Sydney woman Heather Hawkins is about to undertake a phenomenal physical challenge, running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. She is just one of 15 competitors undertaking the second annual World Marathon Challenge, which kicks off next week.

Sydney woman attempts seven marathons on seven continents

Sydney woman attempts seven marathons on seven continents Image by Kyle Taylor / CC BY 2.0

“We run, gather all our gear, get to the check-in, hop on a plane and fly, and try and sleep and eat and then hop off and run the next one,” the 50-year-old mother of two told ABC’s 7.30 program. “I am a mixture of excitement, but the nerves are also kicking in a little bit as well.”

The World Marathon Challenge begins in Antarctica on 23 January. From Antarctica, competitors will have 168 hours to complete the marathon event which moves on to Chile, then the United States, Spain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and finally Sydney, Ms Hawkins’ hometown.

During the seven-day time frame, competitors must run standard 42.2km (26.2 miles) at each of the locations, completing one marathon on each of the seven continents. In addition to jet lag, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation, competitors will have to contend with dramatic temperature fluctuations across the locations, with differences of up to 50°C possible.

Ms Hawkins took up long-distance running just three years ago and has competed in a number of endurance events in the short time since then. Last year she undertook the world’s coldest race at the North Pole and was the first female to cross the finish line. However, this challenge is particularly important to her: she will be running as an ambassador for the Can Too Foundation, and hopes to raise awareness about cancer and raise funds for research.

The marathon runner is a survivor of ovarian cancer, telling 7.30, “Each individual marathon I’m going to dedicate to friends and fellow ovarian cancer sufferers, and I think that will really will me along. When I get tired during a race I know I am running with a purpose, and that will really help me.”