RUNNING: Globetrotter

Sarah Oliphant on a safari in Rwanda where she ran her third

Local ready for record-setting run in Antarctica
While some teens are playing soccer, networking on Facebook or following the latest plot on Dancing with the Stars, Morgan Hill resident Sarah Oliphant, 15, is busily training to run the Antarctica Ice Marathon in December.

That’s right. A marathon. In subzero temperatures with the possibility of hurricane force winds slamming snow in your face and freezing various body parts simultaneously.

Obviously, Antarctica isn’t a garden-variety 26.2-miler, but one with nasty conditions defying human survival that makes the coldest day in Buffalo, N.Y., seem like a summer picnic in Honolulu. Why is she doing this?

There are two clubs that are difficult to gain membership for most people unless you have the physical ability, mental fortitude, determination, family support and money to finance your dreams. They are the Seven Continents Club and the Grand Slam (Seven Continents plus North Pole). The idea is to finish a marathon on each landmass around the globe.

“Only 295 people are part of the Seven Continents Club and even fewer – 46 are part of the Marathon Grand Slam Club of which only 10 are women,” Oliphant said.

Oliphant along with her father, Arnold, will do this amazing feat together to complete the arduous quest to capture the coveted title Grand Slammers-plus for the younger Oliphant: the Guinness World Record for youngest female to join both clubs.

Oliphant’s manifold 26.2-mile adventure began more than three years ago when her older brother, Eugene, ran a marathon. It inspired her. Around the same time, her father was suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis and could hardly do much physical activity.

“I worked out on the elliptical trainer for several minutes and would go back to bed to recover,” he said.

As Arnold’s health improved, he turned to jogging outdoors around the block with family. Over time, they were able to run longer distances.

Oliphant’s mother, Lynnette, and younger sister, Heidi, help by training with them at shorter distances or supplying food and drink along the routes.

“We run three days a week, and, on Saturdays, we do our big runs,” Oliphant said.

“We drink a homemade sports drink that has salt and a little citric acid in it to make it taste good. We normally use Vaseline between our toes to prevent blisters and we also get wide shoes if we can find them. We never eat any food before our morning runs we just get up and go run.”

Their dedication paid off when father and daughter entered a marathon together. One of the challenges was finding a race that allows those under 18 to participate.

“My first marathon was the Deseret News Marathon in Utah close to Salt Lake,” Oliphant said. “My time was 5:12.”

Oliphant was 13 at the time. After the race, her father searched on the Internet for other marathons they could run together. He came across information on the Grand Slam and Seven Continents clubs – “Hey Sarah, do you want to run a marathon on each continent?”

Three years, six continents and the North Pole later, they are approaching their final destination of the multiple-marathon odyssey, which culminates Dec. 12th.

Outside of running, Oliphant enjoys being home-schooled with family; one of her favorite subjects is astrophysics. She likes singing, playing piano and drawing.

The race website for this event warns would-be marathoners:

“The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the southernmost marathon on earth and a unique opportunity to complete a marathon that is truly worthy of the seventh continent. Don’t expect to run your quickest time, however, as winds can blow from the pole at a steady 10-25 knots. Also, forget about penguins or crowds cheering you along the route. No penguins live this far south and you will have to rely upon yourself to push onward in the hushed, indomitable surroundings.”

Oliphant said nonchalantly, “I’m just an average runner who has been lucky enough to have some amazing adventures. There are plenty of youth my age who could have done a better job if they had had the idea.”

For more information on the Antarctica Ice Marathon and the Seven Continents Club please go to www.icemarathon.com.

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