A World Record for Dad and the 1 in 6 Men Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer Each Year
Where did the time go? It seems like I was just 10 years old sitting on the couch flipping through the Guinness Book of World Records. Now 15, I just got the email stating, “Winter, your world record for the youngest person to run a marathon on all 7 continents has officially been recorded into the record books”. It seemed like such a simple task back then. Run seven marathons around the world. Running was by far the easiest part of realizing this dream, though. The journey? Well that is another story.
At age 13, I ran my first marathon just 50 minutes from my Salem, Oregon home. Marathon great, Meb Keflezighi was there to give me encouragement and some last minute strategy. After all the controversy to get me into my first marathon, I felt I had a lot to prove that day. I still remember hearing my coach’s voice echo in my head as I hit mile 23, “Winter, you can run that course in 3:45:00”. Coach Hadley not only was right but more importantly he believed in me. Just five minutes shy of a Boston qualifying time, this 13 year-old conquered Eugene Marathon in 3:45:04. A precedent had been set. I was serious about my mission and my running.
Marathon #1 Eugene Marathon
Running in Kenya
Marathon #2 Amazing Maasai photo credit Paul Ark
My next marathon added many elements on top of the pure fact of running 26.2 miles. There was travel, heat, pre-race nutrition issues and much more to consider.
You would think getting into a marathon in Africa would be easy for a 14 year-old, after all, it’s common for kids to walk more than ten miles round trip to school a day. I was shocked when I started getting turned down in South Africa by race directors. By pure coincidence, I was introduced to The Amazing Maasai race directors who just happened to be two young women with running backgrounds. They had previously been on the Amazing Race TV Show, which is what inspired them to start this marathon to aid in the education of Kenyan girls. Thank goodness they believed in me! After taking 3rd place overall female in 4:04, through tough terrain and heat, my love for trail marathons began. I found the tougher the course; the stronger I performed. Much of my race was captured on film by a Canadian TV Show called Boundless.
"El Fin Del Mundo," The End of the World
Marathon #3 Antarctica Marathon
There is nothing like going from the extreme heat of the Maasai plains in Kenya to one of the harshest, coldest places in the world, Antarctica. First you fly to "El Fin Del Mundo," The End of the World, also known as Ushuaia, Argentina. Waiting for us there was a Russian research vessel to take us across Drakes Pass, know for some of the roughest seas in the World.
Several day’s later, blustery weather prevented us from going on shore. Instead, we found ourselves on land, for the first time in days, just minutes before the start of the marathon. No one really talked about what “getting your sea legs,” meant, but several miles into the marathon I realized the ground appeared to be rolling like waves under my feet. By not having spent any time off the ship prior to running on land, I had not gotten rid of my “sea legs.”
But without a single fall (the ice was another challenge), I finished in 4:49:45—another 3rd place finish. I was now the youngest person in the world to run 26.2 miles in Antarctica.
Tough & Tougher
Marathon #4 Inca Trail Marathon
Next, I headed to the Inca Trail, which I documented here in an earlier blog. At this, my fourth marathon, I captured my first overall female marathon win. If you are a runner and up for a challenge and adventure of a lifetime, the Inca Trail Marathon should definitely be on your bucket list.
Half Trail/Half Road
Marathon #6 New Zealand
My fifth marathon was across the diverse terrain of a small island called the Great Barrier Island, off the coast of New Zealand. Running the first half of the marathon through the interior mountain trails and then finishing the last half on the paved coastline was an interesting mix to say the least. Even at my young age, it was definitely a transition my legs and feet felt, going from the soft surface of trails to the pounding of pavement. It definitely gave me a reminder of why I had fallen in love with trail running.
The Trails of Genghis Khan & Ogres
Marathon #5 Mongolia Photo Credit : Fredrik Koerfer
The second toughest marathon I traveled to was definitely Mongolia’s Sunrise to Sunset Marathon, which I also documented in an earlier blog. Despite the remoteness of this marathon, the incredibly athletic and talented crew from Boundless was able to capture amazing footage for their TV Show. The crew ran alongside us through the dark forest, down the steep ravines, all the while carrying heavy cameras and microphones. I was truly in awe as I caught glimpses of the TV crew at random places on the course.
A World Record
Marathon #6 Athens Classic Photo Credit- Athens Classic Marathon
I learned a lot about history from the places I traveled over my 18-month journey. Completing my marathon tour in Athens, Greece, on the original course of Phidipiddies, was a fitting place to set a marathon world record. A place where women where originally shunned and even killed for watching the Olympics. Where only “winners” were called athletes, others were just mere participants. It was my first full road marathon since Eugene and I cherished every footstep across the 26.2 miles. The spectators that lined the course all shouted “Bravo” as we ran by. In Greece, runners are still considered highly respectable athletes and are praised. Crossing the finish line in the Panathenaic Stadium, home of the first modern Olympics, was an unforgettable moment. I pointed to the sky, symbolically to my dad, as I always do at the finish line, and thought to myself, “Dad, we did it!”
Back to Snow
Immediately upon returning from Greece, I exchanged my running shoes for ski boots. I had only a few days to reflect on my five-year journey to setting this world record. I think it will take me years to really comprehend what I was able to accomplish. My aerial skiing has now taken precedence in my life as I pursue a spot at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Several weeks ago I concluded my 2014 aerial season with a Jr. National title and 5th Place podium at the Jr. World Freestyle Championships in Italy. Some great steps toward my next big dream have been taken.
Photo Credit : Trev Mozingo
Will there be an Ultra?
Many are asking what is next with my running. I definitely plan to tackle my first ultra marathon in the near future. As of today, my Newton running shoes are back on as I train for two big events in June 2014. I have been asked to join the winning team from last year’s Ropa Run in Europe. This is a well-known relay running event in Europe that raises money for cancer. I will join a team of seven men, with a total support crew of 26 people. We will run a 330-mile relay from Hamburg, Germany to Rotterdam, Netherlands. I will run roughly 80, one-kilometer sprints over a 30-hour period.
Then, I will join Simon Donato and a crew of elite runners and searchers to explore the high Sierras of California in search of a missing, downed military plane. We will hike up to 15 miles a day in harsh terrain at elevations of 10,000 to 12,000 feet, camping in tents and supported only by supplies brought in on horseback. Follow me on this great adventure with Adventure Science!
Obstacle Course Racing & More
I’m currently planning the rest of my summer events. Aside from my aerials training, you will definitely see me challenging my Newton’s on the Spartan Race courses, including the Spartan World Championships—and why not throw in a few triathlons as well!
Never Give In!
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