CHENNAI: When you’ve run marathons as far and wide as Delaware, Switzerland and Antarctica — food poisoning and jet lag are usually the biggest worries ahead of the start line. So 11-year-old Nikolas Toocheck was caught completely off guard when he arrived at the Chennai airport last weekend and told his biggest obstacle would be a ‘visa’. And the missed marathon with the Chennai Trekking Club on Sunday wasn’t just any old run with a touch of different scenery — this was going to be Nikolas’ final leg of his now complete world record — to run a marathon in each of the seven continents across the globe.
The challenge was something the youngster set for himself to raise funds for his grandfather’s initiative, ‘Operation Warm’ that provides warm clothes to underprivileged kids across the United States. “I was extremely disappointed,” the young runner told us over a Skype call on Sunday. “We had been planning the India trip, and training since the very beginning of August, and honestly we didn’t even get to see the Chennai airport when we arrived - just the one room with immigration officials.” It turns out because Nikolas’ father Dan Toocheck had thought immigration policy to be ‘visa on arrival’ and not really checked beyond asking a few airport officials - the father-son were detained at the Chennai airport. “But I had only myself to blame,” says father Dan, who not only accompanies but also runs every marathon with his son. “The airport authorities at Chennai were very professional and even suggested we try flying back to Dubai to try our luck at the Indian embassy,” he recalled.
With no luck however and this being the last weekend available before Nikolas heads back to school - the Toocheck family decided to take a stab in the dark. “We borrowed a cell phone from one of the staff at the Dubai airport and surfed the net for any marathon within the Asian continent over the weekend,” Dan tells us. And lo and behold, there was one at the Republic of Georgia (which sits on the border between Europe and Asia). There was no time to think twice about the continent debate however. “We just got done with the race,” Nik beams.“But I definitely want to come back to India soon,” he adds. “You know it probably sounds funny, but if we had made it through those airport gates, the one thing I really wanted to do was to ride one of those yellow tuk tuks,” he laughs and quickly adds, “That, and finally get to use my cricket bat!”