I haven’t blogged about running for a while because, well, I haven’t been running! I’ve been going through a spell where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to again; a few energy and injury issues, an aging body, and it’s easy to convince yourself that your running days are over. For those of us who have found peace, exhilaration, and a sense of well-being on the trail (even when we hurt all over!), it’s something you miss when you don’t do it. And when I see younger people out running our trails, which until very recently have had a coating of snow and ice on them but beckon just the same, I’m jealous. Whenever an injury or some other impediment gets in the way of being able to run, I console myself by thinking about how lucky I’ve been to take up running at an advanced age and have had so many wonderful experiences, including several half marathons and two marathons, all with my husband and brother. After all, I did pass the 70 mark last year. Be thankful for what you’ve been able to do and just enjoy walking.
Well, I was all right with this philosophy until I read an article last week about a remarkable woman named Chau Smith. Smith lives in Missouri in the U.S. and has run over 70 marathons in her life, although she didn’t start running until she was 48 years old. An astounding record, right? But she decided she wanted to do something really special for her 70th birthday and so signed on for the Triple 7 Quest. Now get this, the Triple 7 Quest consists of completing 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days! Even the logistics of getting to seven continents in seven days presents a major challenge. Then of course there is the jet lag associated with the travel, which is something that I really, really don’t like. But all of that is nothing compared to the physical and mental challenge of running a marathon on seven consecutive days. These were her race destinations, completed between January 25 and January 31 of this year: Perth, Australia; Singapore; Cairo; Amsterdam; Garden City, New York; Punta Arenas, Chile; and King George Island, Antarctica. Nine people completed this extraordinary “quest”; needless to say, Chau Smith was the oldest.
For those of us who spend days making sure the start of a race will go smoothly – having our clothes and accessories out and ready, eating our pasta meal the requisite numbers of hours in advance, and ensuring we have enough sleep the night before – consider this. According to the report in CNN online, the group’s connecting flight from Singapore to Cairo was delayed in Abu Dhabi, so they only had 10 minutes to get to their hotel room and change their clothes. I don’t know how many of you have travelled that kind of distance across that many time zones, but to consider changing into racing gear and starting a marathon immediately upon landing – especially your third marathon in three days – is impossible to contemplate. She completed it in 5 hours 51 minutes and proclaimed it her favourite race!
I might add, given the “immigrant” discussions currently ongoing in Smith’s country, that Chau Smith is an immigrant herself, having come to the U.S. after the Vietnam War; in fact, she runs with shrapnel in her leg because of the war. This woman doesn’t do anything by half measure; she typically works 10-hour days in her dry-cleaning business in Missouri. As she explained to reporters, she leads a stressful life but she feels better after running. I’m not so sure about how she must have felt at the end of this particular week of running, but I completely agree with that principle.
Her story has inspired me to reconsider just how lacking in energy I really am or how big a problem a sore heel can be. When I stopped my year back at work at the end of June I was raring to get back on the trails. I bought a new Training Diary, made a modest schedule with modest goals, reinstated my subscription to Runner’s World, and ran modestly until the end of September. Hmm. Sure, I’ve had some excuses, but it’s time to get that heel issue resolved and get back at it. I may never run another marathon, maybe not even a half, but there are trails out there just waiting for eager slow runners with modest goals!