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Long Islanders log daily marathons across the globe, despite exhaustion

Cara Nelson, a teacher at East Hampton Middle

Cara Nelson, a teacher at East Hampton Middle School, participates in a marathon in Antartica on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, the first of seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Credit: Cara Nelson

The two Long Islanders currently running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents are doing well, considering.

They continue to clock mile after mile in the World Marathon Challenge, despite the fatigue, a dearth of sleep and a laundry list of running injuries. On Thursday, their third race had them running 26.2 miles in Perth, Australia.

“My body is breaking down more than I expected,” Cara Nelson, 31, a teacher at East Hampton Middle School, said in an email Thursday. “But I am mentally strong and I know that it is going to carry me to each finish line!”

Bret Parker, 49, spoke by phone Thursday while he was running the marathon in Perth. Parker, who lives in Sag Harbor and Manhattan, is running despite being diagnosed a decade ago with Parkinson’s disease. When his body is stressed, he can suffer cramps and severe stiffness.

“I really don’t know what day it is,” Parker said. He’s been hit with cramps and pain in his legs and has fought through a bout of intense shivers. “The thought of not finishing is too much to bear.”

Thursday marked Day 3 of this mother of all marathons. By then, the pair had completed marathons in Antarctica on Tuesday and South Africa on Wednesday.

Nelson is bringing her school’s students along for the ride, thanks to social media. She’s posting video blogs of herself during each race, sharing her experience and assigning lessons, as well.

During the first race in Antarctica, Nelson blogged about the struggle of running in one of the coldest, windiest places on the planet. Then she gave the kids some homework.

“Even though I am running on snow, Antarctica is the largest desert in the world,” she said. “So your question is, what constitutes a desert, and why is Antarctica considered one?”

In Thursday’s video post, she seemed at one point to be on the verge of tears. The race started late, so she had to run while wearing a light on her head. Running in the middle of the night was taking a toll on her, she said, and then her voice began to crack.

“I’m exhausted. I can’t even keep track what time zone I’m in, I’ve changed through so many,” Nelson said. Then, just as quickly, she regained her composure. “The event officially ends at 5:15 in the morning and at 6:45 we have to be off to the airport to Dubai. I have one more lap to go. Whooo!”

Both Nelson and Parker said the camaraderie among the 50 participants was helping them get through. Many are not professional competitors, but people with a really ambitious bucket list.

Parker acknowledged he’s doing a lot of walking. The goal is not to beat anyone; just finish, he said.

As he spoke, he recalled the desolate yet stunning vistas of Antarctica, the pain with which he started the second race, and the intense mood swings that accompany this herculean effort.

“Over the past 5 or 6 hours, I’ve been alternating between crying and laughing,” he said.

On Friday, they’ll hit the ground running in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Then it’s a quick skip to Lisbon, Portugal; Cartagena, Colombia; and then the final finish line in Miami on Monday.

“I hope I’m laughing,” Parker said.

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