Tag Archives: Jonathan Terrell

Ironman Charts New Test of Endurance

Earlier this year, Jonathan Terrell ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

“It was the highlight of my life,” he said.

A few months later, Terrell couldn’t even walk. As of late September, he was still getting about in a wheelchair

And crutches, recovering from the serious injuries he suffered when a sport utility vehicle plowed into him and a friend while they were bicycling in Virginia.


“There’s nothing like a near-death experience to appreciate what you do have,” said Terrell, 56, a charter member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C. Chapter.

Terrell was hospitalized in critical condition for three weeks, and told there was a chance he would never walk again. Undergoing physical therapy several times a week, Terrell was recovering well and planned to start walking in early October.

He even intends to run again next year, specifically a full marathon in the North Pole.

“I believe through Christ all things are possible,” said Terrell, who through his physical suffering this year is also discerning a deeper meaning and new God-given purpose to his life.

“It’s been a time of spiritual renewal for me,” Terrell said. “I wake up with pain in the middle of the night, and I now pray in the night longer than what I ever would. It’s brought me and my wife closer together.”


On Feb. 5, Terrell was on top of the world. On that day, he ran the final 26.2-mile leg of the World Marathon Challenge.

In one week, Terrell ran marathons on all seven continents. He ran a combined 183.4 miles in Antarctica, South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Colombia, and Miami.

Those seven days consisted of daily marathons and late-night chartered flights. He caught a bad case of food poisoning shortly before the race in Spain, but he quite literally gutted it out and finished course.

Terrell ran every single mile of all seven marathons. He made it a goal not to walk a single step.

“It went remarkably well,” said Terrell, who completed the crucible to raise awareness and funds for children’s mental health services at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., a cause dear to his heart.

Terrell said he raised about $300,000 for the new mental health unit at Children’s National Health System, and generated significant media attention for the cause of pediatric mental health. His story garnered coverage from several national media outlets, including Fox News and NPR.

Coworkers and people across the country also followed his journey on his blog and on social media. He filmed his first-ever “video selfie” before the marathon in Antarctica, and posted similar videos before and after each of his races.

“They quickly went viral,” Terrell said. “I still hear from people I barely know telling me that they saw my stuff on social media.”

The day after he ran the final marathon in Miami, where his wife and children went to cheer him on, Terrell said he was back at work.


After taking time off from serious training — he ran weekly marathons in the months leading up to the World Marathon Challenge — Terrell began preparing this past spring for an Ironman competition in Barcelona, Spain.

On June 30, he and a friend were bicycling near Front Royal, Virginia, when an SUV slammed into him and ran him over. His friend was also injured but not as severely as Terrell.

“I suffered multiple serious injuries and nearly died,” said Terrell, who was airlifted from the scene. His injuries included a broken hip and two fractured vertebrae in his back.

Reflecting on the reality of being in a wheelchair just a few months after running marathons, Terrell said he told people that “they’re really just two chapters of the same book. They both require the same mental discipline to get through.”

While in the hospital, Terrell made a confession and received the anointing of the sick. He was prepared to die, but now feels he was spared for a purpose.


“I believe my guardian angel saved me,” he said. “I have a strong feeling that I was saved for a reason. Part of it is to see my teenage sons become men, but that’s not the only reason, so I’m trying to discern what that reason is.”

The answer to why he survived, Terrell believes, may be that God wants him to get more involved in public service to serve the common good.

“I do have the gifts of being able to inspire,” said Terrell, who describes himself as a policy wonk with “a bleeding heart” who believes that conservative public policies offer the best solutions to helping the poor and vulnerable in society.

Meanwhile, Terrell is hoping to start running a couple of miles a week by year’s end, and be healthy enough by March to complete a half-Ironman in Puerto Rico. Terrell expects to be fully recovered in time for the North Pole Marathon next April.

“It’s just one marathon,” Terrell said. “How hard can it be?”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

IronMan runs world-epic for kids’ mental wellness

Seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Jonathan Terrell believes he is up to the challenge.

Mid-lifer takes on world in a week

“People have done it before, so I know it’s not impossible,” said Terrell, 55, a charter member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C. Chapter.

This coming January, Terrell will be competing in the World Marathon Challenge. In one week, participants run seven marathons on all seven continents, beginning at Novo Base in Antarctica, located in the Antarctic Circle.

Assuming there are no injuries or setbacks during training or the actual competition, Terrell will then run a combined 157.2 miles over six days in South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Colombia and Miami. Terrell’s week will consist of running and catching chartered flights.

“When he told me, I was like, ‘Are you crazy? That doesn’t even make sense,’” said Christine Terrell, Jonathan’s wife.

Parallels of endurance, spiritual strength

From late September to early December, Jonathan will run a marathon every week to prepare himself.

“I’ve put this out there, so it would be too embarrassing not to finish,” he said. “Even if I have to crawl the last one, I’ll finish it.”

Terrell is running in the World Marathon Challenge to raise awareness and funds for children’s mental health services at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., a cause dear to his heart. Terrell said he figured he could generate more media attention than running a simple 5K or regular marathon.

