2003 North Pole Marathon Expedition With
McCormick Teacher and Polar Marathoner Brent Weigner
In A Virtual Fieldtrip To The Top Of The World
WILL HE OR WON'T HE RACE IN SNOWSHOES AT THE NORTH POLE?
CHECK BACK HERE BEGINNING APRIL 12, 2003, FOR DAILY REPORTS FROM THE EXPEDITION!
WorldAR for Adventure Racing.
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Hello to all you fantastic McCormick Junior High School Students. The big adventure begins today. I will be flying non-stop on Lufthansa Airlines from Denver, Colorado, to Frankfurt, Germany. The flight is 9 hours and 35 minutes. From Frankfurt, it is a one hour and 50 minute flight to Oslo, Norway, where we will spend the night at the Best Western Bondeheimen Hotel. You can check out the hotel at http://www.bondeheimen.com/index_eng.htm
Because I am not there to write the GFD (Geographic Fact of the Day) on the board for you guys, this Internet technology will have to suffice. What is the time zone difference between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Oslo, Norway? In other words, if it is 8:00 am in Cheyenne, what time is it in Oslo, Norway? I will be calling Mr. Nolan on the satellite phone every day and he will post the days happenings on the web site. Stay tuned for more exciting news about Weenyman in the Arctic and the world's first marathon race at the Geographic North Pole, 90 degrees north latitude. Will he, or won?t he wear his snowshoes to race in? Be good for the substitute. Take care and have fun with this virtual fieldtrip to the "top of the world".
Monday, April 14, 2003
Hi guys, this is Dr. Weigner reporting from the town of Longyearben on the island of Spitzbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago. The island is about halfway between the North Pole and Norway. There is ice and snow everywhere. You can see the remains of old coalmines on the sides of the mountains that surround the city. All the runners, except for Paul Ruesch and Hans van Heerden, have arrived and everything is set to go. At Camp Borneo near the North Pole, the Russians had to move the runway 7 km from base camp due to a crack in the ice runway. We will have to use snowmobiles or a helicopter to get to base camp. Remember, the base camp is built on top of floating sea ice with 12,000 feet of ocean below. The ocean currents, the winds, and the tides (which are effected by the phases of the moon) all make the shifting ice very tricky. It can be a very dangerous place.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Good morning class. I guess it is 5:00 am Tuesday, April 15th, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Longyearbyen is 8 hours ahead, so it is 1:00 pm here. We are still waiting for two runners to arrive, although Hans from South Africa is expected to arrive this morning. The other runner we are waiting for is Paul Reusch, an American. I don?t want you students to worry about the crack in the ice that made the original runway unworkable. It's not a big deal. It will just be a little bit more of a hassle getting to base camp. The plan is that we will fly to the base camp tomorrow--Wednesday, and run the marathon on either Thursday or Friday. The group is taking a tour around Longyearbyen this afternoon. The woman arranging it told us the story of two kids who took a walk out of town, and only one came back--the other one was eaten by a polar bear! It is a very true story. All the roads out of town have signs that warn people of the bears. They advise you to carry a rifle when leaving the city limits. As you enter the Radisson Hotel, there is a sign that points to a gun safe, and asks that you "please leave your rifles, your knives, and handguns in the gun safe because a polar bear attack inside the hotel is remote." Most of the buildings also have "wet rooms". It is where they ask customers to take off their shoes and go bare foot inside the establishment, which we have been doing. This evening Richard Donovan, my Irish friend and co-race director, and I will give the runners a briefing on what to wear in the race and what kind of conditions they can expect. Did you know the United States Air Force has done studies that have determined you can safely run in temperatures of 50 degrees below zero? That is Fahrenheit, not Centigrade/Celsius.
