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Avid race-walker competes in grueling World Marathon Challenge, traveling around the world in a week

COURTEY PHOTO - Ginny Turner, 66, recently completed seven half-marathons on all seven continents, including a race in Antarctica on Jan. 31. She was one of 41 racers to compete in the the World Marathon Challenge.For nearly 30 years, Ginny Turner has been lacing up her sneakers, opening the front door of her Hillsboro home, and going for a run.

It's been her go-to form of exercise for years. What started as a hobby quickly became an obsession, driving the Hillsboro grandmother to compete in marathons all over the world.

Turner lives by a simple philosophy: Never stop moving.

Turner is an avid race-walker, an Olympic sport which requires athletes to keep one foot on the ground at all times. Turner was a runner for years before she gave up the sport for race-walking in 2001.

This month, Turner returned from the World Marathon Challenge, a grueling weeklong race that pitted her against some of the most extreme runners out there. The 66-year-old grandmother completed seven half-marathons on seven continents in seven days.

Turner was one of 41 racers on the trip who competed in Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and finally Miami, Fla. The racers came from everywhere: America, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and everywhere in between, she said.

"It was crazy," Turner said. "It's pretty fantastic what we did."

COURTESY PHOTO - Turner has already raced on every contininent twice over prior to the World Marathon Challenge. She's already planning another half-marathon in Madagascar later this year.Turner left in late January, arriving at Novolazarevskaya research station in Antarctica on Jan. 31.

"It was just a bunch of container buildings," Turner said. "There was an ice runway, and that's about all there is there. You have to wear glasses, otherwise the glare off the snow can hurt your eyes."

The temperature in Antarctica was as low as minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit during their race, she said, but arriving at their next race destination in Cape Town, South Africa, later that day, Turner found herself in more than 100 degree weather.

"That's a big difference in less than 24 hours," she said.

Most of her races were held at night, Turner said, which proved to be a blessing in Australia, which is in the middle of its summer heat wave.

From Perth, Australia, the racers flew to Dubai, then Madrid, Then back to the Southern Hemisphere to Chile before finishing the race in Miami.

"It was really hard to wrap your head around how fast we were doing this," Turner said. "My daughter and friend were flying to Miami to meet me at the end of the race, and I was in Dubai and got a text from my friend about snow in Portland. … I land in Madrid and it's time for them to check in for their flight. It was wild."

Turner lived on the plane for a week with the rest of the participants. They ate and slept in the air, in between races.

"We became a family," she said. "We would welcome different pilots and air crew on and off the plane. That was our hotel. I told people after it was the best cruise ever. It was an air cruise."

Sleeping in an airplane seat is far from comfortable, but Turner said after a while, it became second nature to her.

"We were tired enough it didn't matter," she said. "The hardest part was that we needed to get our legs lifted so your feet didn't swell. But I didn't get enough sleep between Perth and Dubai. I felt like I was sleep walking in Dubai. I needed to go horizontal and get some sleep."

In Madrid, Turner said, the racers were able to grab a little shuteye in a hotel room, but it wasn't much.

"I got about an hour and a half of sleep in a real bed," Turner said. "But I slept really hard and I was afraid I was going to miss the plane!"

Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, Turner said she came to a realization.

"This is going to come to a halt really quickly," she thought to herself. She took her time that day, meeting every single racer, learning their names and their story.

"I got their contact info for all of them," she said. When she arrived back in Hillsboro, she set up a private Facebook page for the racers to stay connected.

"We call ourselves 'the 41,'" she said.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Hillsboro Tribune.

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