Kiwi runner ticks off Antarctica Marathon to claim rare medal
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 become one of the first New Zealand women to complete a marathon on all seven continents and has a 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.
* Antarctica last continent on the list for 50-year-old marathon runner
* Young runner Quinn Gardiner-Hall is off to Antarctica
* Rookie Kiwi runner tackles marathons on all seven continents
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.
Coupled with the fact the weather on King George Island can be temperamental at the best of times means 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 experience 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."
And despite ticking off all seven continents, Hickman is by no means slowing down.
She has a marathon in Wellington in June, before taking off to run one in Berlin in September. All before flying over to Morocco to run the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert next year.
The event is labelled the toughest footrace on earth with runners covering 251 kilometres - the equivalent of six regular marathons - through some of the hottest and harshest conditions on earth.