Home > The Scene

Jeff Tan is the first Asian-Australian to run a marathon on all seven continents

Tan never considered himself athletic until he found marathon running

Photo by: Ice Marathon Photos

Growing up in Sydney, Australia, Jeff Tan had similar interests to many children. He loved to watch rugby and soccer, but never had the chance to participate in sports, due to his strict upbringing. 

Sydney, Australia. Photo: MickiTakes

Tan was born to strict evangelical Singaporean parents. He has memories of being rejected and bullied in school and unable to pursue his interests outside school, forced to study at home. During the first 17 years of his life, Tan suffered from isolation and low self-esteem. “I wasn’t happy with my life,” Tan says. “I recall always being picked last in gym class and thought of myself as someone who is very unathletic.”

In December 2021, at age 40, Tan completed the Antarctic Ice Marathon and claims to be the first Asian-Australian to run a marathon on all seven continents. “I started tearing up with about 200m to go,” Tan says. “I grabbed the Australian flag. I was proud of what I accomplished.”

Tan crossing the finish line with the Australian flag at the 2021 Antarctic Ice Marathon. Photo: Ice Marathon Photos

Tan got a late start to running, at age 32, after an idea to run the 2013 Melbourne Marathon with his friend. “My friend ended up bailing on the marathon, but I felt like I had something to prove,” Tan says. “I ran 3:56, then found myself on another marathon start line in Medellin, Colombia in 2014.”

He tackled four more marathons between 2015 and 2018: NYC (2015), Copenhagen (2016), Tokyo (2017) and the Big Five Safari Marathon in South Africa in 2018. 

Tan at the Big Five Safari Marathon in South Africa in 2018. Photo: Jeff Tan

“I wanted my last race to be on the continent of Antarctica,” says Tan. “The race itself was outstanding and beyond expectations – an experience I will always remember.” Tan finished 14th in the race out of 60 competitors from around the world.  

“I never saw myself as an athlete, but the thing about running is anyone can do it with the right mindset and training.”

Tan at the Tokyo Marathon in 2017, where he ran his marathon PB of 3:49. Photo: Jeff Tan

After completing the challenge, Tan is hungry for more. “I plan to do it all again. I am already signed up for Australia’s (Outback) Uluru Marathon this July.”

Tan has written a memoir, entitled Born Again, which is to hit bookstores in 2024. His goal is to inspire people to identify and break free from their inherited limitations. 

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

The best online sales on running gear

Now's the time to stock up on some of your favourite brands