When Warrnambool Athletics Club's Alison Hovey completed her 14,080-kilometre virtual run around Australia on Thursday, she asked herself "what now?".
It didn't take long to come up with a new goal.
"I'm now starting my journey around New Zealand because it's a lot smaller," she said with a laugh.
She still has months left on her Run Down Under (RDU) subscription and is keen to make the most of it.
"I don't know if we'll be allowed to (because of the coronavirus pandemic) but the plan would be to finish another country (New Zealand) and actually do a run in that country but we'll see," she said.
Hovey became the 215th person to complete RDU since the concept started in 2014.
Rather than literally running around Australia, RDU is about virtually running around the nation.
So runners can run or walk (with intent) anywhere at any time and log their distance on the RDU mobile application or online.
It's become an international phenomenon with different courses around the world.
RDU starts at Canberra, goes anti-clockwise around Australia, and finishes at Sydney. Participants receive emails throughout their journey as they arrive at different towns.
"I've learned a lot about towns around Australia that I might never think to visit in real life," Hovey said.
"There are a lot of places up the top of the Northern Territory and Western Australia I'd love to see."
The Grassmere resident joined RDU on January 1 2016 and started with a 5km New Year's Day run at her property.
Friends Kellie Mentha and Leah Kermeen, who also do RDU, inspired her to get involved and supported her right through the five years, eight months and two days it took to complete.
Consistency was key to Hovey's mammoth milestone and she averaged 47.6kms per week or 6.8kms per day.
Her longest week was 85.23kms and her longest run 44.95kms.
She experienced a mix of feelings at the finish line.
"It was relief that I had actually done it because for a long time it just seemed so far off," she said.
She stormed home in the past two years, registering her most kms - 3,007 - in 2020.
"A couple of years ago my estimated finish date was 2022 or 2023 but the more you run you can bring that finish date down," she said.
Hovey had hoped to mark the finish with a big celebration at Warrnambool parkrun but parkrun is off at the moment due to pandemic restrictions.
Regardless she enjoyed her low-key celebration - a sunrise run which finished at Warrnambool's Cannon Hill.
The keen runner said it took a while to virtually complete some states.
"The Northern Territory seemed to take ages and it took me a couple of years to get through Western Australia and then going across the Nullabor took a long, long time," she said.
"Once I got back into Victoria, it went pretty quickly from there."
Hovey was disappointed the course didn't go through Warrnambool but it does pass through Mortlake and Derrinallum.
It's ironic considering she did most of her running in Warrnambool.
Hovey's effort consisted of the 2018 Great Ocean Road Marathon, the 2019 Sydney Marathon and numerous half-marathons.
She and her son James, 14, have been regulars at Warrnambool parkrun at Lake Pertobe.
The school teacher and mother-of-three would do most of her running early in the morning before work.
The Warrnambool Athletics Club member also clocked up plenty of kilometres during club events and is one of several WAC runners doing RDU.
Hovey is also involved in a Facebook group of runners with many doing RDU.
She raved about the community aspect of the challenge.
"It's really good because you can keep track of each other on the map and there are leaderboards," she said.
"Every time someone finishes or gets to a major town, it's put on Facebook and you virtually congratulate each other."
"It's been good particularly this year and last year when a lot of real events are cancelled and a lot of sports are cancelled because of COVID - but you can keep running during COVID.
"So I think virtual events have really taken off in the past year or two because of it."
It's an impressive return from someone who only took up running two years prior to starting the virtual event.
"I just remember I was going along Warrnambool promenade one day - I used to walk regularly - and I just thought I might give running a go," she said.
She started with 20 seconds of running and then gradually built up.
"It's sort of an addictive thing, the endorphins are pretty good," she said.
"Once I started I just didn't stop."
She said her brother, Andrew, had completed ironmans in the past and her dad, Alan, ran marathons when she was growing up.
There are more virtual maps as part of Run The World, which Run Down Under and Run New Zealand are part of.
There's Run Around UK and Ireland, Run Around Europe and Run Around USA.
Warrnambool Running Festival was cancelled for a second straight year last week due to uncertainty surrounding coronavirus restrictions.
WAC has provided distance-running events this year with some virtual and some in-person races.
Alison Hovey's distance by year:
2016 - 2121km
2017 - 2189km
2018 - 2435km
2019 - 2485km
2020 - 3007km
2021 - 1834km
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