FRONTLINE: 60 Seconds With Jacqueline Eastridge

Ultra-marathoner Jacqueline Eastridge

It’s not every day you meet someone who’s run an ultra-marathon in the Sahara, so we jumped at the chance to interview Wynnewood’s Jacqueline Eastridge. For seven days last October, the 46-year-old paralegal at Pepper Hamilton endured lost luggage, gastrointestinal distress and bleeding, blistered feet to raise money for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia through Racing the Planet ( Covering more than 38 miles pushed Eastridge to her limit, but never once did she consider quitting. In the end, she was the 42nd of 55 competitors to finish.

MLT: What is Racing the Planet?

JE: It’s an organization that hosts races on four continents in the hottest (Sahara), coldest (Antarctica), windiest (Gobi Desert) and driest (Atacoma, Chile) places in the world. All the distances are the same. Some people run for a cause, others simply to conquer another ultra-marathon.

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MLT: Is there a specific designation at CHOP for the money you raised?

JE: I selected the Child Life Education and Creative Arts Therapy Fund. It’s the department that provides all levels of therapeutic services—pet therapy, sports activities, private tutoring—to critically ill, long-term patients.

MLT: What was your biggest fear going into the race?

JE: Honestly, I had none. It’s part of my personality—I never quit anything. I didn’t want the DNF (did not finish) next to my name. My firm was behind me—there wasn’t any fear. There was some angst when my stuff didn’t arrive and I thought I might be disqualified for not having everything I needed. On the long day, when we had to run through the night, I did worry about getting lost.

MLT: What did you tell yourself each day to keep focused?

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JE: That this was where I wanted to be and why I had trained so hard. Quitting just because I was tired or sick wasn’t good enough. If they medically pulled me, that’s a different story.

MLT: Your blog refers to the “desert gods.” Did you feel a spiritual connection to the environment?

JE: Egypt has so much history—I kept thinking, “This is where Moses walked.” It was the most incredible experience of my life. At my lowest point, I did what I said I wouldn’t: I pulled off my pack, flopped down in the sand, looked up at the sky and told God I really needed a little bit of help.

MLT: Was this the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

JE: Without a doubt. I became acutely aware of the difference between discomfort and pain.

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MLT: Did it feel like the journey got easier or harder each day?

JE: Getting over being so sick at the start helped me grow mentally stronger each day. I did hit a meltdown point. But when I realized how far I’d come and that the end was in sight, I felt stronger than ever.

MLT: You’ll probably never look at your feet the same way.

JE: That’s true. They’re not attractive in the least. I was contemplating a pedicure when they heal, but I think they’re pretty scary. However, I love them because they carried me so far, and I realized that my feet are the reason I completed this amazing feat.

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