WEDNESDAY: April 16, 2003
Hey kids, I have great news to report. We have landed and are now "on the ice." Where we are, they go by Moscow time because the Russians run the camp, so it is 2 hours later than when we were in Norway. The flight was 2 1/2 hours long and we were in a Russian plane called an Antonov 74. It's a plane whose engines are on the top so that the engines don't "suck in" snow. The runners and everyone helped load all the gear from the plane on to the helicopter and then we flew about 100-150 feet above the ice to Ice Station Borneo. The plane had to return to Longyearbyen to pick up more supplies and more participants in the "trek"-- including one of the runners, Paul Ruesch. There are nine people sleeping in each heated tent. The weather is "nice"--about minus 10 or minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on who you believe), but no wind. There are a lot of "leads" and pressure ridges all around the camp. I think we are reasonably safe as long as we don?t wander to far from camp, and never go off by ourselves. Always use the buddy system in the wilderness. If I lay real still in my cot, I can feel the ice moving underneath me. It is somewhat similar to the feeling you get when you are on a cruise liner in the middle of the ocean. The race is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow. The only polar bears we have seen so far have been in the museum back in Longyearbyen, however the group has a rifle and ammunition.
THURSDAY: April 17, 2003, MARATHON DAY
Hello to all you clock-watchers. I know it is 3:45 pm MDT on Thursday there in Cheyenne because it is 1:45 am Friday Russian time at Camp Borneo. We are back from the North Pole and all but two of the eleven runners have finished the race. The two still running are from South Africa (Hans van Heerden) and the US (Paul Ruesch). When the race began at the Pole, everyone ran the first 385 yards around the North Pole--through all of the world?s time zones, so we could say we had "run around the world." After the first 385 yards, we ran one-kilometer loops because of the conditions and the fact that we were short support help (the doctor and one guide). Because the helicopter was short on fuel and had to return to base camp, all but two runners finished the race about one degree from the Pole at Camp Borneo (one degree of latitude equals approximately 69 miles). The marathon winner was Martin Tighe from the US with a time of 5:02:10. Richard Donovan from Ireland was second. Dave Kanners from the US was third. I will send a press release "tomorrow" (Saturday) when I get back to Longyearbyen. The two Wyoming competitors, Mary Ritz (from Cody) and I, also did the ultra marathon--45 kilometers. All the runners were cooperative and helped with the logistics of the race and there were no major problems or injuries. There were several cases of frostbite. Some of the cases were mild and other cases were more serious and the victims skin blistered. Besides the soft and loose snow, the leads (open water) and pressure ridges caused problems for the runners. I stepped in one lead that had mostly closed up and I could have easily broken my leg. Fortunately, I did not. I ran about 10 miles in running shoes before deciding to finish the race with snowshoes. Mary Ritz from Cody also decided snowshoes were the best way to race. We still have not seen any polar bears. However, we did see a seal swimming in an open lead shortly before we got on the helicopter to the marathon start. When we saw the seal, one of the Russian guys said, ?White bear come soon.? The bears can pick up the scent from miles away. As an example of how quickly the ice can change, when we landed yesterday, we just walked across a small lead to camp. Today it's a river--50 feet wide. We had to move the helicopter across the lead/open water to pick up passengers. As with all expeditions, everything didn't go according to plans, but no one is ill or injured and everyone worked together, for which I am grateful. We should fly back to Longyearbyen Saturday and then back to the US on Sunday. Please send questions via Mr. Nolan or write them down and I will answer them when I return!
Friday, April 18, 2003
A few of the runners left the ice an earlier flight. However, the rest of us had all day to enjoy the ice; each other?s company, and recover from the race. Short hikes around the ice camp revealed many interesting sights and activities. My group decided to participate in ?lead/pressure ridge jumping? by hurdling small breaks in the ice. The official photographer, Nelsen Petersen, was the ?unofficial? champion. Other groups played Frisbee, rode the dog sled, and took photos. Paul Ruesch had brought along some soap mixture to blow bubbles at the North Pole. It was interesting to note that the bubbles lasted two to three times as long as back home. They just kind of hung in the air and started to shrivel. The wrinkled bubbles would land on the ice/snow for a few seconds before they dissolved. The bubbles were a nice complement to the ?Diamond dust??the fine ice crystals that float in the air and coat surfaces. Teacher, ?Why did those bubbles do that?? I?m sure there is a physics lesson in there somewhere. You science geeks can explain that phenomenon to me later.
Dr. Weigner sends the ?official? press release.
