Our C-U Women Outdoors series is all about highlighting the women in our community who are passionate about the outdoors. Meet Neena Tripathy, a marathon runner with a goal to complete a race on all seven continents.
Physician (pediatrician)/MD/ Carle Physician Group
What does “outdoors” mean to you?
Outdoors, to me, means unplugging. Not just unplugging devices but unplugging my brain and just being in the moment, taking in the smells/sounds/sights of nature.
If the weather is nice on a Saturday, what can we find you doing?
On a nice Saturday you will definitely see me out for a run!
How did you get into long distance running?
My sister in law has 3 sisters. One of her sisters suggested that all of us run a ½ marathon. After I completed that, I was bitten by the bug and a full marathon was my next goal!
Was there a specific moment that made you set the goal of running a marathon on every continent?
I never had a goal of running a marathon on every continent, but I received an email from Adventure Marathon about a race in Australia. It was a solar eclipse marathon. There was a total solar eclipse and once the sun reemerged, the race began. I shared the email with my best friend who is also my running buddy. I just thought it was a cool race but she suggested we should run it (we had already run Chicago together). Once we completed that marathon it was an unspoken assumption that we would complete all 7 continents.
Which marathons have you completed outside of the USA?
I have completed: The Port Douglas, Australia solar eclipse marathon, China Great Wall marathon, South Africa Big 5 marathon, and Antarctica marathon.
What was it like running a marathon in Antarctica? How did you even get there?
It was actually warmer in Antarctica than it was here in the midwest. When we were doing our training runs, it was during the polar vortex winter weather. In Antarctica is was about 20 degrees ABOVE zero. I was also lucky to have Champaign Surplus help me find all the cold weather gear needed! We ran on all kinds of surfaces, including gravel, mud and snow. The penguins and walrus were definitely scenery I was not used to seeing!
This marathon is put on by Adventure Marathon and they do an amazing job of handling the travel arrangements. We flew to Argentina and spent 3 days in Buenos Aires. From there we flew to Ushuia (the southern most point of Argentina) and then it was a 4 day boat ride to Antarctica.
During your South Africa Big 5 Marathon, did you actually get to see the “big 5”?
Thankfully, DURING the marathon we didn’t see any wild game...although we did see a lot of dung, so I know the animals were there. We did get to take several safari trips during our stay there and during those trips were fortunate to see all of the Big 5!!
Of all the races you’ve completed, which was your favorite and why?
It is hard to say which was my favorite since all of them are so unique. I have been lucky to meet some amazing people at each race who have become good friends now and whom I catch up with at other marathons. The Port Douglas marathon (Australia) will hold a special place in my heart because it was the first international marathon and the impetus for running on all 7 continents.
Of all the races you’ve completed, which was the most difficult and why?
The Big 5 Marathon had the most difficult course with an incredibly steep hill that we had to run down (so steep that if you tried to lean forward into the hill, as you are encouraged to do when running hills, you would have fallen flat on your face) that lead into a couple of miles running on sand and then we had to tackle that same hill going UP!
How do you get motivated to train on the days that you just don’t “feel like it”?
I have a training calendar for my marathons. There is a great satisfaction from crossing off a long run after you have completed it, so most days that is all I need. Sometimes I will plan a special treat (like the chocolate shredder smoothie from Smoothie King) for the end of my run. I also remind myself that not every run will be great, but even a “bad run” is better than no run at all!
Once you’ve checked off all the continents, what’s next? Relaxation or the next big goal?
There are several marathons in the US that I would like to do (like the Disney Marathon and I just read about a Snickers Marathon in Georgia...snickers? yes please!).
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have received is to remember that I am ready for the marathon and to just ENJOY it. Take in the sights and sounds and don’t worry about the miles.
Do you have any tips or advice for someone that is just getting started running in the CU area?
Just get out and run! You don’t need a reason, just remember what it was like when you were a kid and running was pure and simple fun!
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
I still need to finish my 7 continents, so that is still at the top of my list.
Is there anything you're working on that you're excited about right now?
The “project” I am most excited about right now is that I am pregnant! I am still trying to run and stay active but the marathon running is on hold until after our little one arrives!!