MISSOULA — Jessica Stabnau's original bucket list quest was to run a marathon on every continent, but then she changed her mind about Antarctica.
Come Easter weekend, Stabnau will have crossed her third continent and fourth geographic region off the list, as she's running in the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Two Oceans marathon came to her attention after one of her South African bar patrons at Charlie B's told her about the race.
"He mentioned this one and I kinda looked into it and it is self proclaimed as the world's most beautiful marathon," Stabnau said.
Being able to participate in the race has been a long time coming for Stabnau, as she's waited about five years for the right timing.
Stabnau is also speech therapist at two elementary schools in town and needed the race to fall over spring break week for Missoula County Public Schools.
"The last time it coincided with my spring break, I didn't get on to register in time," Stabnau said. "I got on the website the next morning and it was already booked."
This time around, Stabnau wasn't going to take any chances.
In the early hours of Nov. 1, hours after Halloween's festivities ended, Stabnau registered for the race.
"I had to wake up at 2 o'clock in the morning, which was 10 o'clock Cape Town time," Stabnau said. "... It took me two hours to get through the registration process, a lot of medical questionnaires and a lot of questions, but I got through it.
"It was about 4:30 in the morning I got my, 'You are in. You are registered. Congratulations.' At that point it's like, 'I don't have anyone to tell, everyone's sleeping. It's 4:30 in the morning.'"
The Two Oceans race will be Stabnau's second ultra-marathon. She ran the 50-kilometer RUT in Big Sky in 2016.
The Two Oceans course is very different to the training runs Stabnau's been doing this winter. The 56-kilometer race's highest elevation point is 840 feet, compared to Missoula's elevation of 3,200 feet.
Major portions of the course are at or near sea level, as she'll be running along both coastlines of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
"I think the biggest climb that I have to do is about 820 feet, which compared to what I'm used to here is going to be probably not as hard," Stabnau said.
And it's likely not going to snow down there, which is something that affected her training over the winter.
"It's been kind of a tough winter for training for doing all my long runs in Missoula because we've had a pretty snowy winter," Stabnau said. "It seems like every weekend when I have time to do my long run it's either raining or snowing. But I didn't really have any choice."
Outside of the RUT and the upcoming Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, Stabnau's completed 10 marathons, three of which have been the Missoula Marathon.
Five of the remaining seven have been on North America's mainland — including Portland, Phoenix, Boston and two in Minnesota: Duluth and Twin Cities.
She's also run a marathon in Maui, Hawaii, and in the Great Wall Marathon in China.
Stabnau said it's hard to pick a favorite, but if she had to choose, it'd be the Great Wall race.
"Great Wall was unbelievable, just because it was in China," Stabnau said.
She added: "That one was also really fun because I ran it with two of my good friends and I had little kids at the time so it was really kind of a big deal for me to be able to go out of town and do something like that."
A close second was the Boston Marathon in 2012.
The one negative: just how hot it was.
"Boston was amazing, but it was the second hottest Boston Marathon on record," she said.
Stabnau said another good thing that stands out about this marathon is that she gets to bring her two kids, a son and a daughter, along with her.
"I just love taking my kids to travel," she said.
The Stabnaus leave for South Africa on Friday and have a long, 38-hour trip ahead of them.
They'll fly out of Bozeman to Seattle, then from Seattle to Dubai and then from Dubai to Cape Town.
The Two Oceans Ultra Marathon kicks off at 6:30 a.m. South African Time on Friday, March 31 — which is 10:30 p.m. MDT on Thursday, March 30.