The Mature Runner
By David Summerfield
Perhaps you’ve noticed I’m totally obsessed with all the various world records I’ve covered this past year. I don’t doubt it has something to do with my firmly held notion that I won’t be getting my name on any of the lists. And the lists grow every month. Just to make sure I’m not missing out on any “easy” world records out there, I went onto The Guiness World Record website, and quickly decided that it would be embarrassing to actually get my name published there. Besides all the “noble” records (like the Kipchoge or Koskei type), the rest were just publicity stunts. Yes, specific skills were required, which of course took lots of patience to develop. But the end result could hardly elicit admiration or serious consideration. Before getting to the more serious record-setters, here’s a quick look at the ludicrous records! Consider Ashrita Furman, a health food store manager in Queens. He has held (simultaneously) 120 Guinness World Records, and set over 300 records (which really means there are that many people out to break records, no matter what they be!). Examples: under very strict guidelines on April 3, 2005, he walked 11.3 kilometers balancing a cue stick on the tip of his finger.
The “balancing a cue stick” world record under the shadow of the Egyptian Pyramids “ashrita.com/about”, Photograph: Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters.
Who possibly could have made that one up?? He says he’s not a natural athlete, but meditates, and wants to show others the benefits of the practice. His name “Ashrita” means “protected by God” in Sanskrit. It looks like he’s also doing the setting records on every continent thing: he “hula-hooped” the fastest mile at Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Australia, and then went the fastest mile on a pogo stick in Antarctica. I can’t stop there – he’s also standing on a Swiss Ball for the longest time at Stonehenge (England), skipping rope the most times in a minute while jumping on a pogo stick (he must love pogo sticks) at Angkor Wat (Cambodia), and bouncing the fastest mile on a “kangaroo ball” along the Great Wall of China. Seriously, the list includes over 100 more world records he’s achieved. Ashrita credits his meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy for his remarkable endurance and strength. “I am not a natural athlete, but my teacher has shown me that if one can be in touch with one’s inner spirit, anything is possible.” Whew.
With that said, here are some admirable, more traditional records broken. Christine Hobson, a 69 year-old “grandmother” from England completed the Antarctic Ice Marathon last month (Dec 12-14th) and is officially the oldest woman to complete the marathon. Her time of 8:11:33 is within my range, but…oh, yes, I’m not a woman. The oldest men’s record goes to 84 year-old Roy Svenningsen from Canada – I wonder if I could do that in 9 years? He “ran” it in 11:41:58. Heck, I can do that…but then I found out the course, which is groomed with snowmobiles (like getting it ready for a good skate ski outing), and was like running on sand, the whole way. Ouch. That’s not for me!
I really enjoy the ingenuity of the human – there’s a growing demand to run marathons on every continent – hence now there are 2 different Antarctic marathons. This one requires a 3 day commitment, going to Punta Arenas in Chile to board a private jet, landing on the Union Glacier in the interior of Antarctica. In case you’re wanting to do something like that, you could also do the North Pole Marathon, organized by the same organization…but then the North Pole isn’t on a separate continent, so why do it?? Anyway, the Antarctic Ice Marathon is different from the original one, the Antarctica Marathon, held on King George Island. A few more facts to whet your appetite…the cost is a mere $21,500, which if paid in full when you register, you get a $1000 discount. Sweet. And this marathon is officially the most southerly marathon on the planet. And last month it garnered 57 contestants from 20 countries, so it’s not too crowded. Snowmobiles comprise the support vehicles, sorta like running around West Yellowstone in the winter. I guess you really have to want to do this! And it’s a circular course, 4 laps of about 10k each….just so you can say you’ve “run” on a snowmobile-groomed snowy path. The more I read Christine Hobson’s account, the more I realized she’s doing something pretty darn special. Here she is on the course:
This is courtesy of the YorkshireLive reporting by Jasmine Norden, reporter, picture by the Antarctic Ice Marathon.
So, get this – she retired and started a “fitness transformation”. Sound familiar, oh you retirees out there? Work is done, so you can spend time doing what you’ve been waiting for!! I like that. I’m planning on “retiring” starting this January 1st…. She actually has become an inspiration for me! Her record? She’s the oldest woman to run a marathon on the Antarctic Continent. There. Then I found out she’s run 117 marathons in her “retirement”. OK…. And she wants older women to dream big and achieve things they don’t think are possible. Richard, her husband, said the cold wasn’t the biggest challenge, it was the blowing snow – trying to run in a whiteout, while negotiating the snow and ice underfoot – sliding with every footstep. Then I found out this is her 7th Continent marathon. And her lips were so cracked from the wind, she had trouble eating breakfast the next morning. OK. Christine, you do become our hero, even though I can’t imagine doing what you’ve done. So, I can’t poke fun at what you’ve accomplished.
Christine Hobson at the finish line, photo credit by the Antarctic Ice Marathon.
It does look like a pretty nice day, and evidently, that is very misleading!! At every Aid Station, all noses were checked for frostbite – oh, it was -50C…there’s a clue! Retiring at 60, her continental marathons have been London, Marrakech, Buenos Aires, Niagara Falls, Tel Aviv and Singapore. Getting inspired yet? The more I read, yes I am!!
Runners participate in the Antarctic Ice Marathon, in Union Glacier, Antarctica, December 14, 2022. (Mark Conlon/Antarctic Ice Marathon/Handout via REUTERS)
But then, there are pictures like this one, showing what the whiteout conditions are like, and evidently, this is what happened those 8 hours Ms Hobson was on the course. Imagine those little blue flags every 4’ so you can see where to go…hmmm, on 2nd thought, maybe the $21,500 entry fee should just stay in my bank account for now! Happy dreaming about the “ultimate” running event for your 2023 calendar, and maybe leave Punta Arenas alone 🙂