As a competitive gymnast I grew up exercising hours a day. Then at the age of 17, I quit because I wanted a life outside of the gym, including going to the Netherlands as an exchange student. Between the sudden lack of exercise and the large quantity of European treats I enjoyed, I came home with a completely different body than I went with. In an effort to fit back into my clothes, I started dieting. Unfortunately this quickly morphed into unhealthy obsession with my weight as I severely restricted my calories and exercised as much as possible. It was during this period that I started running, looking for any way to burn calories.
When I started college I was down to just 88 pounds and started suffering the health consequences of being underweight. One of the first things I did was join the running club. This may have saved my life. I made some amazing friends who had a lot of running experience. They helped me realize that if I wanted to run further and faster that I had to fuel my body. I started to focus on what my body could do instead of what it looked like.
By the time I graduated from college I was back at a healthy weight (and thanks to college pizza, beer, and fro-yo even a little overweight.). I got my first desk job and the hours of sitting bored at my desk inspired me to do things to make my life more exciting so I decided to run a marathon. I honestly thought I would only do one in my life so I wanted to go big, leading me to sign up for the Antarctica Marathon. During the 5 years I was on the waiting list I slowly built my mileage and gained some experience by running 2 marathons in the US.
Then finally I was going to Antarctica. It was the most amazing, challenging, and inspiring experience of my life. I won’t lie, the race was hard, really hard. It was windy (60+mph winds), muddy, icy, cold, and unrelentingly hilly. It isn’t the race that I remember most about the trip though. Nor it is the amazing glaciers, ice bergs, or friendly penguins. What I remember most is the other runners and the way they inspired me. The runners ranged in age from 20-80, from 2 hour marathoners to 7 hour marathoners, they came from nearly every continent. Many of them were becoming members of the 7 Continents Clubs on this trip- they had completed a marathon on all 7 continents.
It was something that I had never imagined I’d consider, but the other runners convinced me I could. They reminded me that it isn’t about how fast you run. In fact the slower you run, the more you enjoy it and the more you see. It doesn’t matter if you look like a runner- if you run, you are a runner. Running a marathon allows you to see a country and the world from a new perspective.
I have now completed 3 continents- North America, Antarctica, and Europe (Rome last year). This year I am trying for 2 more- I am signed up for the Santiago Marathon in Chile in April and the Madagascar marathon in June. It is a big goal, but I can’t think of a better way to stay healthy and see the world.
**p.s** I have a lot of long runs ahead of me this spring and would LOVE some company for those of you located in the Portland area.
Kiersten, I, for one, am totally envious of your travels (not to mention the fortitude it takes to run more than one marathon in a year!!) I can't wait to see pictures from your races this year and hear all about them!
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