As a runner, Aileen Flanagan likes to set goals for herself. Sometimes they are quite challenging and long-term goals. Ten years ago, she decided to run a half-marathon on every continent. She completed that challenge in August with a race on King George Island off the coast of Antarctica.
"The race is a catalyst to going somewhere, but when we get there, our clients want to have an authentic experience," said Jeff Adams, president of Marathon Tours & Travel.
No disrespect to the Abbott World Marathon Majors and some great 26.2-mile runs right here in the good ole US of A, but there's no denying that having run a marathon in lion territory in South Africa or the snowy climes of Antarctica holds a certain, well, cache.
LiveHappy by Kristin Meekhof
It took Gail White, 60, of Beaver Dam, three years to meet her goal of completing a marathon on all seven continents. On March 11, she stepped off a boat with more than 100 other runners on King George Island and ran in her final marathon on Antarctica.
Tracy Hickman is relishing the warmer climates of Grey Lynn after returning from Antarctica having completed a marathon in snow and ice. In doing so, the 50-year-old become one of the first New Zealand women to complete a marathon on all seven continents and has a received a rare medal to show for it.
Dave Ventresca will be running his first marathon in honor of his wife My Luu. The 2017 Antarctica Marathon would have been My's seventh continent, which they registered for back in 2014. After losing his wife to a rare blood cancer in September 2015, he pressed forward to finish her quest along with her brother Sang Luu. Ventresca established the My Luu Memorial Fun and has successfully raised more than $26,000 in his efforts.
Women's Running Magazine Patrice Malloy wasn’t always a runner. In fact after competing in the 440-yard and long jump for her high school track team one season, she quit. More than 10 years later, she gave running another try when a friend invited her on a triathlon relay team. Fast-forward to today, and the 57-year-old photographer and marketing consultant from Warner Springs, Calif., is a member of the Seven Continents Club—Half Marathon Division.
When it comes to marathons, California's Bill Higgins has nearly done it all. The Californian has run marathons on all seven continents; completed marathons in all 50 states; and is a six-star finisher of the Abbott World Marathon Majors.
One of the more accomplished athletes on the Big Island is a mailman you probably never heard of, a runner who has never won a race, but has a message that just might save someone’s life. Because of a strain of diabetes that runs through his family, and through him, Harvey Nakasone’s four-word message applies specifically to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, but more generally applies to anyone, not just those with high blood sugar levels.
Running through pain, loss and illness is nothing new to marathon runner Don Ross. But running downhill against 60-mile-an-hour winds in Antarctica in mid-March was like nothing Ross had experienced before.
Nathan Haywood took up running long distances just eight months ago and this month will run his first ever marathon. That alone is a challenge on a big scale, but the fact he is just a couple of weeks away from ticking off his first marathon is just the start of it. The Invercargill 42-year-old will make his marathon debut in Antarctica in temperatures anywhere between -10 and -30 degrees.
Canadians Stacey Collie and Rachel Rauwerda are travelling to the world’s southernmost continent to run the Antarctica Marathon. What makes the story even better is that the two are running the entire race in penguin onesies complete with a slide across the finish line.
With the World Marathon Majors completed, Kintz set his sights on a new goal: to complete a marathon on every continent. The seven continents club of marathon runners became a possibility in 1995 when Antarctica held its first marathon. On March 9, Kintz ran the Antarctica Marathon which now takes place annually on King George Island located just off of the Antarctic Peninsula.
“When we got off the ship we took a Zodiac, one of those rubber boats like the Navy Seals use, to get to Antarctica. It wasn’t as cold as you might think, but we had a mixture of snow, sleet, rain and hail. At one point the wind blew me across the road in midstride. I was actually airborne.”
I started thinking, ‘Seven.’ Seven races in seven continents. I think I can do that.”
It began 20 years ago when Thom Gilligan, founder of the Chelsea-based Marathon Tours & Travel agency, started the Antarctica Marathon. After the race, a few runners approached Gilligan to say it was continent No. 7 for them.
Also this year, he completed his fifth Antarctica marathon, becoming only the second runner to have run five marathons on all seven continents.
“This place is beautiful, but it is simply the most inhospitable environment imaginable. It's like another planet in terms of its beauty and landscapes, but it's also like another planet in how quickly the environment turns on you."
Thom Gilligan’s early life story has been told well in John Hanc’s excellent book, The Coolest Race on Earth (Chicago Review Press, 2009), highly recommended.