It took Gail White, 60, of Beaver Dam, three years to meet her goal of completing a marathon on all seven continents.
On March 11, she stepped off a boat with more than 100 other runners on King George Island and ran in her final marathon on Antarctica.
“It takes two days to get across the [Drake Passage] and it can be anywhere from smooth as glass to 40-foot swells...” she said. “We came in on pretty calm waters, which was kind of unusual.”
King George Island is one of the few areas in Antarctica that has some form of road system because of the scientific outposts owned by China, Chile, Uruguay and Russia. Although it’s all mud gravel roads, it gave White something of a path. However, she said running over rocks in the frigid cold was “unsettling.”
She crossed the finish line first in her age group in the Antarctica Marathon. She and 30 other runners were presented medals for their accomplishments back on board the ship.
“It’s hard to believe that I have been to all seven continents,” White said.
Seven Continents Club was created in 1995 and since then 167 women and 397 men have completed a full marathon on each continent. The goal is to allow any adult the opportunity to run a marathon or a half marathon on all seven continents. There is no time limit to complete the feat once you sign up.
She can’t remember how she stumbled upon the Seven Continents Club, but said that it looked like an interesting challenge. Given that she loves to travel—she likes to do at least an international marathon and cycle overseas once a year—it seemed like a natural fit to fly to each continent for a run.
Since there is a three-year waiting list for the Antarctica marathon, there was enough time for her to travel and plan for five marathons before 2017.
White ran in Berlin (2014), Boston (2014), Tokyo (2015), Rio de Janeiro (2015), Kenya (2016), New Zealand (2016) and Antarctica this year.
Of every place she ran, she said Antarctica was the most novel, while Kenya was a “life-altering experience.” In Kenya, she ran on red clay roads, through the brush and alongside the wildlife. The 6,600-foot altitude made the run tough. There was no easy way train to for it, she said.
“Yeah, you can’t help but walk away from Kenya and that whole African safari experience and not be really affected by it,” she said “It’s just so amazing.”
Running in Boston is still her favorite. She said it’s a combination of the prestige and iconic moments that make Boston a special place. She’ll run in her fifth Boston Marathon in the coming weeks.
Training for this kind of quest wasn’t too much to ask for White. She’s been cycling all over America and Europe for the last 15 years. Without breaking down her training procedure—getting up at 3 a.m., traveling to Madison for endurance coaching—she said she is in marathon shape. Before a marathon, she likes to do one long run that stretches from 10 to 20 miles.
She didn’t run her first marathon until she was 55 and everyone was supportive of her endeavor. No one was shocked, since she had been cycling for more than a decade. This seemed like an extension of that drive.
“I really relied on them to be supportive,” she said of her friends and family.
The memories that stay with her are the people from all over the globe she met along the way.
“You form these incredible friendships,” White said.
Because many people book the Antarctica run three years in advance, people usually try to make that marathon the last continent. So, she said she ran with some of the same people through the years.
On the trip to Antarctica, people discussed whether this was their last race, how many continents they had completed and what is next.
White said she doesn’t really know what’s next. Maybe the Great Wall of China or Easter Island. It won’t be Ironman.
She has her eyes set on Iceland.
“I will continue to run internationally for as long as my body is able,” White said.
She said it is a blessing to be 60 with no injuries and she will continue to run.
“I will continue to run internationally for as long as my body is able.”—Gail White
“I will continue to run internationally for as long as my body is able.” - Gail White
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