Cottage Grove woman runs back-to-back marathons on two continentsCottage Grove resident Sharon Nollan recently ran two marathons in a 24-hour period on two different continents – South America and Antarctica.
By: Patrick Johnson, sports editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Sharon Nollan ran her first marathon in 1990. After that she was hooked.
The Cottage Grove resident and mother of three has now run 41 of them.
Most recently, Nollan ran two marathons in a 24-hour period on two different continents – South America and Antarctica.
“It was pretty incredible,” Nollan, 47, said. “It was an adrenaline rush. I had to dig down pretty deep to make it happen. But, it was an extraordinary experience.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, Nollan ran a marathon in Punta Arenas, Chile, then boarded a plane that night and ran in the 2013 White Continent Marathon in Antarctica the very next day. She has now run marathons on five of the World’s seven continents.
“The awesome part of it is that it combines things I really like,” Nollan said. “I love to travel, I love to meet new people and go to new places and I’m passionate about running.”
Nollan began running just after high school, but she never thought she’d run a marathon. Now, she expects to run 50 marathons before she is 50 years old.
In addition to the recent marathons in South America and Antarctica, Nollan has run marathons in Asia, Europe and North America. She has yet to run marathons in Africa and Australia, but plans to do so. She said the goal of running marathons on all seven continents has brought her to places she may not have otherwise visited.
“I don’t know if I ever would’ve gone to Antarctica,” she said. “That was just part of running on all the continents. But, I love to travel. I love to go to all these places. The marathons are something to do while I’m there.”
The Punta Arenas Marathon was mostly on paved paths that followed the Strait of Magellan coast. Nollan said the course was flat and the temperature was roughly 60 degrees. The White Continent Marathon, however, had tougher terrain.
In Antarctica, the temperature hovered around 32 degrees and it was very windy. There were also many hills and some slippery spots, Nollan said. Also, an added challenge was that the ground was a soft clay that would stick to the runners’ shoes.
“It was kind of a Herman Munster feeling, running with big clumps on my shoes,” Nollan said. “But, all in all it worked out really well. I was happy with my time. The experience was extraordinary, it was a great group of people and the views were spectacular.”
Nollan completed each marathon in about five-and-a-half hours, she said.
It was the first time Nollan had been to Chile and Antarctica. On the journey, Nollan said she saw a number of guanacos (a variety of Llama) and waterfalls in Chile and penguins when she was in Antarctica.
Arriving in Antarctica before dawn, Nollan was struck by the landscape, she said.
“It just felt lunar,” she said. “I asked myself, is this what the moon is like? It was dark when we got there. It was very rocky and there wasn’t much snow, because it was summer there.”
Nollan said she signed up for the Chile and Antarctica races through Kathy Loper events in California and teamed up with a group called Marathon Adventures out of Minneapolis. Nollan has a son and daughter that both attend East Ridge and a son at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, along with a “very supportive husband,” she said.
Next, Nollan said she’ll be running a marathon this spring and is signed up for another one in Missoula, Montana, in July. She currently belongs to 50 States Marathon Club and the Marathon Maniacs running club.
“We’re a community of runners and we stay connected and do these marathons together,” Nollan said. “I’ve gotten to meet some very interesting people.”