If you think walking with polar bears at one of our lodges might get your heart racing, how about running with them? That’s just what 16 elite athletes from around the world will be doing in Churchill, Manitoba on November 20, 2012, when they compete in the Polar Bear Marathon at a distance of what could be 50 km.
Why would you want to run 50 km in -40 degree temperatures surrounded by polar bears, wolves and other less dangerous and assorted arctic wildlife?
Charity is the first reason, as the runners will be supporting the Native (First Nations people of Canada’s North) ministry work of Athletes in Action (AIA) Baseball camps. The second reason would obviously be the remote location and adventure and the third would be bragging rights to doing something that’s never been done before.
The run will support the work of the Athletes in Action (AIA) in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, 250 km west of Churchill. AIA has done baseball camps in two different First Nations communities for the past eight years. The work is based on volunteers and donations and this isolated group of people is served with contributions of sports equipment and various community events that let them know they are loved and not forgotten.
The remote location of Churchill is well known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” and Manitoba’s beluga whale watching hotspot. And besides being a birder’s paradise, it is also one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights, especially as winter approaches. The Polar Bear Marathon will take place just as the polar bears are getting ready to move out on to the ice for the winter, which of course will add more than ample adventure to the trek.
The adventure seekers and marathoners who have signed up to participate in the Polar Bear Marathon hail from Germany, the USA and both Steinbach and Churchill, Manitoba, and include Eric Alexander, an amazing athlete and mountain climber who not only climbed Mt. Everest, but also escorted and helped a blind climber summit Everest. Also among the participants are a marathoner from San Diego who has run in a 100 km event at the South Pole, another from Germany who has run in over 150 marathons, and an extreme event specialist.
Due to the harsh environment and the weather conditions, the Polar Bear Marathon will be run in tight groups as a “gentleman’s run” and runners will have to stay together due to the presence of polar bears, foxes, wolves and weather. Vehicles will accompany runners from both behind and in front for safety reasons and to serve as mobile aid stations. The exact route is yet to be determined.
“It looks like we’ll being going with four runners per group right now,” said organizer Albert Martens. “We might have room for a few more participants but they would have to contact me very soon. Right now we have four vehicles lined up to go with the runners. There will be a dinner with medal presentations and a polar bear slideshow presentation by Churchill Wild’s chief professional photographer Dennis Fast after the run. There will also be a German journalist covering the event.”
Every summer, Albert Martens flies into remote and isolated First Nation communities to do sports camps. These remote communities have included Pauingassi and Tadoule Lake in Manitoba and Poplar Hill in Ontario. Martens and up to eight volunteers help the children and youth with baseball and bible classes, while also serving the adults with Men’s Breakfasts, Ladies Teas, and other community events. All work and expenses are covered by personal donations and volunteer staff.
“Convinced of good support, reliable vehicles, and a small, slow group of runners, I have agreed to do this event and run my first marathon,” said Alexander on his Higher Summits Web site. “Running in the realm of the polar bear, I suspect I have a good shot at a world record. Well, this is not just a fun run to sightsee and avoid predation; this is a benefit for Athletes in Action and their commitment to helping the indigenous people of the far north. I will be speaking at a fund-raising dinner after the run (provided I survive the run) and am thereby pledging to help Athletes in Action. This is where you can help – please consider a donation to Athletes in Action to reach a group of people that you may never otherwise get to meet.”
The Dessert Night Fundraiser Alexander was speaking of will take place on November 22, 2012 at Canad Inns in Winnipeg in support of the AIA First Nations Ministry. Alexander will be the keynote speaker at the event, which will feature highlights and images of the Polar Bear Marathon along with the premier showing of the AIA – Grand Canyon running documentary.
A renowned speaker and the author of The Summit: Faith Beyond Everest’s Death Zone, Alexander is a person who embodies a picture of hope and possibility for all of us. For more information, please visit his Web site at www.HigherSummits.com. For additional information on the Polar Bear Marathon, please contact Albert Martens by phone at (204) 346-1345, via email at [email protected] or visit his Web site at www.AlbertMartens.com. There are bound to be questions, and for good reason.
“It’s never been done before,” said Martens.
Related Story: Steinbach Man Organizing Polar Bear Marathon
Donations towards AIA First Nations Ministry may be made by issuing a cheque in USA or CDN currency payable to Athletes in Action and mailed to Eric Alexander or Albert Martens at the addresses below.
PO Box 6102
Vail, Colorado 81658 USA
Canada R5G 0V5
USA or CDN tax receipts will be issued to the donor.