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La Puente girl attempting to run seven marathons on seven continents

La Puente girl trying to run 7 marathons on 7 continents, set world record
12-year-old girl heads to Paraguay as part of record-setting marathon goal
La Puente girl, 12, raises money for charity as she attempts to set marathon record

It was around mile 24 of the Orange County Marathon when tears started to well in 12-year-old Blanca Ramirez's eyes.

"Mija, we weren't supposed to finish this marathon. If you want to stop, stop," her father, Dimas Ramirez of La Puente, told her.

"Dad, I want to finish because I want to help the kids," Blanca said, as her father remembered it.

The marathon was supposed to be only a trial race -- if Blanca was going to try to become the youngest person to run seven marathons on seven continents, after all, her father thought it was only practical to use the O.C. Marathon to test her conditioning. 

Ramirez obliged with his daughter's request to continue, periodically checking on her to make sure she was hydrated while keeping pace with her on bike and on foot, as he and Blanca's older sisters do at all her marathons.

Blanca was motivated to finish, Ramirez explained, because she raises money for Operation Smile, a nonprofit that provides free surgery to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and facial deformities for children, through her running.

About a year ago, the incoming seventh-grader at Grandview College Preparatory Academy in Valinda decided she was going to run competitively.

Since then, she's run a gamut of local races -- starting with 5Ks and graduating to the O.C. and L.A. marathons -- and embarked on a chase for a record. 

To date, Blanca has competed in North America, Africa and Asia and looks to add South America to the list when she competes Aug. 10 at the International Marathon of Asuncion in Paraguay.

Blanca's record-setting ambitions have taken her to a humid, high-altitude trail in Rwanda, as well as the peaceful grasslands of inner Mongolia, where she was greeted with relative fanfare after being featured in a magazine distributed at the race.

"She was pretty much treated like a celebrity," Ramirez said. "People started recognizing her, taking pictures."

The travel has also broadened Blanca's worldview, allowing her to experience cultural offerings, such as the Great Wall of China and a memorial center dedicated to remembering the Rwandan genocide.

"You get to see a lot of new things, meet new people while you're running, make new friends," Blanca said.

The youngest person to run a marathon on each of the continents is believed to be Winter Vinecki, who completed the feat as a 14-year-old. Vinecki was raised in Michigan and Oregon, according to her website.

For Blanca, the idea to embark on the record-setting challenge was born when she and her two teenage sisters, also athletes, researched it online. They brought the idea to Ramirez, who, after some initial apprehension, agreed.

It hasn't been cheap, Ramirez said, estimating it costs up to $5,000 to finance each trip. He forecasts that competing in Antarctica in March 2015 will be the most costly -- at least $10,000. 

Now that Blanca has gained more fameand slowly made believers out of those who initially doubted her, Ramirez said they plan on seeking sponsorships more zealously for future trips. 

Ramirez, who said financial issues prevented him from participating in sports as a teenager, didn't want the same limitations to inhibit his children's dreams.

"I want them to not take no for an answer," he said. "You set your mind to it, do it."

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @debbietruong or email her at debbie.truong@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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