By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Dan McCann has been asthmatic all of his life. When he was a child, he never imagined that he would ever run in a marathon while coping with a chronic lung condition that makes breathing difficult.
Yet the 37-year-old attorney and lifelong resident of Sea Isle City just completed a remarkable feat on Nov. 18 that puts him in the exclusive membership of the “Seven Continents Club” of marathoners.
With his wife, Katelyn, and 10-month-old daughter, Lily, waiting for him at the finish line, McCann competed in the Queenstown Marathon in New Zealand to realize his dream of running marathons on all seven continents worldwide. During his marathon runs, he carried his inhaler to help him with his breathing.
“I’m a lifelong asthmatic. As a kid, I never thought that I would ever run in a marathon, let alone one on all seven continents,” he said in an interview Thursday.
Now, he is among just 982 people worldwide – 634 men and 348 women – who have completed the exclusive quest of running in a marathon on all seven continents.
New Zealand is part of the Oceania region that also includes Australia and Fiji. Thus, it is considered within the continent of Australia for marathoning purposes.
Considered one of the most scenic marathons in the world, the New Zealand run was a far more welcoming environment than the brutally cold marathon that McCann finished in December 2021 in the hostile conditions of Antarctica.
“It was pristine, majestic,” McCann said of New Zealand’s beautiful mountainous terrain mostly along trails.
This marathon was particularly memorable for him because of the heartwarming greeting he received at the finish line from his wife and infant daughter.
“When I saw them, I realized that I was going to achieve my dream. It was overwhelming,” he said of the emotion that swept over him.
McCann later wrote down just how special it was for him to have his family, the Sea Isle community and other supporters share his extraordinary experience.
“(It) was a dream come true. Thank you all for your support and encouragement through this journey. The course was majestic, pristine and challenging. Running the mountains of New Zealand for 26.2 miles was very difficult, but this race and goal of joining the Seven Continents Club was not meant to be easy. My hope is that Lily will appreciate this effort one day and use it for inspiration to follow her dreams and to persevere through adversity. The real MVP is my best friend, my wife, my running coach – Katelyn,” he wrote.
McCann also noted that his quest to join the Seven Continents Club would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of the people of Sea Isle.
“Not one time did anyone say to me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ in a negative way,” he recalled in the interview.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio recognized McCann’s athletic achievement by also noting that he raised more than $1,000 for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America during the New Zealand marathon.
“Therefore, not only did Dan’s most recent marathon serve as an indication of his impressive athletic prowess, it also showed what a big heart he has,” Desiderio said in a statement Thursday.
McCann has used his marathons as a global platform to raise awareness or money for charitable causes. He started 10 years ago by competing in the Ocean Drive Marathon between Cape May and Sea Isle.
Next, he ran in the Great Wall of China Marathon. In China, he donated clothing and other items to a homeless family in Beijing.
He also raised money for struggling churches in Cork, Ireland, by running in a marathon there while accompanied by his family on a trip to Europe.
Along with Katelyn, McCann also ran a marathon in Tanzania in 2018 while raising money for homeless children to go to school and receive medical treatment through the Child Restoration Outreach Support Organization in Uganda.
The couple ran a marathon again in 2019 in the Caribbean island of Aruba, which is part of South America. They raised money in Aruba for the care of abandoned puppies and kittens.
McCann’s journey to Antarctica in 2021 helped to promote breast cancer awareness. Although he was inspired by all breast cancer patients, one woman in particular was his guiding force – his mother, Annamarie McCann. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, but is doing great now.
McCann’s mother and his father, Joe McCann, are Sea Isle residents and well-known in the community.
“My parents both instilled in me the idea to give back to the community. I’m definitely a product of my community,” McCann explained of his commitment to charitable causes.
With his ambitious goal to run a marathon on all seven continents now complete, McCann said he feels “100 percent a sense of relief.”
At the same time, he treasures all of the friends he has made across the globe through his marathoning travels.
There is one more thing, though. What was McCann’s marathon time in New Zealand?
“The answer is, I had the time of my life,” he said with a laugh before revealing that he finished the marathon in 5 hours, 40 minutes.