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The Marathon Master: Local marathon runner collects medals from all seven continents

It’s not often you meet someone who can say they’ve competed in marathons on all seven continents, until you meet Jasperite Lorraine Wilkinson.

Lorraine Wilkinson has earned marathon medals from all seven continents. She completed a 12 hour marathon in South Africa. K. Byrne photo.

Lorraine Wilkinson has earned marathon medals from all seven continents. She completed a 12 hour marathon in South Africa. K. Byrne photo.

After a feet pounding, thigh burning, calf quivering 12-hour marathon in South Africa, May 29, she was finally able to cross the seventh continent off her list.

“It was pretty intense and I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it the 12 hours, but I kept a steady pace,” Wilkinson said. “I was pretty anxious because I’ve never run that far in one day.”

More than 22,000 participants attempted to make the 90 km trek from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, trudging up steep hills along highways and through rural villages.

“There were these big hills and they just seemed to go on forever and it was so hot, and I just thought I’m never going to make this,” Wilkinson said. “It just seemed really bad.”

However, after a few kilometres Wilkinson regained her confidence.

“A lot of people had been telling me how bad the hills were, but when I got to them I was surprised because they were so easy compared to Whistlers or Edith Cavell,” Wilkinson said. “I felt just as good during my last kilometre as I did running my first kilometre. I felt like I could have still run.”

Wilkinson became one of about 14,000 to actually complete the race in the allotted time, finishing with a total time of 11 hours and 37 minutes.

While Wilkinson made it up the South African hills with ease, she admitted this was the most mentally challenging race she’s ever been a part of.

“It was just a mixture of not thinking I was going to be able to do it, but still wanting to do my best,” Wilkinson said. “So when it was over I just couldn’t believe it. That was the biggest challenge of my life.”

Aside from keeping a steady pace, Wilkinson said what really helped her carry on was the amount of support from the thousands of spectators.  

“There was one part where I was running through a cricket stadium and it was just walled with people,” she said. “People on the road were handing out food and drinks and singing the national anthem. I’ve just never seen anything like that before.

“It was like for 12 hours everyone was just united as one.”

Wilkinson’s passion for running started when she was just a kid, sprinting everywhere she went.

“I always used to run barefoot and I always ended up crying because I’d tear all the skin of my toes. I remember my mom would always be yelling at me to slow down,” Wilkinson said. “It’s just something I’ve always liked.”

As a teen Wilkinson remained active in various sporting clubs and in 1998 she jotted her name down for the London Marathon, her first of many races. In just under two decades, Wilkinson has pushed her limits in Antarctica, Cambodia and Peru—just to name a few.

It was during a marathon in China that Wilkinson first heard about the Seven Continents Club, an international running club compiled of people who have run marathons on all seven continents. The club has about 600 members.

“I just started looking into it and right then I made it my goal,” Wilkinson said.

Along with tackling races on all seven continents, Wilkinson also dominates marathons here on her home turf, having participated in several local races including the Canadian Death Race, in Grande Cache, the Banff Jasper Relay and the Mount Robson Relay.

Despite having just finished one of the most challenging races of her life, Wilkinson said she has no plans to slow down and will be running in the Sinister 7 Ultra and making a second attempt at the Canadian Death Race. In September she’ll be off to Spain to participate in a 250 km event.

“I’ve always liked doing different things and challenging myself,” Wilkinson said. “And running has always been my way of doing that.”

Kayla Byrne
reporter@fitzhugh.ca

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