NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -- Braxton Lee is obsessed with numbers. Digits dance in the 13-year-old New Kent boy's head and on a list on the family fridge day and night.
“Twenty-four minutes. 40 minutes. 51 minutes for 5k’s, 8ks, and 10ks,” Lee said about the time goals on display inside the family's home.
If there is a race to run, Lee runs it.
Just avoid asking him to tally how many finish lines he’s crossed over the years.
“I don’t think I could count that. I don’t think I could get a specific number,” he said.
Lee first tackled the sport just a few years after learning to walk.
“I just love doing it. It is one of my favorite things to do since I was very young,” he said.
While running is primarily a solitary endeavor, Lee''s mom Maryanne said her son always runs for others.
“I’m so proud. He makes me proud every day,” Maryanne Lee said. “His entire life he always had a good heart or how he could make a difference or help people.”
In 2016, Braxton Lee ran to raise money for the family of slain State Trooper Chad Dermyer.
“One of my latest ones was for the local police station funding for a new K9,” Lee said.
Four years ago Braxton Lee set his most ambitious goal to date. An event involving a number closely associated with luck:
The number seven.
“It was pretty wild yeah,” Lee said. “I wanted to be the youngest person to complete seven half marathons, and seven continents, in seven days.”
In late January, Braxton Lee and his mom attempted the Triple 7, dubbed the World Marathon Challenge.
The duo’s first stop was Antarctica where the elements at the bottom of the earth are frightening. It was negative 25 with 40 mph wind gusts.
“The wind gusts made it almost impossible to run,” Braxton Lee said. “Yeah. We ran on an airstrip there. It was pretty icy there. "
"It was cold enough to wear three shirts, three pairs of pants, and two pairs of pants and everything else.”
The very next day, the duo dealt with sizzling South African temperatures.
“You’d go one place and then another place and you think is this race three or race two,” Lee said.
South and North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia would follow.
“Ninety-six degrees in Australia. That is where I hit my wall,” Maryanne Lee said.
In running circles, this seven-continent odyssey notoriously wears down the souls of the heartiest of athletes.
"There were times when I was very tired and wanted to stop, but you know after a little while I was thinking I want to keep running this,” Braxton Lee said.
Braxton pushed himself all while encouraging his biggest cheerleader along the way.
“I wanted to make sure I was there for him but so often he was there for me," Maryanne Lee said. "He was waiting at the finish line waiting for me."
Ultimately it was not aching muscles nor burning blisters but a flight delay that caused Braxton to miss breaking the world record by just a couple of hours.
But Lee took the disappointment in stride using his inner mettle.
“It can be very motivating to accept your failures and when you’re not able to make it,” he said.
“He is still the youngest person ever to run that mileage, to ever go to the continents, and to be strong enough to finish the races,” Maryanne Lee said of her son's accomplishments.
By any calculation, 13-year-old Braxton Lee has conquered a challenge few seasoned athletes would ever attempt.
“It was a thing I worked the hardest for. Took the most energy. The most willpower. I think this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever accomplished,” the disciplined runner who sticks to his short and long-term goals every step of the way said. "For the first while you’re like I finally did it. I finally did it. After a while, you’re thinking, ‘So now what?’”
Lee has many goals he wants to check off of his list. He wants to attend Maggie Walker High School and eventually run track for Virginia Tech.
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