A Balloch fitness instructor who became one of only eight women in the UK to complete a marathon on all seven continents hopes her story can inspire others.
Debbie Savage and pal Jan Fellows completed the Rio Marathon this month to earn their Seven Continents medal – joining a very select group of less than a 1000 people globally to run marathons on every continent.
Mum-of-two Debbie told the Lennox that she didn’t register the scale of the achievement until she completed the Rio event – and hailed Jan, 68, as an incredible role model.
She said: “I thought hundreds of people had done it, but apparently very few of us are that crazy.
“Jan and I are only the seventh and eighth women in the UK to get the medal, and only 17 people in the whole country have it.
“That made me realise how big an achievement it was.
“Jan is a retired doctor and is 68, so for her it’s an even bigger achievement. Although I’m surprised that she’s still talking to me after talking her into this!
“There are less than 1000 people in the whole world who have done it.
“It’s not something I paid any attention to, but my husband looked into it and I couldn’t believe it when he read out the figures.
“It’s been an amazing experience doing it alongside a friend and I hope it can motivate and inspire people.”
The humid streets of Rio de Janeiro provided the perfect setting for the end of the ladies’ challenge, but was vastly different to the most gruelling event of the seven. Which saw them pound the frozen terrain of Antarctica.
“Rio was a nice place to finish in because we could have a real party to celebrate. But it was so hot. It was 31 degrees, and the humidity was incredible” said Debbie.
“We started in the dark at 5am. But the temperature doesn’t drop below 20 degrees, so it was still so humid. That made it very tough going. But it was a great place to finish the challenge.
“Years ago I read a story in the Daily Record about a girl who wanted to take on the challenge of running a marathon in all seven continents, which was crazy and unheard of at the time.
“I remember thinking at the time, who would want to go to Antarctica to run a marathon?”
Even getting to the course proved a challenge for the brave runners, as Debbie explained
“We got a cruise ship for two days from Argentina to Antarctica. Just getting there was a massive challenge where we had to put up with five and six metre waves, and feeling very seasick” she continued.
“Seeing all the wildlife was incredible. But by the time we got to the start line we were just all really excited to run. We’d overcome so much to get there.
“Antarctica was really hilly. But at the time there were a lot of restrictions in place because of Covid. Sadly a lot of people ended up being ruled out beforehand when we were staying in Argentina.
“When we did it last January it was unusually warm as well. It was only -2!
“It wasn’t as cold as we expected, but the terrain was very tough. You run the marathon on such a small space because it’s so protected, so we ran out two miles and then back two miles 12 times.
“Mentally that was very tough.”
The Seven Continents accomplishment wasn’t the only success the Scots in Rio enjoyed either.
Debbie added: “Jan’s husband, Paul, did the half-marathon in Brazil and was first in the over-65 category, which is an incredible achievement. He’s a brilliant runner.”