Dubai: During nearly three months of hard work and sheer determination, Dubai teenager Kristen De Sousa only kept the finish line in her sights. Not one finish line, but an incredible seven over as many continents and in less than 90 days.
A little over a week after making her way into the Alternate Book of Records for being declared the “Youngest female to complete seven marathons on seven continents in the fastest time”, Kristen landed in Dubai and told of her experiences, recalling that she nearly gave up on her dream on several occasions due to challenges along the way.
However, a “never-say-die attitude” and the sheer will “to accomplish something for the future” drove this 15-year-old along to victory when she completed the 50km ultra-marathon in Chile on January 30, thus bringing down the curtains on an 88-day journey that had begun in her native Canada on November 3.
“Suddenly there was a mixed feeling of glory and remorse. I was at the top of the world for having achieved my dream of completing all seven marathons, and yet I felt a deep pang of anguish,” she said.
“There were so many occasions when I just told myself to stop. I simply could not go on. But that thought was also something that kept pushing me towards achieving what I had set out to do. I just could not stop after coming so far. I had to do it for myself and for everyone else — for those who believed in me and those who did not,” she added.
So how exactly did this shy and withdrawn teen from Dubai College end up accomplishing such a unique feat?
In December 2012, her parents Manuel and Sharon asked if Kristen would be interested in doing a series of runs to raise money for charity. Not so much the sporty type, Kristen’s impulsive answer was a firm “No”.
“However, after two or three weeks, she came back and told us that she would love to take up the challenge and that she would do it for a charity dealing with school children. That day everything changed for us,” Sharon said.
The mum and daughter set out on a training regimen over the next nine months, at the same time working out the list of marathons they could take part in before the start of school year at the end of February.
Kristen’s challenge started with the Hamilton Road to Hope Marathon in Ontario, Canada. Their mission also took the mother-daughter team to Australia, South Africa, Italy, Qatar, Antartica and finally to the Punta Arenas Marathon in Chile in the first week of February.
“For 88 days my entire life revolved around just running. Everything that I did was with just with this one aim in mind. I thought about nothing else. This became a passion for me,” Kristen said.
And something changed within for the shy and timid teen who at one time, did not even dare approach anyone alone or get involved in a casual conversation in a group.
“And suddenly I was running alongside totally unknown people. I was chatting with them and before I knew it, I had changed. I was no longer the shy girl. I was the one who had the confidence and I could see how my marathons were making me a better person as well,” she said with a smile.
“And now that it has ended, I have this feeling of melancholy. I know I have achieved something special and it has been an amazing journey. Who knows what lies next in store for me?” Kristen added.