Run­ner con­quers Antarc­tica

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - SAMHEWAT

Tracy Hickman is rel­ish­ing the warmer cli­mates of Grey Lynn af­ter re­turn­ing from Antarc­tica hav­ing com­pleted a marathon in snow and ice.

In do­ing so, the 50-year-old be­came one of the first New Zealand women to com­plete a marathon on all seven con­ti­nents and has re­ceived a rare medal to show for it.

Fel­low Kiwi and friend Jo Sims also joined the ex­clu­sive club, hav­ing joined Tracy for most of her races.

And it was al­most a marathon just get­ting to the start­ing line.

Run­ners travel by boat from the Ar­gen­tine city of Ushuaia across the Drake Pas­sage to King George Is­land. The body of wa­ter can ex­pe­ri­ence winds of up to 75 knots, mak­ing the jour­ney treach­er­ous.

Cou­ple that with King George Is­land’s tem­per­a­men­tal weather and marathon run­ners can spend a lot of time try­ing to get there, only to be turned away.

How­ever, for Hickman and her team, luck was on their side.

‘‘The con­di­tions were just in­cred­i­ble,’’ she said. ‘‘The ship’s crew said in 20 years they’d never seen it so calm.’’

Winds were just two knots across the Drake Pas­sage, and race con­di­tions on the is­land sat at mi­nus 10 de­grees.

Hickman com­pleted the course and crossed the fin­ish line in what she called ‘‘a shock­ing five hours 43 min­utes,’’ though she ad­mits that in­cluded plenty of stops along the way to soak in the views.

But it wasn’t the race ex­peri- ence that stunned Tracy the most. While on her trip, she got the wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time.

‘‘I felt like I was in a David At­ten­bor­ough doc­u­men­tary,’’ Hickman said.

‘‘Ev­ery morn­ing you’d wake up and say, ‘what are we go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence to­day?’ It was sur­real to open up the cur­tains and see ice­bergs float­ing past the window.’’

Those ex­pe­ri­ences in­cluded an em­peror pen­guin wait­ing for her at the fin­ish line, a group of 60 whales with some breach­ing an arms length from her boat, kayak­ing amongst glaciers and seals bathing on float­ing ice­bergs.

But the high­light was a rare ex­pe­ri­ence with a lo­cal pen­guin, who climbed onto Hickman’s lap and had a go at her iPhone.

‘‘Do­ing the race was won­der­ful, but you can’t beat a pen­guin on your lap,’’ she said.

‘‘It was just so ex­cit­ing. Out of 100 of us, only three peo­ple got that and me and my niece were two of them.’’


Tracy Hickman with a ‘‘seven con­ti­nents’’ marathon medal and an Antarc­tica marathon medal. Tracy Hickman

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