Imagine your flight is grounded by bad weather, but instead of waiting for the next plane off the tarmac, you simply lace up your running shoes and hit the road.
When Lizzy Hawker, a 36-year-old British ultrarunner (and Active Times 50 athlete), got stuck in Nepal’s Himalayas en route to a connecting flight in Kathmandu, nearly 200 miles away, that’s just what she did, and broke her own record along the way.
In 2007, it took Hawker 74 hours and 36 minutes to run the same route, from Everest Base Camp to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, nonstop. This time, in 2011, less rested than on her earlier record run, and following directly on the heels of a nine-stage trail race through Nepal’s most rugged terrain, Hawker shaved over three hours from her time. Her return run clocked in at 71 hours and 25 minutes.
Near the middle of her journey, where the trail turned to road, Hawker linked up with Kathmandu runner Roger Henke and three other Nepalese friends, whose van served as her resupply zone. She ate, rehydrated, and napped in the backseat when her coordination began to fail late in the second day.
“Throughout the three days, she slept maybe four and a half hours, never more than 50 minutes at a time,” Henke said.
The van trailed Hawker through the remainder of her journey, with her friends taking turns running beside her. This story is just one recent example of her incredible work ethic and mental fortitude, two of the primary traits that allowed her in 2005 to enter—as an amateur, recreational runner—and win the elite 100-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.
Since then, Hawker’s made huge strides in the sport of ultrarunning, from the 100k World Championship she won in 2006 to her recent National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award. For more on Hawker’s accomplishments, check out her bio in The Active Times 50, our list of the world's 50 best outdoor and endurance athletes.