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He's run through the sand of the Sahara Desert, raced across Death Valley and next month Albert Martens of Steinbach will be running with the polar bears in Churchill. Martens is helping organize the first ever Polar Bear Marathon November 20th through Athletes In Action.
Martens has used ultra-running to raise approximately $250,000 for various charities over the years. He has run 46 full marathons, 11 Ultra Marathons and through the course of his life has run 40,074 kilometres, equal to the distance of once around the world.
The idea for the Polar Bear Marathon came from Antarctic Mike (Pierce) from San Diego. Pierce was in Manitoba two winters ago and ran in Winnipeg with Martens in -30 temperatures.
"He wanted something colder and tougher and further north," notes Martens. They decided upon the idea of running in Churchill right after the tourist season. Martens says that way there will be hotel space and likely bears walking around.
Nearly twenty runners have registered from around the world including Manitoba, the United States, Germany and Australia. Martens expects they will run in groups of four. Each group will be accompanied by a vehicle with a bear watcher. "I think they will have some ammunition of some sort to protect us, because they of course are very interested in keeping us safe," says Martens.
Martens anticipates very challenging conditions. He expects frigid temperatures and a strong, salty wind. "I suppose if the Hudson Bay is not frozen the bears will be around too, so we will have to contend with the safety for the runners," he says.
The race is expected to be run down a gravel road with large rocks and no trees for shelter. "So we'll be exposed to the elements and challenges of the wind and the extreme cold possibly," notes Martens.
He jokes though called a marathon, it's not a race and the goal is simply to finish.
Two days later, on November 22nd, Athletes In Action is holding a dessert night fundraiser in support of their First Nations Ministry. Martens says Eric Alexander will be the evening's guest speaker. Alexander is the author of Faith Beyond Everest's Death Zone. Alexander has climbed the highest mountains on all six continents with a handicapped climber. He also took Eric Weihenmeyer, a blind climber to the summit of Mount Everest.
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