How One Runner is Beating Cancer With Seven Marathons on Seven Continents

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Running seven marathons is a decent amount, but running on seven continents in seven days seems unbelievable.

Yet, Heather Hawkins is defying all odds and beating cancer along the way.

Heather's journey is one of overcoming the hardship of cancer and the challenge of running. She continues to be an inspiration to thousands across the globe as she pushes the limit of a diagnosis.


Heather Hawkins, Beating Cancer Through Running

Heather was humming along in life, until she was diagnosed with Stage 1 Ovarian cancer. Her world soon tumbled into surgery and a long recovery process, but her determination to get healthy never ceased.

She now has beat cancer and successfully finished several marathons across the world. Heather competed in the marathon of a lifetime that consisted of seven marathons, on seven continents, in seven days, known as the World Marathon Challenge. Running in extreme weather changes, and battling the mental fatigue, she successfully completed the marathon challenge with a profound feeling of joy.

Heather is living inspiration of what you can do when you have a second chance at life. I asked her a couple of questions to share with our Running Stats family. To anyone who has stared cancer in the face, her words are inspirational and gives hope in the challenge of illness and running.


What helped you overcome your diagnosis?

“Within days of my diagnosis of Ovarian cancer, I was undergoing major surgery – a total hysterectomy and removal of both ovaries – and fortunately for me, my tumor was found at Stage 1. Very soon I was out of the hospital and embarking on my road to recovery. I yearned to be normal again, so I set about getting fit, keeping busy and picking up my life again as quickly as I could. Certainly the love and support of family and friends made this so much easier. I focused on the positives and didn’t let fear define me.

This was my second chance at life, and from here on I was determined to make the most of everyday. If the cancer returned, I would fight it. I came out of this experience with a whole lot more courage and determination than I’d ever had before. It’s given me a whole new purpose in life – to raise funds for cancer research and to support and encourage those facing their own battles with cancer.”


How has your diagnosis and recovery pushed you to where you are now?

“‘A shifting compass’ and ‘have courage’ are words that find their way into my conversation a lot more these days. I have become more keenly aware that we need to make the most of life. To change our attitudes and behaviour and focus on the big picture items, on the important things in life.

Aim to be the best person we possibly can be. To be fit, healthy, embracing opportunities, to be caring and actively nurturing goals and creativity. I’m so much keener now to experience adventure, to push the personal boundaries, no longer content to just hum along in life.

My foray into Marathon running has certainly demanded a big slab of time each week, discipline and a great deal of training. But I love it. With every race I learn something new, whether it’s finding new ways to cope with different conditions, how to deal with exhaustion and how to push through to the end.

Mid way through my recent 100km ultra race I hit the wall, I was overheating badly and was incredibly fatigued. I didn’t give up. But iced up, turned my music up, and kept going. I took out 3rd place female that day. I really want to encourage others to face challenges ‘head on’ in life and experience the elation of getting to the end, whether it’s a project, a run, a trek, or achieving a personal dream. That’s a job well done. Keep repeating these words : Never give up.”

You competed in the World Marathon Challenge, what was it like crossing the finish line?

“Crossing the finish line at the WMC was a profound, emotional experience, one which I’ll treasure forever. It was a truly life defining moment… the culmination of the past 9 years – from my diagnosis, the recovery, to discovering a new found love of running, and sharing this journey with my family. As I ran my final steps, the tears flowed freely and a smile stretched all the way across my face… and right there and then, I knew that this race wasn’t just about me, it was a race I was running for others. It was my message of hope for anyone who’s been diagnosed with cancer : that you can recover, you can get out there again and you can have a second chance at life.”

What would you tell other runners who are fighting cancer?

“Get your runners back on as soon as you can and run within your capabilities. You will get stronger. Embrace this time to free yourself from the tough stuff that you’re going through right now. Get lost in your thoughts, and in the moment. Dream and plan for the future. Keep the joy. Run and never look back… Run and never give up…”

Thank you Heather, you are an inspiration to many and we look forward to following your journey in what you accomplish next!

Follow her journey on Facebook at Heather Hawkins: Adventurous Spirit

Bethany Widdicombe

Bethany Widdicombe

Bethany Widdicombe is a runner at heart, a researcher by nature, and a writer by passion. Having traveled across the world, she continues to be an advocate for awareness and knowledge that empowers people to a better life. You can now find her running out on the trail, or nestled away writing her next article.

Portland, OR