In the 1990s Tory Toogood was a world champion rower. These days she may have left her boat behind but her sense of adventure lives on as she runs all over the planet and raises money for the Jodi Lee Foundation along the way.
Tory was a member of the Australian Rowing team from 1991 to 1996 and during that time experienced more than her fair share of success on the water. After retiring from elite level sport in 1996 after the Atlanta Olympics, she did all the things more regular people tend to do – finished university, pursued her chosen career as a physiotherapist, and raised her two children. Fitness pursuits were, by her own admission, “sporadic” for the better part of 15 years.
All that changed in 2011 when she caught the running bug and ran the New York Marathon. Unlike some people who may be tempted to tick the marathon box off their list and move on to something different, Tory was hooked and came up with a new goal: to run a marathon on every continent on Earth. The plan included the Great Wall Marathon (Asia), Adelaide Marathon (Australia), Kilimanjaro Marathon (Africa), Amsterdam Marathon (Europe), Caracas Marathon (South America) and finally, the Antarctica Marathon.
“After returning from New York and getting married just before Christmas, I took the whole ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry’ mantra a little too far and gained a few kilos” she says with a wry smile. “I decided I am the sort of person who needs extrinsic goals. I need to do it for more than just me. I started going to the gym again and firmed up some goals which included running seven marathons on seven continents and supporting the Jodi Lee Foundation and bowel cancer awareness.”
True to her word, Tory set about running marathons on each of those continents, but as with most life plans, hers weren’t without a few unintended detours. Things progressed relatively smoothly until earlier in the year when she planned to run the final two marathons relatively close together to save time and money traveling.
The Caracas Marathon was set for just two weeks before the Antarctica Marathon, but with just 48 hours to go, her best laid plans were derailed. “An email arrived at 7:06am from Marathon Caracas explaining they were postponing the marathon due to violent political protests. In my case, the delay meant it was effectively cancelled. I felt flat as I was really looking forward to finishing this project that had been three years in the planning and two years in the execution.”
Despite the last minute hiccup, the Antarctica Marathon was still on, as was her new I/O Merino Arizona Hoody and Highpoint Necktube she’d bought for the occasion. “I started towards the front of the 98 other runners and settled into what I think was about 10th position. The hills were short, sharp, and very icy, so I hiked up them, and then really enjoyed running down them fast. During the race I found myself as the leading female. I’d gone into the run hoping for a top three finish, not knowing anything about the caliber of the other runners, but hoping in a small field I could have a chance.”
It turns out she had a very good chance, and as the race progressed, as so often happens with driven people, Tory upgraded her goals. “I was feeling OK heading past the 28km mark and was looking forward to more technical ground that I seemed to be handling well and by that point, I really wanted to win.”
Over the next 10kms Tory overcame minor hiccups like missing jackets, deteriorating weather, vicious headwinds and lost energy gels to keep up a competitive pace, all the while looking over her shoulder to see how far ahead of the next female runner she was. “I was really concerned about Kelly, (the next runner), catching up to me. I didn’t like my chances of out-running her side by side. Having led for this long, I really didn’t want to mess it up. To not win at that point was going to dent my pride” she said.
At the final turn around point Tory calculated she was approximately seven minutes ahead of the next runner and pushed on into the headwind. “That felt really close so I knew I had to keep up the pace – jacket zipped up, face huddled into the soaking wet merino necktube, sucking the air through it, tapping my numb finger tips, ignoring my aching feet and willing myself onwards.”
Almost 42 long, cold kilometers later and with one last icy hill to climb Tory finally approached the finish line. “The dozen or so people in the finish area were cheering and a tape had been held across for me to break through. I won a running race. My first ever running win!”
From being the slowest in her class at primary school, Tory had come a long way, literally, to win her first ever race in the most unlikely of places.
As for what’s next, other than finishing her seventh continent marathon? “I have a long list of runs to do now, all over the world. Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset, Inca Trail, Patagonia, Galapagos, Easter Island, Himalayan 100 Miler”. Who knows where Tory’s adventures will take her next. One thing’s for sure, though, it doesn’t look like Tory will be hanging up her running shoes any time soon. And if she’s heading somewhere cold, no doubt she’ll be taking her natural I/O Merino wool thermal base layers with her.
The Jodi Lee Foundation exists to educate people about the importance of bowel cancer screening and early detection saves lives. You can find out more about Tory and her fundraising efforts at ToryToogood.com.au