Winter Vinecki should seriously contemplate changing her name to Wonder Winter. At only 15 years old, she has already accomplished what others set out to achieve in an entire lifetime. She is the youngest person to complete a marathon on all seven continents (yes, even in Antarctica) and is currently aspiring to become a summer and winter olympian. But if that’s not impressive enough, after losing her dad at the age of nine to prostate cancer, she also formed Team Winter, a non-profit organization focused on raising money for prostate cancer research and awareness.
All of this in memory of her dad.
1. How did your interest in triathlons begin?
Well, I started triathlons when I was five and what got me into triathlons was my uncle and my mom, since they both competed. So growing up, my brothers and I, and my dad would all go up to these different races and watch my uncle and my mom compete. At one of these adult races, there was actually a kids’ race and so I just decided – after seeing all these other kids getting ready to do the triathlon – that I wanted to try it. So I just tried it and slowly started doing more and more each year.
2. What is a typical day like for you when you’re not training for a triathlon?
In the summer time, when I don’t have school or anything – just on my days off – I love to hang out with my brothers and my friends. Since I’m living out in Park City, the summer time is really the main time I get to spend time with my brothers. The rest of the year, they are in Oregon, where they live with my mom. So I like being outdoors – to go swimming or mountain biking, and do something with my brothers. Or when I’m back in Oregon, I like to hang out with some of my friends that I went to public school with.
3. Can you describe what was going through your head the moment you finished a marathon on every continent?
Yes. It was 26.2 miles that I ran on every continent. It’s an interesting question because I always get asked “How does it feel to set the world record…”, but for me I don’t think it still has fully sunken in yet because I was just out there running and doing what I love and getting to explore the rest of the world and spread awareness for my dad.
4. Was there a specific marathon you remember the most or one that you liked the best?
One of my favorite ones was probably, actually the hardest one. It was the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and that was in Peru, for South America. It was labeled the toughest marathon in the world – and it really lived up to its name. It was going over 3 mile passes. One of them was called Dead Woman’s Pass, which is not very comforting. You get up to 14,000 feet, I believe, and you’re just climbing these stone stairs up and down these mountain passes. So it was extremely challenging, but it was probably the most memorable because that was where I got my first female victory. But because it was so hard, it really tested me mentally and physically.
5. What about the one that was the least difficult for you to complete?
I don’t know if I would say that there are any easy ones, because none of them I found easy. The course could be extremely hard like Peru. Even the quote “easier” courses, for instance – the Eugene Marathon, which was really flat and on road – was not easy because you have to run at a faster pace because there’s a time goal, so you’re not just trying to get to the finish line. There’s not really an easy course.
6. Favorite memory traveling?
One of the coolest things that I remember was, just part of the race, when I was in Kenya for the marathon. I remember I was about 20 miles in and there was this really steep, long, sandy dirt hill that we had to run up. There was this guy next to me that was walking up, but I was determined to keep running. When I started getting tired, these two little Kenyan boys came running up behind me, no parents in sight. Two young boys, bare feet, and they were running right beside me yelling “Jumbo!”, which means hello in Swahili. They were just yelling “Jumbo! Jumbo!” next to me, all the way to the top of the hill with me, which was really cool.
7. You started Team Winter in order to honor your dad, who passed away from prostate cancer. How did you get the idea for this organization?
Well, I knew I always wanted to start some sort of team, but instead of having just another triathlon team or running team, I wanted it to focus on something that would help make a difference. So I originally was going to form Team Winter for childhood obesity because I had done a 10k event in Clearwater, Florida – an Iron Girl running race – and as the top fundraiser, because you could choose a platform to race for, I raised $1,100 with my platform as childhood obesity. Less than a year later was when my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I knew I had to do something to help my dad immediately, so I switched Team Winter from childhood obesity to prostrate cancer.
8. What does the future have in store for you and Team Winter?
Coming up in September, we have our Team Winter S1x event. Last year was our first event and we had about 100 people and we raised $30,000. This will be our second year holding it so we hope it will continue to grow. What Team Winter S1x is is basically a virtual, online running race. There are people from around the world that can sign up on Althlete.com. They can set a mile goal and track their running and this is all throughout the month of September, which is Prostate Cancer Awareness month. They have family and friends pledge money per mile that they run, so each person raises money and we all come together to help spread awareness. There are also all these cool prizes awarded to the person who raised the most money or who ran the most miles, so we are going to make it a fun competition to help make a difference.
9. Something people don’t know about you?
Some people don’t realize that I’m still a normal kid. I still like to go hang out with my friends and I still have those struggles and have to make sacrifices. I’m not just this magical person that has all these amazing things without sacrifices.
10. Super Hero name?
11. Scenario: You’re stranded on beach, but thankfully you have your ______.
Winter is a dream chaser, go getter and world record breaker. She’s truly an inspiration to all of us non-marathon running folks at Clapway. We can only stand on the sidelines and cheer as she takes the world by storm.