Winter Vinecki: Running for a cause
Fourteen-year-old Winter Vinecki of Park City knows what things in life are truly tough.
In 2013, she is on a quest to run a marathon on all seven continents and become the youngest person ever to do so.
But 183.4 miles of marathons will be easy compared to dealing with the loss of her father to prostate cancer, a pain she feels every day.
"Most people think it would get easier and easier," she said. "But losing my dad five years ago it’s gotten harder and harder. I’m reminded of him more every day and, as I get more reminded of him, I know I’m doing this for him. I get my motivation from there."
Vinecki, who has already completed marathons in North America and Africa, recently became the youngest person to complete a marathon on Antarctica.
The weather conditions were too poor for the runners to get on the mainland before race day, so she had no idea what she was in for when she stepped from the boat onto the ice.
"The land felt weird," she said. "I had never had anything like it before. It was just from not being able to go on shore before the race and get rid of our sea legs. The ground felt like it was bouncing under me."
Several other obstacles like penguins, a seal, and frozen ponds blocked the trail, but Vinecki kept pushing on, eventually taking third place in the women’s division.
She said she and her mother, Dawn Estelle, who runs with her in all her big races, were glad the weather was manageable.
"We definitely lucked out on the weather," she said. "It was 20 degrees, but there was basically no wind. The winds can get up to like 100 miles per hour sometimes."
Shortly after she got off the mainland, the winds returned, making her trip back to America a little more adventurous.
"We got stuck in a hurricane," she said. "There were 30-foot waves and 70 mph winds."
But, overall, Vinecki said the trip was a pleasant experience.
"Antarctica is definitely the experience of a lifetime," she said. "It’s so much more than just going down to do a marathon."
Next, she’ll run the Inca Trail marathon, a race she said will be the hardest of them all.
"It’s 14,000 feet high and there’s 12,500 feet of climbing," she said. "It’s really narrow and there are tons of stairs. They say it will probably take me about nine hours."
Then it will be off to Mongolia in August, New Zealand in October and Greece in November to finish her quest to honor her late father that began with a book.
"I was sitting at home when we lived in Michigan and I was flipping through the Guinness Book of World Records," she said. "That’s when I happened to come across the youngest person to ever run a marathon on all seven continents and I knew immediately that I wanted to have that record for my dad."
Vinecki runs for Team Winter, an organization she started to help raise prostate cancer awareness. So far, she’s donated more than $400,000 to prostate cancer research.
Though she’s far surpassed her initial goal of $10,000, she said she’ll keep pushing to make men more aware of prostate cancer, something she finds it is tough for them to acknowledge.
"Prostate cancer affects one in six men," she said. "Breast cancer is one in eight women. But men don’t want to talk about it, so that’s why a 14-year-old girl has to do it."
She said the sky is the limit for where Team Winter goes in the future.
"I want to get a blue ribbon out there to match every pink ribbon," she said. "I want Team Winter to be as big as the Komen Foundation."
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