Many siblings have a long-established rivalry, but my brother and I get along famously, probably because we balance each other out. He’s competitive; I couldn’t care less. I’m an academic, and he’s an athlete: I write books, and he’s a marathon runner and mountain climber.
Nikolas ran his first marathon at nine. At eleven, became the youngest person to run a marathon on every continent. In doing so, he raised over $50,000 for Operation Warm, a nonprofit our grandfather started in 1998 that provides new coats and shoes to children in need across the Americas. Nik and I have been involved with Operation Warm our whole lives. Last year, I was hugely proud to volunteer at the community centre where the five millionth coat was given out. The coats are beautiful, high quality, and very cosy. The children have their choice of colour and the coats bear their names.
This lifelong involvement made the choice of beneficiary easy when Nik decided that he wanted to use his runs to fundraise—or, as became his slogan, to “do what he loved for good.” My parents took him to several doctors and experts over the years to ensure that he was in fit running condition and that his bones were not being damaged. He was always full of energy after the races were over, ready to explore whatever locale we found ourselves in, from cuddling koalas in Australia to playing with penguins in Antarctica.
After completing the seven continents, Nik was eager to do more, and he began a new challenge: running a marathon in each of the fifty US states and Washington, DC. When he finished at fourteen, he was the youngest person to ever do so.
After fifty-nine marathons, he decided it was time to retire. My dad, who ran every marathon with him, agreed, only to be recruited as Nik’s personal baseball manager. They came out of this self-imposed retirement to run the 2021 virtual Boston Marathon and have since embarked on a new but no less ambitious goal: to climb the seven volcanic summits, once again to raise awareness for Operation Warm. So far, they’ve climbed the tallest volcanoes in Africa and North America and plan to summit Oceania’s this summer.
By anyone’s standards, these achievements are pretty impressive. Wikipedia, however, disagrees: when we submitted a page for approval last year, our draft was denied despite several other young athletes having their own pages. Apparently, they didn’t care to join the impressive list of outlets that have covered Nik’s story, including the Katie Couric Show (see photo), People Magazine, and Disney’s Magical Christmas Celebration.
As someone who hated running even the required mile in gym class, I think they’re crazy, but I also think they’re really cool. It takes ambition, discipline, and verve to run one marathon, much less sixty—not to mention braving sometimes horrendous conditions and ascending 20,000 feet over and over. My mom and I are proud to be their cheerleaders, quite content to stand at the finish line and join the celebrations afterward.
Find out more about Nik @nikclimbstheworld and https://www.niktoocheck.com/.