Her world-record attempt will not end until she has completed.
Erchana Murray-Bartlett, 32, of Australia, completed her 100th consecutive marathon over the weekend. When she reaches 107 this week, she'll be the proud owner of a brand new Guinness World Record.
But she has no intention of stopping there.
Murray-Bartlett, who started her Tip to Toe journey on August 20, 2022, in Cape York, Queensland, plans to arrive in Port Melbourne, Victoria, on January 16, 2023, after running a marathon every day for 150 days. And chances are she'll still be smiling, especially if she meets her goal of raising $62,000 AUD (that's $10 per kilometer she runs) for The Wilderness Society in order to raise awareness about Australia's extinction crisis. Given that she's close to $50,000 AUD (or $33,205 USD), that appears to be within her grasp.
If you're doing the math at home, that means she'll still have 43 marathons to run after officially breaking the current record. And this is not by chance.
"If you look at the history of this [record], it was set at 94 by an American lady and then broken at 100, 104, and 106." "And they're all fairly recent," she adds. "I figured, if it's 150, I'll have some breathing room so it doesn't get caught." Someone else could be running right now for the same record! ”
Her top priority is to complete 107 marathons, but getting to Melbourne comes in a close second. "To be honest," she admits, "I almost think I'd crawl it in."
A Long Run—and Even Bigger Dreams
Murray-Bartlett is no stranger to big dreams and long runs, having completed numerous marathons, including several attempts at Olympic qualifying times.
"I'd always wanted to walk across the country," she says, "but the real kicker came when I saw a documentary of Beau Miles running 650 km (404 miles) through the Australian Alps while I was stuck in hotel quarantine during the Covid pandemic."
She began planning, seeking out local and sustainable sponsors whenever possible; her shoe sponsor, Tarkine, uses recycled materials and donates profits to environmental causes, as does Amble Outdoors, which manufactures her shorts and sports bra.
The final puzzle piece fell into place a few months later, when she met her partner, Ryan, who she describes as "an all-in type of human" who wanted to use his filmmaking background to tell a personal story. "It's Ryan who has turned my small run into a big deal," she says.
Murray-Bartlett could run from the top of Australia to the bottom of the continent if her only goal was to run 3,800 km (2,361 miles) of highway. Instead, she's winding her way inland, along the coast, and over mountains to increase the distance to over 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles).
"I want to draw attention to extinction threats in as many different areas as possible," she says. "I've been able to see the most remote parts of Australia - waterfalls, valleys, corrugated roads, places that are really only accessible on foot because they are so remote."
She's driven on everything from miles of beaches and trails to long stretches of red dirt and busy main roads - except snow. Because she's running back-to-back, she's tried to avoid elevation whenever possible, but that will change once she reaches the Australian Alps. With peaks reaching over 7,000 feet, this is some of the most rugged terrain in the country. "It's going to get very remote, very steep, and very picturesque," she says. "And I'm very excited."
One of her favorite experiences thus far has been running through the Daintree Rainforest in far north Queensland. "The Daintree Rainforest is this amazing World Heritage site where the forest's roots literally go into the ocean, to the Great Barrier Reef," she says. "That had to be one of the most beautiful places to run through." Simply breathtaking. And it's also quite remote, with lots of wildlife." She's seen goannas, bush turkeys, wallabies, and a slew of other creatures, some of which she's documented on Instagram.
"I want to highlight extinction threats in as many different regions as possible." I've seen the most remote parts of Australia - waterfalls, valleys, corrugated roads, places that are really only accessible by foot because they are so remote."
The creeks she crossed there had such clear water that she could see every pebble - but that wasn't all. "You must exercise caution because there are crocs." "There are a lot of crocs," she says. She also saw a lot of sea life, including huge bull sharks swimming just offshore, as well as a lot of small creatures that aren't found anywhere else in the world, such as venomous snakes like death adders and taipans.
It's no surprise, then, that she's an ambassador for Australian Bites and Stings and spends some of her post-run afternoons talking about her run and outdoor safety at primary and secondary schools. "One component of Tip to Toe is educating school children on how to be prepared in the event of an encounter with a creature that could bite or sting you," she explains.
