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First Asian-American to Run Marathons

Love it or hate it, running has become one of the most popular workouts. 

Around the world, extreme conditions races have been popping up, one after the other in response to its popularity. No matter how difficult the challenge is, athletes are willing to prove the impossible, very possible. 

With more than 800 marathons held throughout the world each year, the question that many have on their mind when they see these amazing feats of endurance is the following: why do people run? After all, there must be a reason marathon participants in the US rose 255% since the ’80s, and more than a million runners complete the 26-mile race yearly. 

Perhaps the most obvious answer lies in its positive health impact. With the proper training, the advantages brought by running outweigh the risks. A positive change in mood, better circulatory system, ideal exercise for weight loss, the list of benefits goes on. 

For Jeff Tan, the first Asian-American to run an official marathon on all seven continents of the world, this sport has been a way for him to find himself, and break free of any perceived limitations. 

Are these the same reasons that motivate marathon runners? Or are there other reasons that fuels their drive and help push themselves to their limits?

For Jeff Tan, the first Asian-American to run an official marathon on all seven continents of the world, this sport has been a way for him to find himself, and break free of any perceived limitations. 

Born to a strict Evangelical Singaporean family in Sydney Australia, he was often the target of bullying at school. Life at home wasn’t easy either –his parent’s strict regimented focus on schoolwork left him unable to pursue activities outside of academics. Combined, these two factors made for a tough and lonely childhood that affected his self-esteem. 

“Three macro forces were all I knew - a prison-like religion that taught me I was worthless, a Chinese culture that only valued academia, and a white working-class environment that I felt rejected me for not being a certain way. My inherited limitations were that I had to conform to these cultures," says Tan.

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Throughout the years, he slowly began to master the art of overcoming these invisible barriers that stood in his way. 

There was a time when a three-mile run was all it took to drain his energy. Now, at age 40, he embraces every new marathon he encounters. 

"I never considered myself athletic at school. I had chosen to believe I couldn't possibly do anything sporty - certainly not a marathon nor pushing my body under extreme conditions. It was a mindset that was exactly...well...just a mindset, a boundary, a piece of misinformation that I had told myself, and believed. I now call these inherited limitations." adds the avid runner. 

It is determination and his willingness to show up for himself that fuels him through a race, such as the Antarctic Ice Marathon at Union Glacier, where he braced temperatures of -4F (-20C). 

This is what he had to say about his most challenging achievement to date: 

“My face buff froze solid and I had to pull it down to breathe, exposing my nose and cheeks to the stinging air. The fresh powder from a recent storm felt like running in deep sand. Yet, in my mind, the extreme conditions were like my childhood obstacles - barriers I could overcome. The sheer beauty of Antarctica certainly helped push through. There was brilliant white ice in every direction, and I was surrounded by the majestic Ellsworth Mountain ranges. It was simply stunning."

Simply put, running not only gave Jeff Tan a new perspective on life but has inspired him to help countless others break out of their comfort zones. 

“My goal has always been to help people become self-aware of their own perceived limitations. To hypothesize whether these are right and put these to the test. To hold themselves accountable to breaking free. Joining the 7 Continents Marathon Club was exactly that for me - proof I could overcome my internal beliefs to join just 388 people in the world who have run a marathon on every continent.”

Nathalie Nicole Smith states that working hard and staying true to yourself are sure ways to win in life.

Proving that anyone can change their mindset, this writer, leader, and speaker is on an unstoppable journey to change the world.

Click here to visit his website and learn more about his mission.