Viviene Kartsounis - Now THIS is a race

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Originally appeared in the North Shore Times, 6th October 2006


SO you were happy with being able to haul yourself up Awaba St in the Balmoral Burn? You own a ragged, faded shirt proclaiming ``I made it from a long-gone City to Surf.

You boast to your friends about completing the recent Sydney Half-marathon or maybe even the full version over the ancient distance.

Well if the Viviene Kartsounis was doing a Crocodile Dundee impersonation, her response might be along the lines of ``that's not a race this is a race!

Kartsounis is bracing herself for a real test of fortitude; something she describes as ``the biggest challenge of my life.

For on Sunday, the 42-year old mother of two from Turramurra will compete in one of the most demanding events on earth the IAU 100km World Cup.

Competitors will run 10 circuits of a 10km course and Kartsounis can't be sure of how long that will take her to negotiate.

In her only other 100km race, she finished in nine and a half hours, however that was on the Gold Coast in the middle of winter.

This time, she'll be dealing with the high humidity of South Korea.

Then there's the other unpredicatable variables such as injuries, hydration, the possibility of cramping and an upset stomach.

Kartsounis has already had to overcome one major hurdle to reach the starting line in Seoul.

She was told by a podiatrist that she should abandon her plans to compete in the World Cup, following a foot injury she suffered in the Gold Coast event, where she earned the right to represent Australia for the first time since migrating from her native South Africa via Malaysia four years ago.

``That just made me even more determined to do it, she said of that rejected recommendation.

Kartsounis even used last month's Sydney Marathon as a practice run to make sure she was on track for the big one.

What remains though, is the question that people invariably ask her: why does she do it?

``I just love to run, she explained. ``It's the way I fly.

``It's a stress reliever and it also gives you self-worth and self-confidence.

Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that her running career didn't really begin until she was aged 35, long after the birth of her children, who are now aged 13 and 10.

Her first competitive marathon was the Kuala Lumpur International in 2001, however she quickly developed a thirst for longer journeys and has since tackled events like the Canberra 50km, Sydney Trailwalker and Gosford 12-hour track race, under the guidance of her coach Nick Drayton, who she credits for her late development as an athlete.

``I'm very competitive, said Kartsounis, who sees herself as an ambassador for ultra running and is keen to see more females try it.

``The harder it is, the more I go for it.

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