Mission Deserving of a Marathon
Unfortunately, one of the animals she had hoped to see in the area did not appear. "I was dying to see a cassowary," she explains. "They're these lovely Australian birds with bright blue heads, similar to an emu or an ostrich." They're really, really striking." They're also threatened, so their absence wasn't surprising.
After all, that's why Murray-Bartlett is working so hard to raise funds for The Wilderness Society. She chose The Wilderness Society after conducting extensive research into environmentally focused charities because of their two-pronged approach. "One division is called Movement for Life, which immediately drew my attention," she says. "It's a volunteer-run organization that gets people involved in local volunteer activities that are sustainable all over Australia."
This could include local trail maintenance groups or opportunities to care for wildlife. The other division is top-down campaigning. "They spend a significant amount of their time lobbying our federal government to protect National Parks through law," she says. "We have a big problem here in Australia with mining National Parks," including sensitive areas like the Great Barrier Reef.
Tip-to-Highs Toe's and Lows
Despite running 100 marathons, Murray-Bartlett doesn't take any finishes for granted. "I'm so proud of myself and somewhat in awe that I've made it this far. Although I've always set my sights on reaching 150, I've been motivated to do whatever I can, and every time I complete a run, I think to myself, "Wow, I've done another day." She declares, "I've irritated it. A little beast, the marathon. Respect for it is required.
She would have arrived there quickly even if she hadn't entered with that outlook. Within the first two weeks of running, she experienced a fairly serious calf injury. She changed her running style, added some walking, and pushed through it because it would have taken two days to travel to a healthcare provider due to her remote location.
It should come as no surprise that altering her form and carrying on with a marathon a day resulted in an inflamed IT band and an overuse injury on her quad that were so excruciatingly painful that she wasn't sure she could continue running.
"There is the mental anguish in knowing you've done so much preparation because it was so early. We have sponsors, and both my partner and I have quit our jobs, she adds. "You put in all this work, and to have a six-month expedition derailed in the first two weeks would have been too much to bear. Animals native to Australia are in grave danger of going extinct, and if we don't take action soon, it won't be too late. Even though it occasionally seems unbearable, knowing that there is an urgency surrounding my "why" has propelled me to keep moving forward.
Despite her ongoing fatigue, her body is currently functioning fairly well. She's not only running a lot but also taking part in community engagements and interviews along the way.
"It all takes effort," she says of networking, editing videos, and sharing stories. "Even, you know, the logistics of pitching a tent? Even though we are setting up camp each night in an off-road trailer (Trackabout donated an off-road 44 camper for the cause), you still need to prepare food, clean up after yourself, and wash your hair. Each of these things must fit into a single day.
Then everything actually goes according to plan.
She has occasionally found it difficult to follow her planned route due to the severe flooding that is currently occurring in eastern Australia, more specifically from southern Queensland and New South Wales down to northern Victoria. Murray-ability Bartlett's to meet her support team for food and water at the end of the run has also been hampered by a lack of phone reception. In one instance, she was forced to take two hitches to get to camp, arriving after 6 p.m. Additionally, their car's engine recently needed repair after a coil broke.
The Relation to the Community
But good things do come along with bad. She cites the instance when they encountered car trouble as one where "we had people reach out and offer their car to finish the journey." "This global community's support has been so inspiring and humbling."
Even though she has run about three-quarters of her mileage alone, she has also had the opportunity to run with people who reach out to her as she passes through their town, and occasionally, her partner has joined her on foot or by bike to take pictures of the scenery. The best part, according to her, is when a town anticipates her visit and organizes a group run for her.
Murray-Bartlett acknowledges that running alone carries some risks, particularly for women, but she also points out that serious attacks on women, like those that have occurred recently in the U.S., are extremely uncommon in Australia. She claims, "I feel safe enough in Australia to run alone pretty much in any town or city." "I'd rather live my life the way I think I should and handle a situation as it comes up."
For now, she appreciates the opportunity to be a part of this adventure. "It was great to travel through her own country like this," she says. "It pretty much reconnects you."