In September 2013, Shona Douglas Thomson became the first Scottish, and only the third British female, to run a marathon on every continent. Her achievement means she joins the Seven Marathons Continents Club. There are fewer than 100 members of the club, and there are some truly incredible and inspirational names on the list, most notably the heroic Ranulph Fiennes.
In this post [the first of two] Shona talks about what motivates her to run and her most memorable race...
"I love running, the outdoors and endurance. I don't think what I've done is terribly special. Lots of people run marathons raising millions for charities and in much quicker times. Many people have overcome significant hardships in life and gone on to accomplish amazing feats. Indeed, one of the most humbling parts of this journey, has been meeting some truly inspirational and remarkable characters. Nonetheless, I want to share my story to try to encourage as many people as possible to get on their trainers or boots on and go outside for a run, jog, walk, climb, or whatever but to try to find passion for the outdoors. I genuinely believe that so many people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel."
Why seven marathons on seven continents?
"I often get asked why I decided I wanted to run a marathon on every continent. I suppose there are a number of reasons but the simple answer is I love a challenge. Without a goal in life, I get bored. For me, running provides me with a direction, and I also love the euphoric 'runner's high'!"
My first marathon was in New York in November 2010. At this time, I thought this would be the only marathon I would ever run. I had no intention of doing one on every continent. I thought I would "tick the marathon box" once and move back to more sensible distances. However, I really missed the structure and sense of achievement that running brought.
"I began reading about the Comrades marathon in South Africa. It's quite a famous ultramarathon that runs 90k from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, and vice versa. There was an article in Runners World written by someone who had run the race a few years previously. It sounded brutal but, perversely, that made me want to do it all the more. In order to run Comrades, I needed to run a qualifying marathon. It was at this time that I stumbled across the Antarctic Ice Marathon and the Seven Continents Marathon Club (). In order to be eligible to join it, you have to complete the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the only marathon run on the interior of the Antarctic, as well as a marathon on all the other six continents. This absolutely resonated with me. I decided I was this was what I was going to do, and be the first Scottish woman to do it. "I suppose I'm not really one for moderation. If something is worth doing, it's worth pushing it a bit."
"My original plan was to run the remaining six continents in 2012. However, a full time career in a London Investment Bank meant that it made more sense to run three races in 2012 and a three remaining three in 2013. During my journey, I ticked off the seven continents:
North America - New York (Nov 2010)
Europe - London (April 2012)
Africa - Comrades (June 2012)
Antarctica - Antarctic (Nov 2012)
South America - Rio (July 2013)
Australia - Perth (Aug 2013)
Asia - Vietnam (Sept 2013
Most Memorable Race
"It's hard to say which one was the most memorable race as they were all memorable in their own ways, though one or two I would rather forget! For sheer beauty and uniqueness, the Antarctic marathon was a very special experience. Running in Antarctica is an experience that is ard to put into words. With such a small race field on such a vast landscape, it was a very isolating experience. There were no crowds to cheer you on. The field spread out quickly so the nearest runner was merely a black dot against an immeasurable expanse of ice. It was just the endless sound of your feet crunching on the snow, step after step, and thousands of pristine white miles. I felt totally alone running on some of the harshest conditions on earth. However, for me, this only added to the magic of the experience."
Read part 2 of Shona's blog next week...