Late in the last millennium, Ken Volk ran a marathon on each of the seven continents. His journey began with the Casco Bay Marathon in October 1979; he capped the global feat with the Antarctica Marathon in January 1995, finishing in 7 hours, 37 minutes and 38 seconds.

And if that sounds slow, well, Volk did plunge through the ice into a couple of off-course mini-crevasses and get stuck up to his shoulders — scary mishaps that cost him a good 45 minutes.

Volk wasn’t running the marathons for time or for bragging rights, although by nailing Antartica he became one of the first four people in the world to collect all the continents. He was running to raise money for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.

So while he didn’t submit any world-class times, he succeeded brilliantly in the fundraising cause, raising about $60,000 for the cancer program.

Volk, now 72, has put marathoning behind him, but the fundraising continues. His excellent memoir, “Don’t Look Back ‘Cause There’s Nobody There,” has just been published, and he is donating a big part of the proceeds to the cancer program, he notes in a letter. I could not get specific details, or comments from the author, because he is “chasing polar bears off the coast of Norway” at present.

There’s lots to like about the book. It’s an entertaining travelogue whose stops include Japan, Egypt, Brazil and Australia. It’s a running diary that perfectly captures the plight of the marathoner (“within a matter of seconds, all of the remaining steam and strength drained from my legs. From that point on I would be in survival mode”). It’s a local-interest title peopled with many familiar Maine faces — primarily Volk’s wife, Diane, and his large family, but also running figures including Sandy Utterstrom, Bill Davenny, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Paul Trusiani (the proprietor of Paul’s Food Center in downtown Portland has also run marathons, you know). Doctors play prominent roles, too (my favorite name is Dr. Richard Needleman).

The title indicates Volk’s relaxed, self-deprecating style throughout what he calls his “marathon odyssey.”

That trip started with his 4:12 finish in the Maine 26.2-miler in 1979, after which hip woes and surgery helped convince him to jettison his goal of running two marathons a year. Instead he adopted a “marathon every 10 years whether I need it or not” approach and next embarked on the Paris Marathon in April 1989. Halfway through that race came Volk’s epiphany. Reflecting on the cancer deaths of a Portland couple who had been dear friends, and on ill Maine children who often had to travel to Boston for treatment, he was struck by the every-continent, MCCP-supporting idea.

November 1991 took him to the Lake Kawaguchi Marathon at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, followed by Melbourne in 1992, then Brazil. He wore bib No. 1 at the Pyramids Marathon in Egypt in 1994. There were 100 entrants but only 12 people ran, because Muslim fundamentalist bandits were around killing and looting. Volk finished 12th.

Volk writes with the same big heart that saw him through his marathon adventures, and readers will greatly enjoy joining him on the journey.

“Don’t Look Back ‘Cause There’s Nobody There,” published in soft cover and selling for $14.95, is available at Longfellow Books in Monument Square in Portland, and is expected also to be available this week at Nonesuch Books at Mill Creek in South Portland.

John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

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