Strums & Strides

7 marathons. 7 continents. All for the healing power of music.

Join Nick Stark (Stukel) on his journey to become the first medical student to run marathons on every continent while raising funds and awareness for Musicians On Call.

Another one for the books!

I think I ended up running two marathons in Europe:  I was expecting the one near Cologne, Germany, but the other turned out to be an impromptu sprint through Istanbul's airport to make a connection that got way too tight after flight delays (made it with 2 minutes to spare!). I'm not sure which one had higher stakes....

I am currently en route from Istanbul to Washington on my journey home (along with Brett, who joined me for the marathon in Asia as well), surrounded by people speaking in half a dozen languages and some of the best in-flight food I've ever had. By the time I post this, I will be back on the ground State-side, gearing up for my last quarter as a second-year med student. I return home with another marathon under my belt: 3 of 7 toward the Seven Continents goal. Germany made me earn every mile of the race, but the forest we ran in was beautiful and the weather was the best yet (a different world from the heat and humidity of Thailand last summer). I can tell I am slowly getting more marathon-savvy-- little things, like remembering to take along electrolyte packets in case there aren't enough drinks along the route-- made a big difference.

If I had to pick a theme for the European marathon adventure, it would be "language." Different languages (for the most part, me not understanding them) have been one of the most challenging and fun parts of this marathon trip. From relying on some very kind Germans to help us find the marathon start line after getting lost to having a hand-gesture conversation with a police officer who let us into a locked metro station so we could access an ATM, not understanding a language made me feel vulnerable. In a beautiful way, though, it made me more aware of other ways of communicating. I was reminded that music is one of the most powerful channels of mutual understanding as I shared moments listening to street musicians in Cologne with people from around the world.

And with that, my last official spring break comes to an end. Full steam ahead into an intense 3-month period of finishing up second year and taking my first round of boards before setting out on the wards in July. Third year is a little less set in stone schedule-wise, so I am not set on the next marathon date. South America and Australia are on the top of my list for the upcoming year, and then Antarctica 2017 followed by the final North America marathon in DC. Thank you so much for your support and for your commitment to the powerful role music can play in medicine; it means the world to me, and to the thousands of patients we are able to impact through Musicians On Call. Until next time!

Keep running,


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