I shied away from blogging and posting while in Sydney, Australia for my 7th marathon on the 7th continent (technically 8th marathon, which I explain below). I wanted to be totally aware of my surroundings and try to live every moment freely, rather than constantly looking ahead and thinking of something semi-clever to post. I even took photos of things that reminded me of friends back home, fully intending to iMessage, but I always made the excuse there was a 17 hour time difference and I did not want to accidentally wake someone up. Although, I guess you would not know I was laying low because I did share a bunch of Facebook posts from Hanger Clinic about my Australian journey. They are a company who takes pride in their mantra, “Empowering Human Potential.” The words are true to their core. I know. I was there. I lived it for 8 nights in Sydney.
It all started in March 2017 when Shonn Goodwin, Director of Marketing Communications, and Krisita Burket, Director of Public Relations and Communications, from Hanger Clinic visited San Diego to attend a conference and to do a Facebook Live interview with me. We were at a brewery celebrating the accomplishment of our first Facebook Live production when Brian started talking about the news of Zealandia being the 8th continent in the world.
Christchurch, New Zealand was already on the docket for Australasia, but with news of Zealandia being a new continent, we began talking about an 8th marathon in Australia. With my body already being exhausted from running 5 marathons, I half-heartedly said Sydney Marathon is in September. Kristia got on her iPhone right away and looked up the exact date. She said, “Sydney Marathon is on September 17, 2017. When did you start?” Brian said the first marathon was in Cape Town on September 18, 2016. My goal was to run all the continents in one year and we had to do some quick analysis. Australia is on the other side of the date line, which would not made a differece. So, I would be able to run 8 marathons on 8 “continents” in 365 days!
There was so much excitement around the table that Kristia suddenly said she would run Sydney with me if I did it! I suddenly had a rush of adrenaline and gave a resounding “yes!” Shonn was also caught up in the moment and declared he last ran in since high school, but vowed he would do it, too! We all raised our pints and made a commitment, but I did not really know if it would actually happen. I’ve made plans before with other friends to run races together, but it does not always come true. It was not until April when Kristia hired a running coach and Shonn started texting screen shots of his Garmin Forerunner that I knew Team Hanger for Sydney Marathon was for real.
We started our own coast-to-coast support group, with Krisita in Florida, Shonn in Oklahoma, and Brian and me in California. We would iMessage pictures every weekend of our Garmins, heart rate charts, and energy food. We rooted each other on and I would often think of Shonn and Krisita during those hard training runs. They gave me the motivation to move even when my legs were weary, tired and injured from the other marathons.
By the time we all met in Sydney, we were like family, along with Krisita’s husband, Brian (that was not confusing!). Maybe it was actually better than family. We shared an apartment for 8 nights and there were no complaints! Everything from sharing the one shampoo bottle provided by our Airbnb host, pushing each other to get past jetlag, and collaborating on videos was genuinely fun and effortless.
Brian and I did some sightseeing on our own because Shonn and Krisita still had to work. We hiked around the Blue Mountains, toured the Sydney Opera House, visited the Tauronga Zoo and Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, went to a few small museums, and strolled the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens and Manley Beach. We saw things from Picasso to a platypus, a captive dugong to wild lorikeets to the elusive lyrebird, and wallabies to the Three Sisters Peaks. Evenings were fun with happy hours, light shows, and relaxing… actually, relaxing in the sense of trying to keep ourselves awake until 8:00PM. Jetlag was hard on all of us!
Part of Shonn and Krisitas’ work efforts included a Facebook Live interview. It may seem like an easy task to do, but these two are professionals. We scouted out locations and tested equipment the day before, and Shonn even hired a local film crew, Salty Dingo. Krista and Shonns’ PR and Marketing teams back home (Meghan Williams, Beth Shaver and Diana Stevens) were also part of the whole production. Meghan, Beth and Diana worked late into the evening, accommodating the Sydney time zone, helping with logistics and ensuring connectivity across the Pacific Ocean was smooth. This 30 minute Facebook Live video, as well as the social media posts during the marathon, is the product of hundreds of hours among 5 very dedicated and hardworking people. Shonn also interviewed me separately for a potential future video. I am so grateful to Hanger Clinic, and I was lucky to have Shonn and Krisita in Sydney and to continue having them as friends.
