It’s a gamble, but one that’s worthwhile to Ben Pobjoy.
The Mississauga, Ont., native has set out on a journey to break the Guinness world record for most marathons ran by a male in a year (239), held by American Larry Macon.
Pobjoy, who started on New Year's Day, plans to accomplish the feat running marathon-length distances across 90 countries, including Canada, while capturing content of all his discoveries along the way.
Having left his job as the executive creative director at advertising company Behaviour last August, Pobjoy felt it was time for a change.
“That world where you have a steady paycheque, it's really comfortable,” he told The Canadian Press. "But I just found there wasn't much growth in it and to kind of cut myself out of that, throw myself into the world and just have that ultimate pressure where it's fully on me to create something, it just felt like the high time.
“Life is short. The pandemic showed me how quickly the world could change and, you know, if I'm going to gamble, I might as well gamble on myself.”
Shortly after quitting, he founded Killometres International Inc. The extra “L” adds to the significance of the name — “really, just to kill as many kilometres as possible.”
“It's being set up for this year and then my hope is that I can possibly grow this thing in other ways,” Pobjoy said. “For right now, the focus is just the business to get through this year and as to what it becomes thereafter, I think the future is unwritten.”
The idea to chase the record came about in 2021, while much of the Greater Toronto Area experienced long stretches of time under lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not wanting the year to not count for anything, the 41-year-old decided to trek as often and far as he could. The result was 174 marathons and over 11,500 kilometres covered.
As a “gag,” he paid five pounds ($8.16) to the Guinness Book of World Records to have it certified as a record in Ontario. Instead, he was told it was “too niche” and that he should go for the world record.
“I set 174 with a job. So if I quit this job and I'm unemployed, I only got to do another (66) more,” Pobjoy said of his thinking at the time. “(It) was like (a) no-brainer to me.”
After a conversation with his wife, Christine, he has broken it up into four legs, where she will join him for parts of each one and he will visit home at points in time. To give his family some peace of mind, he also wears a satellite communicator that emits a signal every two minutes to a portal they have access to, along with a button he can hit in circumstances where he could be injured or kidnapped.
His journey as a runner began approximately a decade ago when he says he was “morbidly obese” and “super embarrassed” to go to a gym. He started out walking and, as he describes it, has become “like a real-life Forrest Gump kind of tale.”
“I've just been interested to see, not just how much further I can go, but enjoying crushing out marathons around the world. No athletic pedigree, just a regular person to put one step in front of the other to some pretty insane outcomes.”
The influence behind his approach in life stems from his past in punk rock. Pobjoy was a member of two bands earlier in his life — one late in high school and another while in university.
The concepts of not needing any accreditation, doing it yourself and just figuring it out were things he immersed himself in.
“I pretty much have applied that way of operating to my non-linear career path, as well as this project itself, which essentially is just me,” he said. “I've planned everything, I'm here solo, it's super DIY.
“And had I not entered punk, I don't think I would have either the ability or maybe even the insanity to do something like I'm doing now.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press