Camp Borneo, 89.5 degrees North Latitude, the Arctic Ocean, the North Geographic Pole, April 17, 2003
Marathon Winner Martin Tighe, left, congratulates Ultra Winner Brent Weigner, right
Martin Tighe of the United Kingdom was the winner of the North Pole Marathon that took place on April 17, 2003, as scheduled.
Soft and loose snow made running extremely difficult for the competitors who also had to endure wind chill temperatures of -29C. However Tighe, who is based in Providence, Rhode Island (USA), overcame the unpredictable hazards of polar running to cross the finish line in first place in a time of 5.02.10. Second place went to Richard Donovan of Ireland in a time of 5.20.35, while Dave Kanners of the USA clinched third spot.
At different stages during this extreme adventure race, each of the top three competitors was temporarily withdrawn for treatment for frost damage to their noses: however, none suffered serious effects and all were allowed to continue.
As athletes struggled to complete the 26.2-mile distance, a support helicopter constantly heated its engines while waiting for them to finish. However, the difficult terrain and biting wind naturally made times much slower than anticipated and a fuel shortage problem quickly became apparent. Consequently, after the first two athletes completed the marked course, the distance covered by the remaining competitors was recorded and positions awarded accordingly. The chopper then departed with the competitors to base camp, only a short distance away, where all of the entrants amazingly managed to finish the 42k (26.2 mile) distance.
It was a magnificent achievement for all concerned to finish a marathon at the North Pole under such circumstances. Included among the field was Mary Ritz of the USA, who became the first woman ever to successfully complete a North Pole Marathon.
There were many other firsts across the board. Among them, Hans Van Heerden became the first person from the continent of Africa to run a marathon at the North Pole. Helmut Linzbichler and Wolfgang Schwarzaeugl jointly became the first Austrians to do so, with Andrey Chirkov becoming the first Russian to succeed. Paul Ruesch of the USA, a late arrival at the Pole, joined the runners at base camp to also complete a North Pole marathon. Beginning late in the evening on his 33rd birthday, he finished in the early hours of his 34th birthday on April 18th.
Brent Weigner and Mary Ritz also completed an ultra distance of 45k, hence running an ultra distance (longer than a marathon) on each of the seven continents and at the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean.
Please see the list below for the names of the 2003 North Pole Marathon expedition members.
1. Martin Tighe (United Kingdom)
2. Richard Donovan (Ireland)
3. Dave Kanners (USA)
4. Brent Weigner (USA)
5. Helmut Linzbichler (Austria)
Wolfgang Schwarzaeugl (Austria)
Hans van Heerden (South Africa)
8. Mary Ritz (USA) *First Female
9. Andrey Chirkov (Russia)
10.Don Kern (USA)
11.Paul Ruesch (USA) also finished a marathon at the North Pole, although starting at a different time than the rest of the entrants.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
All the runners are back in Longyearbyen. An awards dinner is planned for the evening and everyone is looking forward to a shower and a nice dinner.
UWYO MAGAZINE, Summer 2003, pp. 18-19
by Lara Azar
A life-threatening illness hasn?t stopped ultramarathoner Brent Weigner from going the distance ?even at the North Pole.
With his round wire glasses, red flannel shirt, slight build, and gray hair, Brent Weigner looks the part of a geography teacher at a local junior high school ? and he is. It is more difficult to imagine that he has run marathons on all seven continents and at both geographic poles ? after surviving multiple bouts with cancer.
?I have never been very good at explaining the why behind my running. I run because I can, just as birds fly and fish swim.? ? Brent Weigner
But he has.
In April, the 53-year-old Weigner (M.Ed. ?77, Ph.D. ?84, education) competed in an ultramarathon ? any race substantially longer than the 26.2 miles of a standard marathon. While an admirable feat in itself, the fact that this ultramarathon was held at the North Pole makes it extraordinary.
?To think that I could go from Cheyenne to the North Pole, run the race and get back within eight days?? Weigner says, rubbing his chin. ?Most expeditions like that take weeks if not months. It?s highly unusual for things to go that smoothly.?
Weigner acknowledges that he is speaking in relative terms when he says ?smoothly.? The trip was not without its uncertainties or characters.
