Marathon runner Jared Blank was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was five years old. As he moved through school, he learned that, for him, academic success would be a matter of hard work and endurance. When working with tutors he discovered that tasks that took someone else one hour, might take him three.
“And that was just what it was,” says Blank. “Especially as I progressed into middle school and the high school level it became more apparent how much time I was going to have to devote to academics in order to be successful in the classroom.”
As he simultaneously grew as an athlete and in academics, that long-haul approach carried across both efforts, with success in both realms.
“High school was really: go to school, go to sports, do homework, and just repeat that seven days a week,” says Blank. “I think that’s where running comes into play for me: once you get used to going long distances, your body kind of adapts to that.” He says that academics was similar, “just kind of building that repetitive endurance.”
Today, Blank has run eight marathons and has graduate degrees from Seattle Pacific University and the University of Southern California. He is taking a break from a 12-year career in collegiate athletics in football operations to train for his most demanding athletic competition yet: the World Marathon Challenge in January 2018. Blank will run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Participants in the race complete a marathon in Antarctica, run another marathon the next day in Cape Town, South Africa, and then repeat that process in subsequent days in Australia, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Colombia, and end in the United States in Miami.
“It’s really run and then get on the plane and go to the next place,” explains Blank.
For the World Marathon Challenge, Blank is partnering with TeamQuest, the endurance training and fundraising arm of the International Dyslexia Association. TeamQuest raises funds to support efforts to make sure every adult and child with dyslexia learns to read and thrive.
“Going for this challenge, I really wanted to find something bigger than myself to be a part of it, and so I started researching organizations that I was passionate about and came across the International Dyslexia Association and TeamQuest and saw that they do endurance challenges to support literacy, and I thought that was really, really cool, and it definitely hit a string with me,” says Blank.
Blank considers himself fortunate to have been diagnosed with dyslexia early, to have had tutoring, a supportive family, and to generally have had the resources he needed to succeed. This is in part what drives him to give back.
“I always wondered in the back of my mind, what about people that don’t have support around them,” he says. “What is that going to look like for a student? And I think that’s why I’m so passionate about these types of organizations like TeamQuest and the International Dyslexia Association that provide resources to teachers, and parents, and students, because I just recognize that the support is needed.”
As Blank prepares for this winter’s World Marathon Challenge, he’s also had a strong network of family and friends who have helped with everything from general morale to photography, video content, and social media—which he considers key to the whole endeavor.
“It’s been an amazing thing,” says Blank. “I don’t think I would have wanted to do it without all of their support. It wouldn’t have had the same meaning without them.”