Polar bears, –30 C temps won't keep Halifax triathlete from North Pole run
'You sweat, you die,' says David van de Wetering, Canada's only runner in the race
David van de Wetering is on top of the world, literally.
The 52-year-old Halifax sales manager is participating in his first official marathon, going all the way to the North Pole to make it happen.
Van de Wetering is the only Canadian among the 45 people from around the globe running in the UVU North Pole Marathon, scheduled for Saturday. He flew to Norway and will be shipped to the geographical North Pole.
"If you're looking for the next marathon to do, Berlin? Paris? Well, why not the North Pole?" says van de Wetering.
His employer, telecommunications company Ciena, sent an email looking for someone willing to run what's being called "the world's coolest marathon."
'If you see the polar bear it's too late — they got you.'- David van de Wetering
Van de Wetering's name was picked from the hat in December. The triathlete has been training ever since.
Organizers have flown supplies for the marathon headquarters, which is on an Arctic ice floe.
The course is a several kilometre-long loop that the runners will repeat until they run the full marathon length of 42 kilometres.
All the while, people with tranquilizer guns will be standing guard against polar bears.
"You've got to have the appropriate number of polar guards that will tranquillize them. Because if you see the polar bear, it's too late — they got you, right?" said van de Wetering.
"There's that old saying, 'Just run faster than the guy beside you.'"
Organizers say, to date, no marathoner has seen a polar bear on the track.
Then there's the cold.
'The clothing is going to freeze'
Marathon organizer Richard Donovan said the forecast is calling for temperatures between –25 C and –30 C.
"The challenges include the cold and wind, which is making it feel a lot colder. And you're going to have to encounter hills of ice. That combination is quite tough," he said.
Van de Wetering spent a lot of time thinking about the right clothing to protect against that cold. He's wearing a base layer of merino wool underwear on his upper and lower body. On top of that, he has a layer of fleece and then a wind breaking shell, a hat, balaclava and goggles.
He's also wearing regular winterized running shoes.
"People told me, 'You sweat, you die' and it makes a lot of sense because once you sweat, the clothes get wet and you're not going to maintain that body heat," van de Wetering.
"You're going to get colder the head is going to get colder. The clothing is going to freeze and then you're going to get hypothermia eventually. And then you die."
Accomplished marathon runners are able to run a marathon in two and a half hours. But marathons in the North Pole can take anywhere between five and 10 hours to finish.
Van de Wetering will use the marathon to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.