special equipment would be needed.

“Never listen to people when they say something isn’t necessary,” Mr. Corhan said.

The weather was particularly bad that day and snowmelt and mud riddled his path up the glacier. He was forced to turn back and try going sideways up the slippery slope. While on this sideways path, Mr. Corhan helped a young woman slipping down the glacier, and together they made it across the glacier to victory.

“I said, ‘We are going to make it together or we aren’t going to make it at all,’” he remembered.

Several injuries, seemingly occuring one right after the other, nearly defeated his quests. But a broken foot, sprains and other ailments weren’t enough to keep him down forever.

“Especially with all the injuries, there were times I would sit there and think, ‘I will have to wait for my next lifetime to complete this,’” Mr. Corhan said, but he stayed true to the commitment he made to himself and his family. “My children—and myself—kept me going.”

It was a milestone moment for his son Chad as he watched Mr. Corhan triumph when it didn’t seem likely.

“My dad is a huge inspiration in my life,” Chad shared. “I can’t wait to see what he does next.”

Mr. Corhan and his wife plan to take a much-needed “vacation” with the completion of his continental marathon mission. After a decade on a mission, the downtime has been-hard earned.

“It’s taken a long time, but I’ve stuck with it,” Mr. Corhan said. “It’s a lesson you can apply to all long term goals in life: if you keep focused, you can accomplish it.”

—Beth Hartnett


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