Depending on who is telling the story, Terry Hitchcock seems like either an athletic phenom or a borderline maniac lucky to survive back-to-back, punishing physical tests.
Back in 1996, Hitchcock, then 57, mourned the death of his wife from breast cancer by running 75 marathons in 75 consecutive days.
But Hitchcock didn't make the mother of all long-distance runs for money or fame.
"I really wanted to raise awareness for the plight of single-parent families," the father of three told HuffPost Weird News. "I felt I had to get out and tell the world about what they go through."
His blistered feet carried him all the way from Minneapolis to Atlanta.
"Actually, I averaged about 31 miles a day," clarified Hitchcock, an entrepreneur who, over the years, has created many technology and educated-based businesses. He didn't compete in 75 marathons, but instead did daily runs of at least 26.2 miles on his own.
The idea of a middle-aged widower with one prior heart attack to his name trying a risky, physically demanding run of more than 2,100 miles sounded like a perfect storyline for a movie to filmmaker Tim Van Steeg.
He spent the last seven years working on "My Run," a documentary about Hitchcock's feet-killing feat narrated by Billy Bob Thornton. It will be released on DVD Sept. 20.
For Van Steeg, the story instantly appealed to him when he heard about it in 2004. But he admits that anyone who runs 75 marathons in 75 days with little or no training inspires two different reactions.
"You hear these stories about people like Terry Hitchcock and you either think there is a little bit of craziness involved or a lot of heroism," Van Steeg told HuffPost Weird News. "But I think he [would have been] crazy not to do it. Losing your wife to cancer and then taking care of three kids -- to me, that would be tougher."
The odds were really stacked against Hitchcock.
A few months earlier, he suffered a heart attack. Oh, and his idea of going for a run before this marathon of marathons was a two-to-three mile jog on the weekend.
Only one doctor Hitchcock talked to said he had a change of actually finish this arduous goal. Still, he laced up and ran in spite of freezing rain and unbearable heat, in spite of chest pains and bone fractures that wracked his body for months afterward.
"It took me a while to recover," Hitchcock admitted. "I spent three months doing out-patient therapy at a hospital, and I fractured both ankles and my patella. I am basically recovered, but every once in a while, my body reminds me of what I did."
Amazingly, the physical pain wasn't the hardest part for him.
"I never got that so-called 'runner's high,' " he said. "But I did feel extreme loneliness at times, like nobody cared."
He started out with a six-man support crew of teenagers, including two sons. But five of them quit 30 days into the trip, because they were bored by the monotony of life in an RV.
"It wasn't fun for them," he shrugged.
Still, Hitchcock just kept running -- each day, every day -- not stopping until he crossed the finish line in Atlanta. Only his youngest son Christian stuck it out with him until the end.
Along the way, he ran into the best and worst of the U.S.
"Sometimes, people would drive by and try to knock me off the road and, once, a pickup truck tried to hit me," he said. "I got cut up pretty bad. Other people just gave me the finger.
"But for every experience like that, I'd meet someone who was waiting for me with a table and a cooked meal and, once, a masseuse laid out the massage table and gave me a massage."
Oh, and then there was the incident with the bear.
"It was in Kentucky when, out of the forest, came a big black bear," Hitchcock said. "It was as scared of me as I was of it. We actually ran along the side of the highway for about 400 feet, he couldn't have been more than five feet from me."
Although many people -- including Hitchcock -- believe his marathon run is worthy of recognition, he never actually applied to Guinness World Records until recently.
"I remember a reporter told me during the run that the previous record of consecutive marathons was three days and set by an Italian guy," Hitchcock said. "That same runner is supposedly now shooting for 51 marathons in 51 days, so we're looking into getting my record registered.
"But to be honest, I never did this for the record. All my projects have this running theme of people telling me I can't do something."
Since the run, Hitchcock has traveled around the country -- not on foot, thank goodness -- using his story to inspire others. He's also faced additional domestic hardship. Currently, his second wife is going through chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.
"And so my journey continues," he said.
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