There was the Russian who risked being shot by camp managers in his quest for a shower; the Norwegian who makes his living renting out his sled and dogs to tourists; the helicopter mechanic who doubled as a medic when most of the runners got frostbitten noses (with the exception of Weigner and Mary Ritz of Cody, Wyo.); and the scuba diver who may find his way into the Guinness Book of World Records for completing the first solo dive at the North Pole.
?The thing that made it nice was that we had no prima donnas in the group,? Weigner says.
For Weigner, who wasn?t supposed to live long enough to enter high school, every step was a gift.
When he was in sixth grade, surgeons removed the lymph glands in Weigner?s neck after he was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, a cancer whose cause is thought to be associated with suppression of the immune system. Unbeknownst to Weigner, doctors told his parents he had six months to a year to live. They were wrong.
For the next eight years, Weigner was in and out of hospitals and clinics, undergoing radiation treatment and chemotherapy. He had planned to be commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force after earning a bachelor?s degree at the University of Northern Colorado but failed the physical. Weigner says a military doctor reviewed his medical records and simply said, ?You should be dead.?
Anger and frustration began to taint Weigner?s normally sunny disposition. Here he was, running with dedication, eating well, and regularly being examined by doctors who were either obese or reeking of smoke.
?I thought, ?Hey ? I?m the athlete here,?? he says.
In 1979, Weigner?s cancer was in remission, but 1984 saw new cancerous threats: ?myoepithelial carcinoma of unknown salivary duct origin? and a form of skin cancer caused by an excess of radiation used to treat him the first time.
Through it all he kept running, he says, ?just for the simple joy of movement.?
?I have never been very good at explaining the why behind my running,? Weigner says. ?I run because I can, just as birds fly and fish swim.?
Weigner didn?t realize how physically weakened he was until people started beating him in weekend races in between his radiation treatments. He endured another surgery, this time to remove his salivary glands after his cancer resurfaced in 1984 and, except for a minor instance of skin cancer in 1986, since has enjoyed a clean bill of health.
?I still get goose bumps when I tell the story, because I should have died,? Weigner says. ?I really think the good Lord has kept me alive for his purposes.?
For Weigner, the trip to the North Pole was about testing his limits. Although he says he is disappointed in his fourth-place ranking, Weigner says serving as race director meant sacrificing his own performance to ensure the race as a whole went smoothly.
An ultramarathon at the North Pole, of course, presents an entirely different set of problems than an ultramarathon any place else, Weigner says. Heated tents along the course were promised but not provided, which meant there was no place to melt ice and snow into water for the runners. A makeshift shelter, however, solved that problem.
Helicopter pilots had agreed to stay at the geographic pole for eight hours, theoretically giving all 11 runners time to finish the course. But an attempt to keep the helicopters? engines warm by running them constantly also drained their fuel, making the pilots anxious to return to Camp Borneo, about 60 miles from the pole. Only two runners were able to finish the marathon at the pole, while the rest completed the race back at the camp.
Wyomingites Weigner and Ritz pushed on for another three kilometers after finishing at Camp Borneo, running a total of 45 kilometers in heavy snow, temperatures that hovered around 30 degrees below zero, and sunlight that never waned.
Weigner holds a world record for running ultramarathons on all seven continents in the shortest amount of time ? just 267 days. He has run races in every U.S. state, all the Canadian provinces, the North and South poles, and the first marathon of the millennium in Hamilton, New Zealand.
?I love the challenge,? he says. ?It?s almost a spiritual, religious thing for me a lot of times. I feel blessed.?
Weigner says he runs about an hour a day even when he?s not training for a marathon or ultramarathon, continues to organize and write about races, and can?t begin to count the number of pairs of running shoes he has worn out through the years.
?But I?m starting to cut back,? he says, ?now that I?m getting older.?
Date: August 1, 2002
North Pole Marathon Races Planned
Global Expedition Adventures, Inc. has announced that the world?s first competitive marathon race at the Geographic North Pole will take place on April 17, 2003. Curtis Lieber, Vice President and North Pole Expedition Director has confirmed that Richard Donovan of Galway City, Ireland, and Brent Weigner of Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.A. will direct the race. According to Lieber, ?We are very fortunate to have acquired the services of Richard and Brent. Mr. Donovan won the first ever South Pole Marathon in January of 2002 and completed the world?s first solo marathon run at the North Pole this past April. Dr. Weigner won the South Pole Ultramarathon and is the only person in the world to have run ultramarathons (any event longer than the standard 26.2 mile marathon) on all seven continents. Their combined experience ensures that we will have a quality event.?
