Antarctica last continent on the list for 50-year-old marathon runner

Tracy Hickman, 50, is running a marathon in Antarctica next month.
SAM HEWAT/FAIRFAX NZ

Tracy Hickman, 50, is running a marathon in Antarctica next month.

Auckland woman Tracy Hickman has just one more continent to tick off before she can say she's run a marathon on all of them.

In 2015, she was running in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. In August last year, it was the Mongolian mountains. 

She even celebrated her 50th birthday in September with a marathon in South America.

But now, it's a much tougher task - the icy plains of Antarctica.

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She's been on the waiting list for four years, but on March 11 she'll get her shot at just one of two marathons run in the world's southernmost region.

The accountant has been training for the run in one of her client's commercial freezer.

"They have a massive, warehouse-sized freezer which they cranked down to minus 18.8 degrees and put the fans on to simulate the wind chill. 

"I realised straight away I needed new gloves and new tights."

The 42 kilometre course takes runners through Antarctica's King George's Island, though Hickman won't know exactly what to expect until she arrives. 

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"Temperature-wise, they told us anything between minus 5 degrees and -20C," she said.

"Wind-wise it could be anything from 30kmh to 100kmh.

"It could be slushy mud, it could be ankle deep ice water, or it could be snow and ice."

It's far removed from the summery conditions she's been experiencing at her home suburb of Grey Lynn.

"I keep running around the streets of Grey Lynn and trying to imagine what it's going to be like running past penguins," Hickman said.

"When I ran up in the arctic circle, there was a danger that there were going to be bears on route.

"I'm thinking penguins will be a bit more gentle."

Despite running a number of marathons since she started at 42 years old, this marathon has an added bonus for Hickman, who is running for the charity which she is treasurer for.

The Asylum Seekers Support Trust (ASST) gives aid to asylum seekers who, unlike refugees, don't receive government support when they arrive in New Zealand.

They rely on organisations like the ASST who operate solely on donations.

"I don't think many people realise the difference between an asylum seeker arriving in New Zealand and a quota refugee," Hickman said.

"Quota refugees get to go to the settlement centre in Mangere, and they get government support for a year, but if you arrive as an asylum seeker you're pretty much on your own.

"Running for a cause puts a different pressure on you. It's not just about the marathon and the goal, you have to work hard to make sure you complete it."

And though the freezing shores of Antarctica might be tough on Hickman's body, she can warm herself with the thought of her next big adventure.

She's already entered in the 2018 Marathon des Sables, known as the toughest footrace on earth.

The six-day, 250km race crosses the North African desert, with temperatures reaching up to 45C.

"I also have to take an anti-venom pump so yes, that should be quite an exciting one."

Tracy's run is taking donations at her Givealittle page https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/antarcticamarathon2017

 - Stuff.co.nz

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