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Thu Oct 23 12:14:43 SAST 2014

SA man the first blind marathon runner in Antarctica

AFP Relaxnews | 25 February, 2013 08:33
Runners at the Antarctica Marathon next month will be running alongside penguins on King George Island.
Image by: ©AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU

A blind man from South Africa and a 14-year-old athletic prodigy from the US are among a group of 20 people hoping to become the latest runners to have completed a marathon on all seven continents after they attempt to traverse Antarctica next month.

In what is known as The Last Marathon, the group of elite athletes will run 42.2 km on King George Island off the coldest, windiest and most remote continent on Earth, where they will run alongside icebergs, penguins, seals and whales.

Near the end of the Antarctic summer season, runners will tread gravel roads that pass the scientific bases of Uruguay, Chile, China and Russia, in temperatures that hover between -10C (15F) to 1C (34F).

Since the first edition of the Antarctica Marathon in 1995, meanwhile, the Seven Continents Club has inducted a small club of 367 runners into the exclusive group.

Among this year’s group is Hein Wagner, 40, of South Africa, who will become the first blind runner to race in the Antarctica Marathon, a feat meant to promote the integration of disabled persons in the workplace, sports arenas and the arts.

Also racing will be Winter Vinecki of Oregon, a nationally ranked triathlete, aerial skiing Olympic hopeful and, at 14, the youngest runner to tackle the Antarctica Marathon if she completes it next month.

Meanwhile, though running a marathon in one of the world’s final frontiers will be a trip, the journey to the Antarctic will be an odyssey in itself as athletes travel an average of 10 460 km each in a 14-day journey from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina – the southern-most city in the world.

There they will board Akademik Ioffe, a Russian icebreaker, for a two-day crossing of one of the roughest seas in the world, the Drake Passage.

The two-week expedition will also include landings, sea kayaking and wildlife viewing.

The event is organized by Marathon Tours & Travel and proceeds of the marathon will go to Oceanites, a non-profit organization that researches the impact of tourism on Antarctica’s environment.

The 14th annual Antarctica Marathon will be held March 7. The event is sold out until 2016.

Also in March is the Annapurna 100, another ultra-marathon with 50, 70 and 100 km courses that winds throughout Nepal.

Iconic ultra-race the Marathon des Sables, meanwhile, which takes place over six days in the Saharan desert and covers the equivalent of five marathons, is set for April 5 to 15 in Morocco.

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