Mark Dangerfield’s life is fascinating. Currently a bishopric counselor in the Mesa Alma Stake’s Alma Ward and a commercial litigation lawyer with Gallagher & Kennedy in Phoenix, he studied classical Greek language at BYU and earned a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. On October 17, 2015, he accomplished his goal of completing a marathon in all 50 states and on all seven continents within one decade.
The now 65-year-old got a wake-up call in 1997, when a colonoscopy showed he was pre-cancerous and required surgery.
“I don’t take walking for granted anymore,” he says.
In 2005, Mark was running the Top of Utah Marathon when he fell into step with another contestant and started chatting. The man’s t-shirt advertised, “Marathon on Seven Continents.”
“You’ve run a marathon on Antarctica?” Mark asked. “That’s cool.”
Inspired, Mark ran about seven marathons and ultramarathons each year. His wife Kathy, a travel enthusiast, accompanied him on all but a few.
“That’s one of the fun things of our marriage,” he says. “It’s great for both of us.”
Mark’s more challenging marathons include running on sand in Florida, and uphill to a volcano in Hawaii.
“One of our favorite marathons was the Great Wall of China,” Mark says of the race that occurs partly on the wall itself. “There are thousands of steps, it isn’t flat anywhere, and it really beats up your legs,” he recalls. His time in China coincided with the deadly earthquake of 2008 and he felt the hotel waving—but the trip was influential in positive ways, too.
A couple of days before that race, a runner they traveled with became ill. Being LDS, he asked Mark for a Priesthood blessing, and was then able to complete the grueling race.
The Dangerfields took their youngest son Jonny with them to China, just before he served a mission. He ran the Great Wall’s 10K race. Jonny was so enamored with the country he majored in Chinese. After his tutor, a young Chinese woman, shared her language with him, he shared the gospel and a love of running with her. They now have a temple marriage and a baby daughter who was born in China. They’re training for the upcoming Phoenix Half Marathon together.
For Mark’s African marathon, he chose South Africa, where he’d served his mission. He hadn’t been to the continent since then, before there were temples. Attending the Johannesburg temple with Kathy was deeply meaningful.
Balancing physical goals and spiritual responsibilities has been tricky at times. Mark was five years into a nearly six-year term as bishop when he set this enormous goal. He would run a marathon in another state on Saturday, fly home, then attend his ward’s Sunday meetings. Their decision that he’d never race on Sunday meant sacrificing a critical opportunity, but only temporarily.
Mark’s final continent was Antarctica. The marathon took place on King George Island, off the coast of the mainland. Only 100 runners a year are given permission to participate. Two years after adding his name to the waiting list, Mark received the welcome phone call for the next race—only to find out it would take place on a Sunday. So he waited another year. In 2011, he ran that long-awaited marathon.
Finally, as he approached the finish line of the Kansas City Marathon last October, his six children and 15 grandchildren cheered him on, wearing shirts that read, “Run, Dad, Run!” or “Run, Grandpa, Run!” Their handmade medals would soon decorate him.
Mark still typically trains four days a week, running 30-50 miles.
“I always have another marathon on the horizon.”