The marathon team will be flown from Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen (Svalbard), Norway, to Ice Base Borneo, a Russian camp situated on the drifting pack ice in the high Arctic Ocean Region near the Geographic North Pole. After landing on the 14 foot thick Blue Ice Runway, the adventurers will spend a day at Camp Borneo preparing for the race. When the weather is clear and all systems are go, the team will board their helicopter flight to the starting line located at the exact Geographic North Pole.
After being flown to 90 degrees north latitude, runners will warm up on the Arctic Ice Floe as they circle the world passing through all lines of longitude. A flagged route set up to avoid any leads (open water) and large pressure ridges will mark the runners' course. In addition to the feature event - the classic marathon distance of 42 km (26.2 miles) - athletes will have a choice of running a half marathon (13.1 miles) or continuing to complete an ultramarathon of 50 kilometres (31 miles). As runners set out on their adventure, they will acclimatize to the rough terrain of snow, ice and small pressure ridges and become familiar with the minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. Experienced guides will patrol the quiet expanse of white ice keeping their eyes open for new leads and the rare polar bear that might threaten the runners? safety. After a few miles the runners will find their pace and the athletes will be ready to make history as a new breed of Arctic explorer.
Mandatory checkpoints will be carefully placed along the course to help insure the runners? safety. Medical staff will be available with emergency supplies. As runners approach the Pole for the final time, they will see the finish line, and can look forward to a warm tent and a hot drink. After some photo sessions, the athletes return to Camp Borneo for a deserving celebration and some rest and relaxation. This amazing event will offer athletes who have completed a marathon race or longer on all seven continents the opportunity of joining the North Pole Grand Slam Club by completing a marathon at the North Pole (Arctic Ocean).
To learn more about the North Pole Arctic Marathon visit:
TEST YOUR NORTH POLE KNOWLEDGE
HINT: Explore this web site and visit the All Things Arctic web site listed below for help.
1. How many runners are entered in the 2003 North Pole Marathon?
2. What is the name of the company that is organizing the North Pole Marathon?
3. Runners will depart for the North Pole from what city in the island group of Svalbard?
4. The runners come from how many different nations?
5. Name all the countries the runners represent.
6. The co-directors for the marathon race come from what two countries?
7. What is the name of the last country the runners will visit before they arrive at the North Pole?
8. Name the floating ice base the runners will land on before continuing on to the North Pole.
9. Most of the workers at the floating ice base speak what language?
10. The marathon is scheduled to be run on what date?
11. Aurora Borealis displays are most often seen on clear, cold nights in the Arctic. True or False?
12. The area of Arctic Ocean covered by pack ice varies by as much as 3 million square miles. T or F?
13. Many whales travel to the cold Arctic waters to bear their young. True or False?
14. Polar bears live on pack ice near Arctic waters and rarely come on land. True or False?
15. The Greenland Ice Sheet is about one half the size of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. True or False?
