Did David Goggins Devise the Most Diabolical Running Challenge Yet?

Here's how a British triathlete tackled the ex-Navy SEAL's 4x4x48 test

David Goggins during his 4x4x48 running challenge
If you do attempt a 4x4x48, you might want to do so in the shade.

In a recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, ex-Navy SEAL David Goggins laughed about the “soft shit” that critics bring to his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. “If you want to join the community, and get hard,” he said, “Don’t talk about rest … Stop fucking thinking so much. Let’s put the shoes on and get grinding.”

It was a thoughtful approach to recovery, though, that actually helped British triathlete Mark Threlfall conquer Goggins’s infamous 4x4x48 running challenge last week. The test calls for a four-mile run every four hours for two straight days, and in order to finish, Threlfall had to maximize his resting windows.

The 33-year-old, who is now a presenter at Global Triathlon Network, ran from 4 p.m. on Thursday to 4 p.m. on Saturday. He ran the miles slow (at a 10:00 pace) in order to keep his legs fresh for the full 48 hours, but that meant he had less time in between each interval — never much more than three hours to return home and fuel up, get warm, take a warm shower, get out the foam roller and sit by the fire or sleep.

Why was Threlfall attacking the challenge now, when it’s cold, wet and dark before 4 p.m. in the Cotswolds? (Goggins traditionally holds his 4x4x48 in the spring, out west in the States.) Well, it’s more or less offseason for triathletes, and he was looking for something to motivate him and shake off the rust.

Suffice to say, he did it. But most fascinating was how much he made the challenge his own. Goggins, for those who haven’t read Can’t Hurt Me, has … a very particular worldview. Here’s another quote from him, for the uninitiated: “From the time you take your first breath, you become eligible to die. You also become eligible to find your greatness and become the One Warrior.”

Throughout the challenge, Threlfall recruits friends to help him knock out the miles. His dog Reggie even puts in a four-mile shift. During one rest, he stops to have a few pints and a pizza at a local pub. Throughout it all he remains cheery and hopeful, if a bit moody that he’s slept less than seven hours in two days. And at each turn, he looks for ways to maximize his recovery. It’s a compelling counterpoint to Goggins’s brand of mental toughness, which holds stoicism, self-reliance and suffering above all else.

Make no mistake, Threlfall is mentally tough, too. But he gets to the finish line in much the same the way George Bailey gets to the end of It’s a Wonderful Life — with chuckles, charm and an entire community at his side. It’s a worthy reminder that you don’t necessarily need to go to a dark place to complete your next goal.

One thing both athletes can agree on, though? The importance of supporting a cause. Goggins raised over $3 million for charity from his 4x4x48 last year, and Threlfall is donating 100% of support from his run to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which provides opportunities to people with physical challenges. You can support the organization here.

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