Coach Rob Powell

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Now this is a marathon
World Fitness event will test competitors' mettle in many ways

04:35 AM CDT on Saturday, October 30, 2004

By STEVE DAVIS / The Dallas Morning News

Rob Powell calls the upcoming World Fitness Championship "The ultimate extreme sport."

Smiley N. Pool / DMN
Defending champion Rob Powell (right) of Valley Ranch and newcomer Dan DeJager of Sacramento, Calif., will compete in the World Fitness Championship at the Plano YMCA. Powell certainly has the right to call it whatever he wants; not only is he the architect and chief organizer of the event, he is the world record holder.

The second World Fitness Championship begins at noon today and runs through noon Sunday at the Plano YMCA.

The event, which is expected to take all 24 hours to complete, is a grueling series of 10 fitness challenges completed in succession, any one of which would constitute a decent day of exercise for most people.

Contestants kick off the WFC2, the competition's official name, with a two-mile swim, followed immediately by a 10-mile run, then a 10-mile hike.

And that's only three of the 10 challenges.

Last year, only two competitors finished the series. Merl Wolff of Waco completed the circuit in 23 hours, 53 minutes, 12 seconds.

The other was Powell, who has an official Guinness world record in his competition. He finished in 18:36:15.

Powell, who declined to provide his age, was a football and track and field coach when he assumed a new role as a fitness advocate, endeavoring to raise awareness of health issues while pursuing a Ph.D. He has a growing inventory of fitness literature and DVD's.

But his bigger claim to fame is the WFC. The genesis for the concept came in 1998 when Powell saw a television program on Guinness world records. One of the marks was for an endurance fitness achievement. But Powell didn't think much of it.

He said it was about the same as he would do in a weekend of working out.

So he concocted his own series of physical tests.

He's modified the requirements a bit since the initial versions of his fitness challenge in 2001. Now, it's standardized and an official Guinness record.

Powell solicits applicants, then screens and chooses the contestants. It's a male-only competition this time, although he hopes to stage a World Fitness Challenge for women in Plano in April.

He received 257 applications this year, many from triathletes, bodybuilders and endurance runners, and some from former or current military members.

As they learn more about the extreme nature of the competition, most pull out, he said. He expects seven competitors this weekend.

Powell said he is dealing with several minor injuries, including a tear in the patella tendon, a groin strain and a back injury. But pulling out of his own competition isn't an option, he said.

"You've just got to cowboy-up and ride," Powell said in his rural drawl. "You gotta quit or you gotta do it slightly injured. That's the deal."

What: Second World Fitness Championship

When: Noon today through noon Sunday

Where: Plano YMCA

Web site:

(To be completed in succession)

2-mile swim

10-mile run

10-mile hike

500 "pop ups"

500 knee lifts

100-mile cycle

20-mile row

20-mile elliptical run

3,000 crunches

300,000 pounds in a series of assorted lifts