“There is still a tremendous prejudice and discomfort in society about talking about mental health issues,” Terrell said. “As a result, even though 1 in 5 children will have some kind of mental illness, they don’t get treated until many years after the symptoms start manifesting themselves.”

As a devout Catholic, Terrell also sees strong parallels between endurance running and the spiritual life. He quotes St. Paul, who wrote to the Corinthians how athletes train and deny themselves. Terrell also notes how the Apostle encouraged the faithful to run in such a way as to win the prize of eternal life.

“This kind of endurance activity is very much a metaphor for the spiritual life,” Terrell said.

“As we know it, in the spiritual life we constantly fall down, we set ourselves up to fail, but we get back up and we go to confession, we go to Mass, and we keep at it.”

Those spiritual insights have come as Terrell, who grew up in England in the Anglican Church, has matured in the faith he embraced when he entered the Catholic Church 20 years ago. The depth of his spirituality has developed through lessons he learned from attaining the disciplines needed to finish long-distance races.

“Just as the spiritual life is a process and a daily practice, not a one-time event, so it is with endurance sports,” he said. “It’s daily training, preparing for the races. There is a lot of discipline and delayed gratification, but also tremendous rewards that come from all that.”

The first time he ran a marathon, Terrell recounted the deep satisfaction he felt when he neared the finish line to applause, uplifting music, a cheering crowd and the announcer calling out his name.

“I had this flash like, ‘Is this what’s it’s like when you get to Heaven?’ From there, I was hooked.”

Day of awakening reprioritized everything

Terrell began running almost seven years ago. He remembered waking up one morning in January 2011 and finding himself to be in the worst shape of his life. As happens with many adults, the daily demands of being a married father with two young sons and running a consulting firm over time led Terrell to stop taking care of himself.

And he noticed that not tending to his physical health affected other areas of his life, even his spirituality and his mental state.

“I was the fattest I’ve ever been. I felt disgusting, and I felt miserable,” said Terrell, who around that time had read in his diocesan newspaper about an upcoming marathon for vocations and to support seminarians.

He decided to run in a half-marathon and trained for five months. He didn’t tell anyone until right before the race. He then signed up for his first marathon as a member of the diocesan vocations team and trained for another five months.

“I enjoyed being part of that team,” Terrell said. “I enjoyed going to Mass with them and running the race in that way.” The next day, he signed up for the London Marathon as a member of a Catholic Charities team.

“So very early on, this is connected to my faith,” he said. “I started using marathon running as a spiritual exercise.”

At his fifth or sixth marathon, Terrell dedicated the whole race to his pastor, who was ill at the time. Throughout all 26.2 miles, he said the rosary and prayed to a particular saint at every mile marker.

“I offered the whole thing up, that I might through my suffering, for at least a few hours, take away my pastors’ suffering,” Terrell said.

“Jonathan’s faith is very important to him,” his wife, Christine, said. “He lives his life and runs his firm based on his faith and the beliefs that come from our Catholic faith. He derives a lot of strength from his spirituality.”

Taking Catholic leap for life

Terrell decided to become Catholic when he was still a practicing Episcopalian in New York City. Also a talented musician, he sang in the choir at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and described being moved by the homilies given by Cardinal John O’Connor, the late archbishop of New York who was staunchly pro-life.

Since he was a child, and even during his teen and young adult years when he considered himself an atheist, Terrell believed deeply in the pro-life movement. He could never understand the arguments against the unborn child’s humanity. And when he learned that his Episcopal Church had a pro-choice position on the issue, Terrell said he could no longer in good conscience continue on in that church.

His dedication to the pro-life movement is an asset to Live Action, a pro-life organization where Terrell serves on the governing board. Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action, said Terrell inspires her.

“I think Jonathan brings an intense focus on the things that matter most,” Rose said. “He often asks me, ‘Lila, what’s the next big thing? What’s the number-one thing we need to accomplish?’ That very intense focus is something he brings to Live Action, to his business and to his incredible workout routine.

“I like to say I’ve learned a lot of business tips from Jonathan. I can’t say I’ve picked up his workout routine,” Rose said. “I’m embarrassed when I can tell him I ran a couple of miles and he just ran 20 that morning.”

IronMan for God

To date, Terrell has run in 19 marathons, multiple triathlons and two full IronMan competitions, where participants run a full marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and a 112-mile bicycle ride.

“It’s something to run a marathon, but imagine running a marathon after doing all that?” said Christine, who added that she and the couple’s sons, ages 12 and 14, have planned family vacations around marathons and have accompanied Jonathan to races in Paris, Rome and England.

Terrell, who trains between 20 to 25 hours a week, said he tries to involve his family as much as possible, adding that the support system is vitally important. Running may seem like a solitary sport, but he said it takes a team to be successful. “I feel physically healthy which makes me feel more spiritual healthy, and as I’ve become more spiritually healthy, I feel even more physically healthy,” Terrell said. “It’s all kind of a virtuous cycle.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.