White Con­quers World’s Most Dif­fi­cult Marathon

The Oakdale Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By TERESA HAM­MOND tham­mond@oak­dale­leader.com

It’s per­haps not the typ­i­cal way one might choose to spend their 60th birth­day, but there is lit­tle which is typ­i­cal about trainer, masseuse and out­door en­thu­si­ast Es­ther White.

She re­cently com­pleted the Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Pic­chu to cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of her sixth decade around the sun. The race is con­sid­ered the most dif­fi­cult marathon in the world.

“I felt com­pelled last Au­gust to run this marathon for my 60th (birth­day),” White ex­plained. “It has the high­est el­e­va­tion pro­file.”

With 20 years of run­ning to her credit, a race of such dif­fi­culty might seem log­i­cal to some. The run­ner shared she was drawn to the event hosted by An­des Ad­ven­tures, not for the itin­er­ary, but the race ac­com­plish­ment.

In ad­di­tion to the race, the ad­ven­ture group ar­ranges for the group to sight­see, as well as en­joy other hike lo­ca­tions.

White was able to hike the Rain­bow Moun­tains prior to the race as a part of her itin­er­ary. A moun­tain range she shared was just re­cently dis­cov­ered in the past four years. The hike of 16,700 feet el­e­va­tion, she de­scribed as breath­tak­ing and amaz­ing.

While it was a trip she looked for­ward to tak­ing, it was also one she grew un­cer­tain of at times.

“There were so many er­rors of

events prior, I re­ally wasn’t sure if I’d make it there,” she said of the trip she planned a year out. “My clients wanted me to go, al­most more than I did.”

Once peo­ple learned of her com­mit­ment to go for her birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, they be­gan reach­ing out with of­fers to spon­sor her; an act which she ad­mit­ted caught her a bit off guard. Strug­gling with stay­ing com­mit­ted to mak­ing the trip a mind­ful jour­ney for her­self, White came up with the idea of a prayer shirt. A shirt she would wear for the race with names and sen­ti­ments from those in­ter­ested in hav­ing a prayer said.

“I was over­whelmed by the sup­port,” she said, not­ing a to­tal of 80 names col­lected and placed on the shirt. “This was a ma­jor prayer jour­ney for me.”

Not one to leave any­thing to chance, the ath­lete spent the ma­jor­ity of the year lead­ing up to the marathon train­ing. The el­e­va­tion gain/loss is de­scribed on the An­des Ad­ven­ture web­site as “like run­ning up and down the stairs of the Em­pire State Build­ing 10 times.”

That fact proved to be of lit­tle prob­lem or con­cern for White, who com­pleted the 26.2 mile race with an el­e­va­tion reach­ing more than 13,000 feet in 12 hours.

“I felt like I cheated, I was so well pre­pared,” she said. “Be­cause it was like many long hikes I’ve done with my clients. I felt strong and pre­pared. I hiked it. I didn’t run it.”

Hik­ing rather than run­ning the route is un­der­stand­able, given the ter­rain, as well as the 4 a.m. start time in the dark. Par­tic­i­pants camped at the base the night be­fore and were awak­ened at 2 a.m. to be­gin prep­ping for their race.

The ad­ven­turer de­scribes the ex­pe­ri­ence over­all, as more than she could have ever dreamed of or ex­pected.

“The take­away was, I’ve never taken a trip just for me,” White shared. “It was way more fun than I thought it was go­ing to be.”

When you spend 20 years of your life run­ning marathons, climb­ing moun­tains and hik­ing trails, what does one put on the bucket list as the next big thing? While the ques­tion might be valid, for White it’s not a con­cern.

“I’ve kind of left it to the Lord,” she said of what’s next. “Ad­ven­tures are now His, and ser­vice.”


A hike up the Rain­bow Moun­tains was an ex­tra treat for lo­cal ad­ven­turer and mas­sage ther­a­pist Es­ther White dur­ing her re­cent trip to Machu Pic­chu. The 16,700 foot climbed proved to be well worth it.


Es­ther White dur­ing the Inca Trail Marathon wear­ing her prayer shirt, a shirt adorned with the names of 80 peo­ple she com­mit­ted to pray for dur­ing her 26.2 mile trek on the trail.

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