For Christie Ellison, finishing marathons has been more than just a singular accomplishment. She’s been going after a bigger objective.
Last month, the 62-year-old Kihei resident achieved her goal – completing a marathon on all seven continents. The finale came in South America, at an event in Chile.
“It feels amazing to accomplish it,” Ellison said. “Any time we set a goal for ourselves and then we accomplish it, it feels wonderful.”
Ellison’s journey began fairly recently, when she took part in the Maui Marathon for the first time in 2005.
“I completely walked the first marathon and I finished and it was really nice,” Ellison said – she completed the race that year in 7 hours, 7 minutes. “I just thought, ‘Well maybe next year I can beat my time.’ “
In 2007, she decided to enter her second marathon in New Zealand while volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
It was then that Ellison got the idea to travel around the world for marathons.
“I thought, ‘Well, gosh, maybe I should do it on all seven continents,’ ” she said. “That’s how it all got started.”
Asia became Ellison’s third continent a year later, when she recorded a personal-best time of 5:41 in the Great Wall of China Marathon.
She added Africa to the list in 2011, at a race in Tanzania. Europe was next, with a 2012 event in Italy.
Ellison finished things off with a flourish in February, by finishing two marathons in four days – the White Continent Marathon on King George Island in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Punta Arenas Marathon in Chile.
“It’s a feeling of freedom,” Ellison said of running marathons. “There’s a start and there’s a finish but everything in between there’s just this feeling of freedom. If the finish line was not where it is, I feel like I could just keep on going.”
Ellison has completed 13 marathons altogether.
“I think that the people who go into this just have a determination,” she said. “That’s what really impresses me about this is that you don’t really have to be a hard-core marathon runner in order to do this. You just have to do your 26 miles to get to the end and you’re a winner.”
Ellison overcame a variety of elements to complete her goal.
“The one in Africa was blazing hot, and the Great Wall, it was over 5,000 steps,” she said.
“The one in Italy it rained the whole time. By the time I got to the finish line I was just so cold and so wet. But in a sense that was the kind of thing that was like, ‘Wow, 6 1/2 hours in the pouring rain and the cold.’ That does something for you.”
The sense of achievement that comes from finishing any marathon grows into something more, Ellison said.
“It builds confidence,” she said. “Doing marathons was really good in the sense that it made me believe in myself and made me stronger. I try to inspire myself. I just draw inspiration from setting goals for myself, knowing that whatever we put our minds to, we can accomplish it.”
As far as training goes, Ellison, a Maui resident since 1989, says she simply walks seven miles a day.
She chooses to walk and run marathons rather than run the entire course, and said she believes that walking made completing marathons possible for her in the first place.
“Because I don’t run them full out and because I run-slash-walk them, I just feel like I could just keep on going,” she said.
“You break it down into little segments and before you know it you accomplish what you thought you never could accomplish.”
Ellison hopes she can motivate others through her achievements.
“I hope to inspire anyone who is just chasing a dream or maybe doesn’t even have a dream yet,” she said. “A lot of people will say, ‘I could never do what you did.’ And I always tell them, ‘You can.’
“It’s like whatever sport you play. It’s like the saying: ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.’ “
For Ellison, the key is taking that first step toward achieving any goal.
“No matter what it is, if you don’t start you can’t finish,” she said.