Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ever Wonder Who's Standing Next to You in the Corral at the Starting Line?

We've been to dozens of Expo clinic presentations and there's a common theme about marathoning being a "great equalizer". When the gun goes off, it really doesn't matter if you're a college student, a movie star, a CEO, an elite athlete, or a first-timer. Everyone follows the same course, regardless of speed, age, or technique. 

How people get there is a different story - it's usually pretty amazing.

I guess I should have considered that when we went on our trip with Marathon Adventures. Traveling to the bottom of the world to do a race takes a special kind of crazy. Doing it expecting to finish two marathons, potentially on consecutive days, takes things to a whole new level. It's people like us who can weather anything, including having to watch the Super Bowl in Spanish.

The room was so loud, no one could hear the commentators anyway. The only bummer was that the commercials were local ads only.
It's only after the races that we started to get a feel for this amazing group of individuals. I'm going to think about this the next time I line up in my corral at the start and look around.

Is there a world record holder here? Brett Weigner extended his record by completing the Seven Continent circuit for the ninth time. He's also the only person ever to complete an Ultramarathon at the North and South poles. Since we left Punta Arenas, he's finished (and placed in) races in Africa and the US National Snowshoe championships. One more Antarctica race will give him his 10th complete circuit.

Brent at the White Continent Marathon 2014. Photo Credit Imran Ahmed
Maybe I'll see a world record being set. Kristen DeSousa completed her Seven Continent circuit in just 89 days. At 15, she now holds an entry in the Alternate Book of Records for being the youngest person to complete the circuit in the shortest time as well as the youngest Canadian to complete the circuit. The Guinness Book of World Records does not acknowledge anyone under 16. Kristen is also doing this to raise money to build schools for underprivileged children in Nepal through the Children of the Mountain charity. Her mother Sharon ran with Kristen every step of the way.

Kristin with her medals from seven continents after finishing the Ultra at Punta Arenas
Maybe someone will start a run for a world record. Maria Conciecao started a quest to complete Ultra marathons on all seven continents over a span of just 42 days. She's doing this to raise funds for children in the slums of Bangladesh with the Maria Cristina Foundation. With Maria on her journey is Ziyad Rahim. He set the world record for the Marathon Grand Slam, finishing marathons on 7 continents in under 42 days. He is raising funds for CARE "Million Child Mission" that aims to educate one million children in Pakistan marginalized and NORMA, a degenerative disease that affects marginalized children in Africa. Maria and Ziyad finished that quest on March 9th at the Louis Massyn Ultra Marathon in South Africa.

Maria at the Punta Arenas Ultra Marathon. Photo Credit Imran Ahmed

Ziya at the White Continent Ultra Marathon. Photo Credit Imran Ahmed
Maybe there's a future star. Ten year old Nikolas Toocheck has finished four of the seven continents. He was recently awarded the Prudential Volunteer Service Award for raising money for Operation Warm. The "Running the World for Children" campaign has raised more than $28,000 to provide coats for impoverished children. Nik holds two single-age world records for the 10 Mile distance. This weekend, he claimed gold medals in the USATF Indoor National Championships for high jump and the 1500 meter racewalk. His father Daniel runs every step of the way with Nik, at least when Dan can keep up.

Nik and his father Daniel finishing at Punta Arenas. Photo Credit Imran Ahmed.
Maybe it's a country's ground breaker. Within a month of the White Continent / Punta Arenas event, Tee Morgan became the sixth black runner, the fourth black woman and, with Abi Adekanmbi, the first Nigerians to run seven marathons on seven continents. 
Tee and Abi at the Maritsburg Marathon, February 23, 2014
Sixty-eight people came from all over the world to run these races. Every one of us had a story to tell, but when we lined up - record holder, future record holder, future star, champion, or ground breaker - all we knew was that it was us against the course. 

During one of our last nights in Punta Arenas, we sat around a table at Okusa, having a few drinks and some chocolate mousse. We went around the table and talked about our next big adventures. Ambrose is going to race Kilimanjaro this spring. Soren is getting ready for Ironman Copenhagen. We found out later that Rob was competing in New Zealand Coast to Coast World Championship. He and his teammate won the 151 mile triathlon. John has finished 6 continents and will be speaking about his experiences at the Bixby Memorial Library in Vergennes, Vermont on March 21st. Esmail was targeting his 100th marathon in Napa in which he finished on March 3rd. We'll be getting the Bay Area gang together for a celebration this week. It's only been a month and a half, but I know a lot has happened since then.

I thought about how it felt when we were just starting out marathoning and how I loved to hear the stories and accomplishments of people who had been racing for years; I aspired to some day have something like that to talk about. It's good to know that we still find people who have done even more than we have and we know there's a lot more out there we can do. People have told us that we inspire them. I'm thrilled to hear people tell us that they've started racing, got back to racing or started on the path to a healthy life because of the stories we post. It's a great feeling to take control of your life. We love being someone in the corral next to you with a story to tell. 

The 2014 White Continent / Punta Arenas Tour Group.
If you happen to be in the corrals at Rock 'n' Roll Dallas in a few weeks, look around and you may find Susan and Ron (link to our blogger profile on Hope to see you there! 


  1. Ron, This account of our trip so well captures the human spirit that is what motivates me toward my 160th (ultra) marathon in Colorado, just 24 hours after my 60th birthday on May 2. Yes, we know some amazing people! March 21 I will be presenting a slide show of our Antarctic / Punta Arenas journey at a local library and I've approached it in the same manner; "ordinary people doing extraordinary things." You left out one other extraordinary feat in your story and that is Ron & Susan who race walked two marathons on two continents. That story will be told by me!
    John Lent (VT)

    1. John, it was great breaking bread (and chocolate mousse) with you this year. I was thinking about stories that didn't make it, like your 37 year quest to get the the seventh continent! Definitely let us know when that happens. It'll be an accomplishment of a lifetime!

      One thing I'm absolutely sure of though. These people are FAR from ordinary.

  2. Ron, thanks for pulling all the stories together and sharing with us. It truly is something to be able to make memories with so many great people. P.S. Nikolas does have a few World Records already!

    1. Great thing about blogs is that you can update them :).

      Thanks, Dan! Congrats to Nik again on the USATF performance. His walk form is amazing. I want to be like him when I grow up!

  3. Time for another update. No medal for Nik in high jump.