Donna breaks world record!

Congratulations to Donna Urquhart – ultra-marathon runner, physiotherapist, pain scientist, mother, and a huge inspiration to us all – for having achieved her history-making feat of setting a new Guinness World Record for the longest polar ultra-marathon in Antarctica!

Last year we had the pleasure of hearing Donna’s awe-inspiring story, where she talked about how her run was much more than breaking records. Her greater goal was to empower young girls and women to love and discover what’s possible for them in sport, and to break down the barriers that prevent them from participating.

On Thursday 11 January, Donna completed a total of 1312.26km in 26 days, after running 50-60km a day on a 10km loop track at Union Glacier in Antarctica. This surpasses the previous record of 1200km in a polar region set by fellow Australian Pat Farmer in 2012.

As she neared the finishing line passing the 1000km mark finish line, Donna sent Amaroo Club a special message on her experiences to that point and the importance of what she’s trying to achieve:

Hi everyone, I am currently emailing you from Antarctica in my quest for the longest run in a polar region. I am aiming to complete a distance of 1300km in the 30 day window I have available, and break a Guinness World record!  Having just completed Day 10 and having ticked off over 535km, I thought I would summarise my experiences so far by explaining as best I can the beauty and ruggedness of Antarctica, camp life, and the run process itself. I would like to invite you to join us on this journey, be it in the form of following my journey on social media, receiving our weekly newsletter, and more importantly helping me in my quest to make a difference to young women in sport by educating them on the benefits of sport, and teaching them mental resilience and skills to be able to cope with the demands of sport and life, and be fitter, healthier and happier young women.
Firstly, Antarctica. Well, there is nothing else to say but “wow”. I will never forget exiting the plane and standing in the doorway looking out for the first time and looking out over the most incredible beauty you can possibly imagine – this pristine, rugged, mountainous, vast sheet of bright white snow and ice. No words do justice to the feelings I felt and the sensations I experienced standing there and breathing in the Antarctica air for the first time. We were blessed with a beautiful day on arrival, and have had many since, but rest assured I saw this environment through a much harsher lens before too long.
Camp life is amazing – this temporary set up of structures and marquees and clam shell tents will be my home for 30 days. The tents are large enough for us to stand in, but not quite large enough to house our 30 day supply of clothing and shoes and additional food, so there’s not a lot of room for Rhys and I to move. Amongst the camp area are dotted various marquees or shelters where the activities of daily life are conducted – a huge meals tent, another that acts as a library and quiet area, a bathroom/shower block, and a toilet block. Although absolutely functional, being so separated from each other can be tiring, as you need to be constantly protected from the cold and the wind and the harsh light every time you step outdoors. So journeys from one section to another involve dressing with all the protective gear to get there, half undressing to complete the reason you are there, and dressing again to get to the next section, and repeating the process. Over breakfast I am running through a process of checking through numerous emails and whatsapp messages, doing a health questionnaire, a personal video diary, and a social media piece, and strategising for the day. All this whilst watching my crew get stuck into massive serves of bacon and eggs and chocolate pancakes whilst I eat my 3 slices of jam covered toast! I am sure they feel they are assisting in building my mental resilience by doing this, as second helpings for the crew are not uncommon.
I am running around a 10km loop at camp that is very carefully marked – not only for accuracy of distance, but to ensure I do not stray from the camp area due to the risk of the enormous crevasses that are in Antarctica, some which are visible by the naked eye from the running loop. It is an enormous logistical issue to get to the start line – from home tent to toilet facility, to breakfast tent, to bathroom facility, back to home tent to get ready, and then back to meals tent for the final footwear/clothing/nutrition adjustments. Oh, and a quick trip back to the toilet facility again before I start. The loop as mentioned is 10km long, and has a small structure at the 5km mark in case I need to shelter from the weather (which I have often needed to) or adjust clothing.
Over the 10 days so far, I have been subjected to everything that an Antarctic summer can throw at me – from amazing and stunning blue skies, bright sun, and a degree of warmth (despite the -10 temperature reading) through to brutal, windy, freezing, heavy snow and -17 degree conditions. I am managing to cover 5 – 6 loops most days, with a welcome lower mileage day coming up for Christmas. Physically I am good, with a little bit of knee pain being my main concern, but well managed for now, and the expected foot issues especially blisters from the ever changing terrain I am subjected to.
Ironically, when thinking back about the highlight of my time so far, I feel that this highlight is also my lowlight! That awful -17 degree day where I was not only bitterly cold and battling the heavy snow and awful winds, I was also scared. Visibility was near to zero, I couldn’t see where my feet were landing, and I was desperate to see the flag ahead of me that marked the course that I was not yet familiar yet. To be so lonely, and so scared in an inhospitable and unfamiliar environment was no doubt a lowlight. But together with the assistance of my team, we ticked off another 50km, another 5 loops and by doing that turned my lowlight into a highlight – I pushed through, I survived, I reached my goal, and in doing so developed another level of inner strength and confidence. If that day didn’t break me, which it didn’t, then I was armed with even more tools to face the next adversity. Face your fears is a mantra I hold close, and in doing so that day I came out a better and stronger person.
That experience above highlights the very purpose of my world record attempt. The record is a vehicle to create awareness of the battles that young girls face in life – mental health, resilience, coping mechanism, self belief, body image, the list goes on. My passion is to be able teach young girls the lessons that I have learnt in life, to build their “mental skills toolbox” to use in life, and I believe that these skills and the ability to remain healthy and happy goes hand in hand with staying in sport through those difficult teenage years. It is my purpose to not only teach these skills, but to reduce the sport drop out rate that is so concerning in teenage girls, and allow them to build friendships, network, have fun, and enjoy a great life.
There are so many ways you can assist me with this, and if you were able to in any way I would be very grateful.
• Please follow my journey on our socials by looking up runantarctica on Instagram or facebook
• Follow my every day, every loop, every kilometre by clicking on the “Live Tracking” button on our website:
• Donate to my cause and every dollar you donate will be used specifically to support our four charity partners and our own charity EmpowerHer Sport.
• I am planning a series of corporate talks for 2024 where I hope to convey the incredible story of Run Antarctica and my world record attempt. I will talk about my experience in Antarctica and touch on topics such as:

- Turning dreams into a reality

- The physical and mental skillsets needed to face adversity and challenge

- Mental resilience

- Facing fears

- Positive mindset

- Determining your limits and how to achieve them
If you would like to find out more, or engage my services please email me on
It has been brilliant to have the opportunity to be involved with the Phillips Foundation and the Amaroo Club, and I really look forward to returning your support during 2024.

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