Sunday, February 14, 2016
7 Continents 7 Ultra Marathons
In 2010 I ran the Comrades Marathon (ultra marathon) in South Africa. After running, the question came to me, could I run an ultra on all seven continents. I mulled this around in my head for a while. I wanted to pursue this goal, but I also wanted to run Comrades again, to try to complete both the up and the down courses. I did decide to run Comrades again, and also decided to pursue the 7 and 7.
I won't go into each subsequent continent here, but will link to all the blogs about them below.
I completed 5 continents leaving only South America and Antarctica to finish. I purposely left these two for last because I knew there was a tour package that would allow you to do both races in one trip. I had done all the planning and execution for the previous races on my own, registering for the races, booking travel and hotel, but knew I couldn't do that for Antarctica.
There are at least two companies that put on ultras in Antarctica, but only one that I was able to find offered ultras on both continents in the same trip. So I went with Marathon Adventures. Note that Kathy Loper Events also offered this package, but it was the same trip.
I started working on booking the trip in early 2015. In past years these trips have sold out early. Mainly because most of the participants are people doing marathons on the continents. I paid my deposit to secure my space and then started looking for air fare. I eventually used their recommended travel agency to book my flights. Trip booked, airfare and insurance taken care of, nothing left to do but train, and worry. Worry because it was going to require that I race two 50k's (31 miles) within 5 days. Also, I didn't know what conditions to expect in Antarctica.
I left Oklahoma City on the evening of January 21. I connected in Houston to Santiago Chile, and then to Punta Arenas Chile, my final destination. I arrived with no problems and checked into my hotel. On Sunday we had a dinner and briefing in the hotel. Our original plan was to leave for Antarctica the next morning and run there. The tour operator, Steve, stated they we did not have a weather window to fly out Monday morning, and to meet in the hotel lobby Monday at 9 for an update. Monday morning we were told that we still didn't have clearance to go, so we were going to run the race in Chile in one hour. A lady asks if there is any chance we'll leave for Antarctica today. Steve answers "we're not going to Antarctica today." So, I get dressed to run my first race and report to the start line across the street from the hotel. We start the race which is a 4 times out and back for the marathon and a 5th shorter out and back for the 50k. I'm running the race at a moderate pace and come in for the finish of my second loop which is the half marathon mark. The timer at the start finish line tells us we now have a weather window, and we might be going to Antarctica today. But he says keep running because it's not his decision. As we're going back out, Steve, who was running the race, is coming in telling us to turn around. Needless to say we weren't happy campers.
He has to hire a cab to go out and get people who are farther out into the course. We have one hour to get ready to go to Antarctica.
We took a bus to the airport and boarded our plane. This was a small jet but was staffed with flight attendants and we were served a meal. The flight was about 3 hours. As we neared Antarctica we started to see small icebergs. It was overcast when we landed. We put our coats and gloves on and stepped out into a howling wind and very cold conditions. The plane does not stay because it could get stranded due to weather conditions. I honestly under dressed for the conditions, and we had about a mile walk to our campsite. The campsite consisted of a large tent. We had to wait in this tent while they put up our individual tents. We were sleeping 3 to a tent and since we arrived in the afternoon, we were going to spend the night and run our race in the morning.
It is only dark about 4 hours there and even then it never got pitch dark. I didn't sleep well, but while I was awake I listened to the wind gradually subside. We assembled to start our race at 5 the next morning and we're off. It was cloudy, a light wind, and a lot of snow on the ground. Our race consisted of an out and back in one direction, and another in the opposite direction. For the marathon it was 6 complete loops, and a short out and back. For the ultra it was 7 1/2 loops. I started at a very easy pace just wanting to see what this course was like. The course was snowy, icy, and muddy in spots. There were small stream crossings, and one large snow bank that was taller than me that had a single trail through it. So if people were coming from opposite directions, one had to wait for the other to come through. And there were rocks, lots of rocks.
The course wound past the Chilean, and the Chinese research bases. we saw lots of penguins and a couple of sea lions.While the conditions were tough, I didn't ever have a really hard time. It took me 8:45 minutes to run the 31 miles. After everyone finished, we boarded the plane to return to Chile.
Back at our hotel, we still had another race to run. Steve said that he'd look at the weather forecasts for Thursday and Friday, and if they were similar, we'd run our race on Friday. And that's what we ended up doing. Friday, I again started out easily, but started feeling pretty good, so I picked up the pace and finished this race in 5:23.
On Saturday, we went on an all day excursion to Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region. I won't go into details about this trip, but it is a beautiful park.
I made my way back home with no problems.
1. North America - Mother Road 100 (miles) - Catoosa Oklahoma USA - 2010
2. Africa - Comrades (56 Miles) - Durban South Africa - 2012
3. Europe - G2E (55 miles) Glasgow Scotland UK - 2013
4. Asia - Mt. Banahaw 100k (62 miles) - San Pablo City, Philippines - 2014
5. Australia - Gold Coast 100 (50 miles) Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast - 2015
6. Antarctica - White Continent 50k (31 miles) - King George - 2016
7. South America - Punta Arenas 50k (31 miles) - Punta Arenas Chile - 2016