Marathon morning was filled with nerves. That’s nothing new. But the difference was that this was the last marathon of the adventure. Even if National Geographic named Greenland as a 9th continent, Sydney Marathon was the last. I was already at the 365th day of my goal and I had to finish this marathon in Australia no matter what. No pressure!
We did another Facebook Live before the race start; it was very quick. Krisita and I were too nervous and I had to go back to the port-a-loo line.
The Salty Dingo crew were also at the marathon. They captured videos and took pictures during the entire marathon. They coordinated with the Hanger Clinic team back in the USA to post our progress on Facebook. Shonn also kept in contact with Hanger during the run, and as a result, ended up logging 28 miles because of the extra running he did to take pictures! Brad Hunter, one of the founders/owners of Salty Dingo, actually ran with us for several miles during some spots along the marathon course. I have to say this man is seriously skilled to run with a huge backpack filled with camera/video equipment and a laptop, and run backwards and sideways to take footage. Brad was also quick to create and post this wonderful video the very next day.
I felt good during the first part of the marathon. It was so special to run with Shonn and Krisita. They made the time pass quickly. This was our first time running a marathon (ever) with other people! The Salty Dingo crew also made it feel like we had our own personal cheering squad!
I did start to hurt halfway through the run. I was fighting a hamstring injury and had to change my gait, which made my hips hurt. I also have Morton’s Neuroma which feels like a hard rock on the ball of my foot. My entire right leg and foot was in pain, but also numb at the same time. Stupid Multiple Sclerosis! Still, I tried to think of positive thoughts (my biggest lesson from Buenos Aires Marathon last October).
To keep my mind occupied from the pain, I thought of the inspirational people in my life. I always dedicate my 13th mile to Nancy Jenkins, who lives with a rare disorder called Stiff Persons Syndrome. She was a half marathon runner and now I think of her during mile 13 of any run. I thought of my friends Carlyn Shaw, Tricia Stirling and Karen Ireland to get me through those dark miles. I also focused a lot on matching my stride with Brian’s soft flowing footsteps. He is always next to me, helping me push forward.
Brian and I fully intended to run the entire marathon side-by-side with Shonn and Krisita, but with about 5 miles to go, we sped ahead. The last miles were along Sydney Harbor and the scenery was gorgeous, but I was tired and wanted it to end. By then my hammie and foot were in so much pain and the running path was very unforgiving. We ran on wooden boardwalks with protruding nails, rock hard concrete, and slippery tiles. We even had to be cautious of old light rail tracks embedded in the cement. I had to look down at the ground the whole time.
Brad ran the last mile with us. He had a video camera on me the whole time and I wondered if the microphone could hear me gasping for air. It’s a bit difficult to look happy when you are about to puke your guts out! This was the first time I have sped up at the end of a marathon. It was not for the camera, but because Brian was updating me that we had a chance to finish under five hours. But we would have to hurry it up a little! And we did it with 63 seconds to spare!
The finish was incredibly emotional for me. I was elated, stunned we finished, and incredibly grateful for the support. I am actually proud of myself. I have low self-esteem. I blame myself for everything, but I actually felt pride for myself. That is a weird feeling, but nice to experience it!
I was also proud of Shonn and Krisitas’ first marathon. They made a commitment, trained hard, pushed through those very difficult last miles of the race, and crossed the finish line with arms in the air. I hope this is just the beginning of a long running career for them.
I’m melancholy the 7 on 7 is done. I’m beyond thrilled to have accomplished my goal and I’m happy my legs can now rest. Yet, I’m sad. This has been a huge part of my life for two years - one year of fundraising and planning, and another year of training and running. It has been an amazing ride and now I feel a bit lost. What should the next adventure be?