As naturally competitive as Mary Ann Weber is, she doesn’t insist on being first all the time. The former Santa Rosa dentist is perfectly content, for example, to be the 126th woman on Earth to travel to all seven continents to do something both agonizing and exhilarating.
Weber, now a part-time acupuncturist, joined one of the planet’s most elite clubs this summer. She earned her place by pushing herself to finish fifth in South Africa’s Big Five Marathon.
The run draws its name from the number of species of top-tier Africa animals the runners hope to spot from a safe distance: Lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, water buffalo.
“I saw all five,” smiled Weber, fit and lithe at 50, at her home near Howarth Park.
Most fellow humans would consider it the ultimate physical achievement to have finished just that one exotic marathon. But as Weber crossed the finish line in the Entabeni Game Reserve, the Sonoma Valley High alumna became one of only 126 women and 325 men to complete at least one marathon — 26.2 miles — on each continent.
For this new member of the Seven Continents Club, there is no better, more personally gratifying way to see and experience the world.
“When you come across the finish line you feel you’ve accomplished something,” Weber says.
That’s true, of course, of completing any marathon. The supreme bonus of her mission is that it has taken her to strikingly beautiful, challenging locations around the world, and in the company of a most extraordinary strain of people.
“There’s just this spirit of adventure,” Weber notes, among those few individuals drawn to run for hours on and along China’s Great Wall, the Olympic course in Greece or on Antarctica’s stunning but raw King George Island.
Beyond the extreme physical and psychological challenges and the immense satisfaction of enduring them, the extraordinary landscapes and the camaraderie, there has, for Weber, been one more key element of the international marathon circuit.
The animals. While in Chile this past April for the Santiago Marathon, she was distressed to see so many dogs living on the streets. On Easter Island, she befriended a small, sweet-tempered tan dog with a bum leg and took her to a vet, who concluded the leg had been broken by a kick.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do something. I have to do something for this dog.’”
Today, “Nui” is all healed, but for a slight limp, and she lives and runs with Weber and the marathoner’s two buffed Doberman pinschers, Spencer and Charlotte.
Weber’s visit to Africa in June for the marathon in the vast wildlife preserve in northern South Africa awakened her to the plight of the black rhinos killed for their horns, prized as an aphrodisiac.
“The poaching has become so bad that these creatures are going to be gone,” she said. She’ll be in her running shoes and in San Francisco on Oct. 4 for this region’s contribution to the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos.
The myriad benefits of running have been to key to Weber’s life since she first hit the streets with her dad, Manny, in Sonoma when she was in the seventh-grade.
She recalls, “My first pair of running shoes were Adidas TRXs. I thought they were the coolest thing.”