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Thunder Bay women complete Antarctic marathon in penguin suits

Two Thunder Bay women are back in the Ontario city after running a marathon, while dressed as penguins, in the Antarctic, on March 12.

'Right off they bat they were soaked': wearing fleece penguin suits challenged marathon runners

Rachel Rauwerda and Stacey Collie pose in their penguin suits, alongside some penguins, just before the start of the Antarctic Marathon on March 12. (Stacey Collie)
We check in with two Thunder Bay women who are just back from completing a marathon in the Antarctic, dressed as .. you guessed it .. penguins. 8:11

Two Thunder Bay women are back in the Ontario city after running a marathon, while dressed as penguins, in the Antarctic, on March 12.

Rachel Rauwerda and Stacey Collie took part in the Antarctic Marathon for the experience, and to raise money for Open Doors, a school for children with disabilities in Jos, Nigeria.

A knee injury forced Collie to drop down to the half-marathon distance, while Rauwerda ran the full 42.2 kilometres.

"It was quite crazy actually. It was a lot more difficult than I was anticipating," said Rauwerda of the loop course, which involved going up and down the same hills, over and over again.

The weather also "made things a little bit interesting" she said, adding they started running in rain, which turned to sleet, and then to heavy snow accompanied by high winds.

Penguins suits 'ridiculously heavy'

The penguin suits made a difficult race even more challenging, laughed Rauwerda.

"Right off the bat, they were soaked. But then because it was fleece, it was just ridiculously heavy. But it's also quite large and so when it was windy, especially when the winds were up to like 60 mph, it literally almost felt like I was going to be blown away in this suit," she said.

In fact, the high winds and deteriorating weather conditions forced organizers to stop the marathon early, to allow participants to get safely back to their ship.

But Rauwerda and some of the other runners hadn't quite finished the full distance, so once on board they took turns on the treadmills to complete the final three-and-half-kilometres.

Rachel Rauwerda and Stacey Collie observing penguins - the real birds - in the Antarctic in March. The two women competed in the Antarctic Marathon, while dressed in penguin suits. (

'Huge bonding experience'

It was Rauwerda's first marathon, and she admitted she was very sore for the next few days. But she said she also felt "so good" when she was done.

"Prior to it, I thought all marathon runners were a little bit crazy, and I didn't understand why they would ever want to do a marathon. But afterwards, it made sense ... you all [go] through it together, so it's a huge bonding experience."

Rauwerda and Collie are considering running a marathon on Mount Everest next year.

Their marathon efforts this year have raised approximately $14,000 for Open Doors.


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