Gone Globetrotting

Running 26.2 miles, 18 times takes dedication, resilience — especially on all 7 continents

Abigail Slimmon, Sports Editor

Elena Liao
MILES OF MOTIVATION. U-High Teacher Shauna Anderson trains after school on the Midway. Ms. Anderson trained to run her 19th marathon in Chicago on Oct. 7 and has run at least one marathon in all seven continents. She plans on running her last marathon in April 2019 in Boston, where she ran her first marathon in 1996.

In 1996, while sitting in the back of her graduate school class at Harvard, U-High teacher Shauna Anderson was flipping through a running magazine when she saw an advertisement for the 100th annual Boston Marathon. It was the first year runners did not have to qualify and could instead apply through a lottery. She jumped on the opportunity, trained through the freezing Boston winter and ran her first-ever marathon six months later. 

Although it went well, this spontaneous decision didn’t make her instantly fall in love with running. It took five years before Ms. Anderson finally decided to give it another chance. More than two decades later, she has run all over the world. In fact, she’s run a marathon on each of the seven continents.

Few people have completed this difficult accomplishment, although for Ms. Anderson, it’s just another way to combine her passions: travel, math and pushing herself beyond her comfort zone.

Her second marathon was in Paris.

“I was living in Thailand at the time and I saw that the Paris Marathon was coming up. I had always wanted to go to Paris, so I decided it was a perfect excuse to travel somewhere new and run my first international marathon,” Ms. Anderson said. 

Combining running with travel started to become a trend in her life. She has been to 46 countries. 

While running a half-marathon in Rio de Janeiro, she met a woman who she quickly befriended. Six months later they ran a marathon together in Antarctica. 

“After getting through running in Antarctica, that’s when I decided I had to hit every continent,” Ms. Anderson said. “Four days after I ran in Antarctica, I ran another marathon in Chile. I got to check off two continents in one week. It was very hard, but I did it and now I never have to do that again.” 

It only took four years for her to run one in every continent, and she completed her goal this summer in Kenya. Ms. Anderson will run what she says will be her 20th and very last marathon in Boston on April 19, 2019, coming full circle.

 Although accomplishing her goal was a big deal, it was never just about the running. For her, it was about proving to herself and people she knows that she can do it.

“After Chile, I posted on my Facebook page that I was going to run a marathon in every continent. Once I did that, it made me accountable,” Ms. Anderson said. “I had to prove that I could do it. When I run, I don’t run for a time, I run to finish.”

This is also what gives her motivation to keep signing up for race after race. Registering for a race months in advance may not seem that hard, but finding the motivation the night before is sometimes difficult. This is why Ms. Anderson has little rituals she does the night before. 

“Every single night before I run a marathon I watch a movie. It’s called ‘Spirit of the Marathon,’ which always reminds me why I’m doing what I’m gonna do the next day,” she said. “Then I go to sleep, and when I wake up I watch a short video about goal setting. It is amazingly inspiring, and I don’t run without watching it first.”

Amidst grading papers and teaching math classes, Ms. Anderson had the motivation to train five days a week for her 19th marathon, which she planned on running here in Chicago Oct. 7. The day before the race she injured herself but plans on running in the Fort Lauderdale marathon this coming February.  

“I haven’t always been into running,” Ms. Anderson said. “I have asthma, so when I was younger I didn’t think I could run at all. I didn’t participate in any sports. My father and sister were both competitive runners, so I have the genes, but I never really pursued it.”

Ms. Anderson always brings math into her running.

“When I run, I’m constantly doing calculations in my head. I’m always trying to figure out how far I’ve come and how much I have left,” Ms. Anderson said. “It never stops.” 

While she brings math into running, she also brings into her classroom motivational tactics learned through running. 

On the first day of school, Ms. Anderson shows a video of herself bungee jumping off a rickety bridge in what looks like the middle of nowhere. She said the purpose of this video is to try to get students to push their limits and go out of their comfort zone — in life but especially in math.

Senior Madison Christmas had Ms. Anderson as her math teacher for two years.  

“I think that her showing us the video definitely captures her spirit as a teacher,” Madison said. “As students, we watched her take risks and accomplish life goals, such as completing a marathon on every continent, which was a constant reminder that we too could do anything we put our minds to, both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Without Ms. Anderson’s spontaneous decision to run her first marathon as a student at Harvard, she may not have started her journey as a marathon runner and inspiring math teacher. 


Update: On Apr. 15, 2019, Ms. Anderson was named one of approximately 5,000 Abbot Worldwide Six Star Finishers. She has completed the Chicago, New York City, London, Berlin, Tokyo and Boston Marathons.