After completing seven marathons on seven continents – plus the North Pole Marathon – since 2011, what does partially paralyzed San Clemente athlete Beth Sanden do for an encore?
How about completing the Southern Africa Challenge – seven 26.2-mile marathons in seven days in seven countries— on her handcycle?
Sanden, 63, returned home Aug. 7 from a whirlwind series of marathons that ended up taking eight days instead of seven because instability in Mozambique led the organizers to do the seventh marathon in Zambia instead. She and her husband Burt were welcomed by locals, dodged some wildlife and overcame travel obstacles through South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia.
An accomplished marathoner and triathlete, Sanden was paralyzed below the waist by a 2002 bicycle accident. With grit and determination, she regained some of her mobility and left behind her wheelchair. She is able to walk with the use of a cane. She has become a face for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, doing triathlons and marathons using a handcycle.
We asked Sanden about the Southern Africa Challenge:
Q: What led you to do seven marathons in seven African countries?
A: I met three friends in the Antarctica race from two years ago that encouraged me to do the race with them. We kept in touch through social media. One of the friends was the organizer of this challenge and race director, Ziyad Rahim. Ziyad (or “Z” as we call him) owns “Z Adventures” and puts together marathon challenges around the world.
Q: What were some of the adventures you encountered during the challenge?
A: We had more adventures to fill a book in the short time we were together. We had several challenges. Crossing the borders of seven different countries is a feat in itself, acquiring visas…