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.
As naturally competitive as Mary Ann Weber is, she doesn’t insist on being first all the time. The former Santa Rosa dentist is perfectly content, for example, to be the 126th woman on Earth to travel to all seven continents to do something both agonizing and exhilarating.
Dr. Tun Zan Maung, an internal medicine physician at Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH), was one of 200 runners who participated in the Antarctica Marathon and Half-Marathon, earning him a place on the prestigious finishers’ list of the Seven Continents Club.
At the tail end of the most bone-chilling winter in recent years, I left New York for Antarctica, the coldest and driest place on earth, where the sun never completely sets.
The Seven Continents Club provides the appealing opportunity to race in places we’re already inclined to visit, as well as in some intriguing, out-of-the way settings we might not otherwise consider,’’ he said.
The Antarctica Marathon is billed as one of the most grueling marathons in the world. Having run it twice and worked it five times, my experience is that the challenge comes not just from the event itself, but from the culmination of sensational variables.
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“This record is not for me but for the one in six men and families affected by prostate cancer,” Vinecki said in a statement released by Marathon Tours & Travel, which founded the Seven Continents Club after putting on the first marathon in Antarctica in 1995.
After 100 marathons on all seven continents, Steve Neibergall is finally taking the time to slow down.
“I have only found one other woman from England to run all seven continents.”
ABC News Video of The Antarctica Marathon Experience
But Vinecki, a tri-athlete and youth aerial skier, may have already put her toughest test behind her when she traveled to Antarctica, the world's driest, windiest, and iciest continent as part of a world marathon tour she developed to spread awareness and raise money for prostate cancer.
The Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon benefits Oceanites, a non-profit research group that measures the flora, fauna and wildlife and the impact of tourism on Antarctica. "Over the past three years, the event has raised nearly $150,000,"
TIME MAGAZINE Back in 1995, when the first Antarctica Marathon was run, there was no Lonely Planet guide to the continent. But over the past decade, tourism to the region has trebled, according to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators.
It's probably for the best that it took Thom Gilligan 18 years to offer marathoners an opportunity to run in Antarctica in February. Enticing Boston runners with an escape to Hawaii in December was a much smarter marketing strategy. Even if Gilligan is more apt to call it dumb luck.