Very few can truly say they grew up in Newtons. In 2007, the year that Newton Running Company launched, my foot was too small for them. I was just 8 years old and already a seasoned runner, competing in 5K’s and 10K’s. My foot swam inside a size 5. I was left to stare in envy at my mom’s pink Newtons.
I remember my mom coming home from the 2007 Ironman World Championships, where she volunteered in the medical tent as a physician. She had a shiny, new pair of pink running shoes. Little did my mom know that when she bought one of the very first pair of Newtons, she would be supporting research of the cancer that would steal her husband and take my dad. A portion of the proceeds from that shoe benefited prostate cancer, a cancer unfortunately all too well known to the co-founder of Newton Running, Jerry Lee.
In 2008, I attended Ironman Lake Placid — my first Ironman! I was just 9 years old, overlooking the Olympic Oval full of bikes. I crossed the finish line with my idol, my mom (when kids were still allowed to cross the line with parents). I was dressed just like her, pink Newtons and all. I knew then, Ironman Lake Placid would be on my bucket list! It was there that I remember meeting a man who slipped that first pink pair of size 5 Newtons on my feet. Newtons have never left my feet since. I now call Jerry Lee and his company “family” and I race for him as well as my dad and the 1 in 6 men affected by prostate cancer around the world.
The following year, 2009, would redefine my life. I would now have to live without my dad physically by my side. I made a vow with my brothers, that we would chase prostate cancer to the end of the world and stomp it out like it stomped our dad out! It was the birth of Team Winter. I had completed an Olympic Distance Triathlon just months before my dad’s passing. It was the last race he would hug me at the finish line. It was a race many said I couldn’t finish and that I was too young. Little did the critics know, that was just the beginning for me.
Now, at age 14, I have four marathons, on four continents, under my race belt. It hasn’t been easy though. The journey to the start line of these marathons is the real story. Running the marathons has become the easy part! “You’re too young,” “You can’t run our marathon, but you can run our 5K,” “Wait until you get older,” “You must be 18 years old,” “NO!” Over and over, these are the responses that I got when I set out to become the youngest person to run a marathon on all seven continents.
It is all part of my dream that I began planning at 10 years of age, a World Marathon Tour for Prostate Cancer Awareness. I wanted to achieve this world record in memory of my dad and the men and their families affected by prostate cancer. I guess it’s a good thing my mom taught me “Never take ‘No’ for an answer,” never accept, “You can’t,” “You won’t”, “You shouldn’t”. If I had let these thoughts enter my mind, my marathon tour probably would not have got very far. I honestly can’t even tell you how many “No’s” my mom and I got from race directors around the world. I lost count, but never lost faith and hope.
Eugene Marathon, in April 2012, would kick off my World Marathon Tour. The Newton trainer has always been my favorite distance running shoe. This shoe would help me run my first marathon at age 13 in 3:45:04, just 5 minutes shy of a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Next stop was Kenya, the Amazing Maasai. It was my first trail marathon and despite a strong field of Kenyans, I placed 3rd overall female. I took over 20 pairs of my old Newton running shoes that I had worn over the years and donated them to the young Kenyan runners, many of whom ran in sandals made from tires. It was incredible to run against the Kenyans who have become some of the fastest runners in the world.
My next two marathons would challenge even the seasoned runners. After consulting Newton, we decided to bring out the retired Newton all-weather trainer. This proved extremely beneficial as I headed to the “End of the World”. My 3rd marathon would take place on the rugged, frozen tundra of Antarctica. What could possibly top that marathon? Well, the cancellation of my original South America marathon, Galapagos, had me now facing the “toughest marathon in the world”, Peru’s Inca Trail Marathon.
How does anyone even train for such a race on the Inca Trail at nearly 14,000 feet? My run coach, Mark Hadley, was not even fazed by the change in races. He quickly put together a running plan filled with hill runs and more hill runs. Never once did he doubt or question my ability to tackle such an extreme marathon.
As an Olympic hopeful for the 2018 Winter Olympics in aerial skiing, I fortunately live in Park City, Utah, where I’m consistently training and running at 7,000 plus feet of elevation. I did as my run coach said and faithfully put in all the long runs. Not to forget, recovering with ice baths and foam rolling! I threw in a lot of cross training with swimming, mountain biking, aerial ski training and lots of weight training to maintain a really strong core. I had just come back from setting a world record for the youngest person to run 26.2 miles in Antarctica in March. How tough could the Inca Trail be?
Check back here next week to find out!