If hiking 42 kilometres in the Andes mountains and piling on 3,048 metres (10,000 feet) of elevation sounds tough, imagine running it.
That’s exactly what Nanaimo woman Kristen Clarke did on Aug. 8, as a part of the Inca Trail Marathon, dubbed “the most difficult marathon in the world.”
What’s more, she won the race — beating the next closest competitor by more than an hour, and setting a record for the fastest-ever female time, at 8:40:05.
The grueling race takes runners along Peru’s historic Inca Trail, which finishes at the ancient mountain city of Machu Pichu.
Along the way they cross four mountains and three mountain passes, topping out at a max elevation of 4,206 metres (12,800 feet).
“I was extremely happy to finish the race,” Clarke told Global News, “and very proud that I won overall.”
“I’ve won a few local races, but this is a whole ‘nother level.”
Clark said the course involved drastic changes in temperature, starting at near freezing and getting colder and colder as it wound through mountain summits — until crossing to the Amazon side of the Andes where it suddenly became hot and humid.
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“By the time I was actually finishing the race I thought that I had heatstroke,” she said.
Clarke said just completing the course involved steeling herself mentally and physically.
“On the second climb, Deadwoman’s Pass, I actually stopped, started tearing up and really didn’t think I could go on any longer,” she said.
“I had to just stop and tell myself, ‘Just keep going, don’t sit down,’ and just continue the race.”
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The mother of two said she began training for the event in the spring, and mixed in training at elevations whenever possible — though said she couldn’t prepare for the actual altitude of the race itself.
While racing over the top of one of the Earth’s most intimidating mountain ranges might seem impossible to the novice runner, Clarke had advice for anyone setting their sights on great heights.
“Get out there, set your goals, start small and work up to the big adventures,” she said.