Keep on Running Abi: One Nigerian Woman’s Historic Race on Antarctica!By Radiant Health
Published: April 22, 2014
Abisoye Adekanmbi is a woman who knows how to set her sights high, stay glued to her goals and smash all challenges before her – one marathon at a time…
She recently made history as the first Nigerian to conquer the 42.2km ‘White Continent’ Antarctica Marathon and has raised thousands for cancer research. Impressed? Wait until you read about the jaw-dropping seven marathons in seven continents under her (running shorts) belt.
We managed to keep her still long enough to discover what makes such a dedicated, pioneering athlete tick. We talk rock star highs, fitness tips, chocolate fixes and everything in between.
Prepare yourself for a serious dose of goal-setting, go-getting motivation…
And we’re off!
- Your achievements in running make for very inspiring reading. When did you first catch the running bug?
I caught the marathon bug right after I completed my first marathon in New York City, November 2010. I remember during the race when I got to mile 20, I was feeling so much pain and questioned myself why I signed up for this. But as soon as I crossed the finish line, I felt exhilarated and couldn’t wait to sign up again!
- What first prompted you to pull on your running shoes – were you inspired by famous runners, or perhaps by friends and family who ran?
I was invited to my friend’s wedding in London, April 2010 and couldn’t fly out due to a volcanic eruption that had happened in Europe. All the planes had been grounded from flying to Europe for almost a week due to black clouds. I was so upset that my plans for attending my friend’s wedding had been ruined. I remember checking my mail that week; I had received a postcard from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society regarding raising money and training for the upcoming New York City marathon in November that year. I later attended the information meeting and was so inspired by the runners I met that were battling cancer and yet raising money and running marathons to support a great cause. I signed up right away and successfully raised over ₦649, 000 ($4000) and completed NYC marathon.
- Why do you think you developed a passion for running above other forms of exercise like cycling or a team sport? What is it about running that you really love?
I ran track in high school (100 meters and relays); I had no experience running long distance. So I developed the love of running a long time ago, but hadn’t run since I left high school. I’m quite surprised I was able to cross over to long distance running, I didn’t think I could develop that much endurance. I guess with training all is possible. I find running very freeing, relaxing and a great way to clear your mind. With running, not much is required, just lace up your shoes and you’re ready to go!
- Running 7 marathons – each marathon being 42.2 km – on all 7 continents must take a uniquely strong will. Have you always set out to take on major challenges?
After I finished my first marathon, my next challenge was to run the 6 world majors (New York City, London, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, and Tokyo marathons). I was so excited when I accomplished my goal and couldn’t wait to set a new challenge. I enjoy running, and actually find it exciting to take on challenges.
- Naturally such a feat requires incredible levels of fitness. How do you balance your training with your professional and personal life?
It’s really easy to fit running into any schedule, since it doesn’t require you to sign up (like taking a fitness class). I run before
work, sometimes after work. On my off days from work, I run anytime and fit in my long runs then.
- As nutrition is so central to fitness, do you follow an incredibly strict regime, or are you fairly relaxed about your diet?
I’ve always followed a healthy diet. As a marathoner, I found out the importance of getting extra carbs in my diet for endurance. Clean carbs like brown rice, vegetables, red or sweet potatoes and other healthy whole grains. I don’t like red meat, so I get protein from fish, lentils, quinoa, and chicken. For dessert or tasty treats I love chocolate, but stick to dark chocolates. A little sugar is good for you.
- What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced during your running life?
I haven’t really faced any major challenges I can think of.
- How many marathons or half marathons have you completed in total?
I’ve completed 19 full marathons and 19 half marathons
- Do you have one favourite marathon that stands out from them all? Which one and why?
It’s difficult to pick one, each one was quite exciting and memorable in its own way. If I had to pick just one, it would have to be New York City marathon since it was my very first one. I remembered how much exciting it was, plus my mom and sister flew in to cheer me on during the race. It is such a fun race to run and there was so much crowd support throughout the run. I had my name on my shirt, so I got lots of cheers. I felt like a rock star! You know what they say “you never forget your first”. I had such an amazing experience running the Athens classic marathon last year too, it was such a dream to get the chance to run the original marathon course.
- What made you decide to take on the White Continent Marathon?
One of my marathon goals was to complete all the 7 continents. There are a few marathon tour companies that offer this opportunity. I found Marathon Adventures to be the most affordable and most cost effective, the package included 2 continents for the price of one (Antarctica-White continent marathon and South America-Punta Arenas marathon).
- Can you describe how you felt when you reached the end of that marathon especially considering you also made history as the first Nigerian woman to complete this marathon?
I was completely overcome with joy and couldn’t believe I just ran a marathon on Antarctica! At that point, it was my 6th continent and I was looking forward to my 7th in South Africa February 23rd 2014. Antarctic weather is quite unpredictable, so I was so grateful to God that all went well for us (100% finishers). The weather took a turn for worse just after we left Antarctica.
- You were joined by another female Nigerian in Antarctica to make this inspiring history together. Did you two know each other prior to the race?
In February last year during my quest to complete a marathon on 7 continents, I met Tee Morgan in Tokyo. She was visiting from Doha to run the Tokyo marathon too. We instantly became friends and planned future races together. We ran Boston and Rio marathon together last year and this year we ran White continent [Antarctica], Punta Arenas and Pietermaritzburg marathon (our last continent) together. We will also be running Boston on Monday. Happy to have made history together being the first Nigerians to complete a marathon on Antarctica and 7 continents.
- What advice would you give to someone who wants to run their first marathon?
If possible, join a running group or train with friends who are experienced runners. There may come a time during training that one may find it too stressful (especially training for a full marathon), or feel unmotivated. Having extra team support goes a long way and will get you through plus keep you motivated.
- How do you feel that completing your marathon challenges may have changed your life?
I have found out that running marathons has made me mentally and physically stronger. I feel I can handle any difficult situation without feeling completely overwhelmed.
- Finally, do you have a golden piece of health or fitness advice for every Nigerian woman?
- What’s next for you?
Boston marathon April 21st and Big Sur marathon April 27th (Boston 2 Big Sur)…
Wow! Thank you Abi – all of us at Radiant Health Magazine would like to wish you the very best of luck with your continued athletic endeavours!
Can you inspire us too? If you have achieved something extraordinary, we want to know. Have you transformed your health, body or mind? If so, you may be our next featured ‘I did it!’ star. We can’t wait to hear from you, so pour your story into an email at email@example.com
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