16. The effects of global warming on the Arctic are less severe than in more populated regions. T or F?
17. The northernmost point on the Earth's surface is the magnetic North Pole. True or False?
18. Sea ice is generally saltier than Arctic seawater. True or False?
19. The relative lack of predators on the Arctic tundra makes it an ideal place for nesting birds. T or F?
20. Arctic ecosystems are very resilient when it comes to human impacts. True or False?
21. The Yukon River in Arctic Alaska flows west into the Bering Sea. True or False?
22. The Arctic National Wildlife refuge contains no roads or lodging/established campsites. T or F?
23. Reindeer and caribou are considered to be the same species. True or False?
24. The Inuit people were the first people to explore the Arctic region. True or False?
25. Much of Arctic Russia was covered with glaciers during the last Ice Age. True or False?
26. Permafrost layers in the Arctic can be over 4000 feet thick. True or False?
27. The Northwest Passage is today considered a vital shipping route to Asia. True or False?
28. During the summer, Arctic regions absorb more solar radiation than do the tropics. T or F?
29. The imaginary line of the Arctic Circle denotes the southernmost limit of the 24-hour day. T or F?
30. The Saami homeland is located in four different Arctic countries. True or False?
31. Much of the continental land bordering the Arctic Ocean is mountainous. True or False?
32. The name "Eskimo" was originally used as a derogatory term meaning "eater of raw meat". T or F?
33. Arctic haze compounds originate in Eurasia and are transported north. True or False?
34. Frederick Cook is credited with the first successful expedition to the geographic North Pole. T or F?
March 17, 2003
COUNTDOWN TO NORTH POLE MARATHON
Ten athletes have now committed to the North Pole Marathon 2003, which will be held on April 17th. Among the field is the South Pole Marathon winner, Richard Donovan of Ireland, but absent from the competitor list will be US marathon legend, Dick Beardsley, who has commitments to the Boston Marathon. Beardsley, a former London Champion and 2.08 marathoner, had originally hoped to take part in the North Pole race but a change in the marathon date understandably ruled him out. In all, five countries will be represented, comprising Austria, Ireland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Global Expedition Adventures (GEA), the North Pole Marathon organizers, have also confirmed that a video documentary of the event will be produced. KIBO Productions, a US-based company, which specializes in marathon documentaries will travel to the Pole to make the 30-40 minute production. Curtis Lieber, Vice President of GEA and the North Pole Expedition Director, has also stated that a second documentary may yet be commissioned by a European television network.
Brent Weigner, race co-director, says that the North Pole Marathon is undoubtedly the only marathon not held on land. ?It is effectively run on water, frozen water, above 12,000 feet of Arctic Ocean. It offers the adventure experience of a lifetime for athletes of reasonable fitness and drive, whereby they not only get to travel to the Pole but they also get to run there.?
The event, of course, is nevertheless an extreme one. Temperatures can plummet to ?50C or below with the wind chill and there are the usual risks of hypothermia and frostbite associated with such exposure. In addition, there is a danger of crashing through a ?lead? or break in the ice and the remote possibility of running into a Polar Bear. However, this has obviously not deterred any of the intending participants. Mary Ritz of Wyoming, USA, who has already competed in Antarctica and on Mount Everest, and is the only female entrant, says she is looking forward to reaching the finish line where all the earth?s lines of longitude meet at 90 Degrees North.
Most of the competitors in the North Pole Marathon race have already completed marathons on all seven continents, but by running at the exact geographic North Pole they hope to join the North Pole Grand Slam Club. This new club will be composed of members who have run a marathon on all of the continents and at the North Pole, which is situated in the Arctic Ocean.
Confirmed Entries for the 2003 North Pole Marathon
- Richard Donovan, Galway City, Ireland
- Dave Kanners, Rochester, Michigan, USA
- Don Kern, Martin, Michigan, USA
- Paul Ruesch, Des Plaines, Illinois, USA
- Mary Ritz, Cody, Wyoming, USA
- Wolfgang Schwarzaeugl, Austria
- Brent Weigner, Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA
- Martin Tighe, United Kingdom (Providence, Rhode Island)
- Andrey Chirkov, Russia
- Helmut Linzbichler, Austria (Michigan)
- Hans Van Heerden, Cape Town, South Africa
North Pole Web Sites & Related Links
2004 North Pole Arctic Marathon
Cool Runnings: Story On The 2003 North Pole Marathon
Solo Walk To The Pole By British Explorer Dave Mill
NASA's Coolspace Team
Tracks Polar Expeditions
National Geographic Story on Couple Attempting The Pole
All Things Arctic
Take The Arctic Quiz
National Geographic Interview With Richard Donovan
Dr. Weigner Captures 2003 Senior Mens National Snowshoe Championship
Check Out Where The Runners Are Staying In Norway
South Pole Marathon Expedition
Wyoming Marathon Races
New York Times Front Page Story By Andrew Revkin Cites Marathon
Doing Science at the Top of the World
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Arctic Theme Page
Runners World Story, June 2004