Carolyn Newkirk, Crystal Drive, has run marathons on six of our seven continents (yes, even Antarctica). She is planning to complete the seventh with a marathon in Jerusalem.
What inspired you to embark on this quest?
I planned to run the Pittsburgh Marathon one time and check it off my bucket list in 2010. After I finished, my husband scooped me off the sidewalk by the convention center, and I declared, “I am never doing that again.” Shortly after, I saw Jeff Galloway, a 1972 Olympic runner, speak about his training plan and strategy of running and walking. This sounded manageable, and in 2011, I shaved 13 minutes from my marathon time. As I was approaching a milestone birthday, I wanted to do something out of the ordinary to celebrate. I heard about a marathon near Bordeaux, France, where there were 20 wine stops. As a French major, this sounded intriguing, so I planned a trip with my family and with my running partner, Bernadette. I had a blast running through the beautiful vineyards and chateaus. That evening after the marathon, I decided to combine my love of running with my wanderlust since I had two continents under my belt. Completing five more marathons sounded like a fantastic way to see the world.
How do you train for a race in a very different climate than western Pennsylvania?
I have run the Pittsburgh full marathon 10 times, and training always starts in the winter. However, the weather in the first weekend in May is unpredictable. It could be 85 degrees at the finish like it was in 2012. Or it could feel colder than Antarctica, which is how it seemed when I waited to start in 2017. The variety of Pittsburgh’s climate forces me to adjust to wherever I may run, but I never thought of that being an advantage until now.
You build time into your schedule to explore the areas before and after the races. Do you have a favorite spot?
It’s hard to choose one, so I will highlight two favorite spots, but I loved all my marathon trips. Antarctica is one of the most stunning, pristine places I have visited. Sailing across the Drake Passage on a former Russian research vessel challenged my weak sea legs, but it was worth it when we walked among hundreds of gentoo and chinstrap penguins and kayaked within just a few feet of humpback whales, crabeater seals and icebergs, while surrounded by glaciers. Patagonia in Chile was another favorite trip, packed with hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding and observing wildlife (pumas, guanacos, and flamingos) in the most spectacular scenery of mountains, bright blue water and glaciers.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: Carolyn completed her marathon on the seventh continent this month and has now achieved her dream.