And finally …..

12 04 2011

And Finally ……. the mission is complete !

Having arrived at base camp in Spitsbergen to minus 25 degrees and howling snow on Sunday 3rd April – we then got stuck  in Longyearbyen until Friday 8th.

Whilst Prince Harry was at our North Pole camp with the ‘Walking with the Wounded’ soldiers, we were with his plane in Svalbard. As the weather started clearing on Tuesday,  so the ice runway at the Pole cracked (apparently due to the sizable closeness of the large full moon the previous week which had disturbed the worlds oceanic flow and had put additional pressure on the Arctic ocean cap). The Russian Military worked overnight to create a new runway and we finally arrived at the site of our North Pole Marathon very early in the morning of Friday 8th April (circa 7am).In fact it’s probable that we only got on that first flight out through the influence of our organiser Richard Donovan as the queue for polar trekkers waiting on the island of Svalbard was now sizable … and the fact that the world’s media had turned their attention to our young prince who was stuck on the ice awaiting his / our plane … well actually plane is an exageration it was a tube with two engines with us strapped in !! (see apprehensive me en route)

The marathon started at 22.00 that night and was absolutely brutal! I am wearing a blue jacket, yellow vest and the number “21”.  By now the temperature had dropped to minus 32 degrees and although beautifully bright and sunny, the storms that had passed through the previous days had left the course covered in really powdery snow so it became exceedingly difficult to get a grip underfoot.  As the temperature dropped some parts of the course resembled a skating rink with the top end of the lap (there were 14 laps around the Pole) appearing to be a thin covering of ice over the blue ocean which creaked and cracked as you ran across it and sent ‘pinging’ noises like a sonar to the ice and snow features surrounding us. Although I didn’t really take it all in at the time, it was abjectively beautiful … the bright sun reflecting off the white blue ocean turning some of the snow hills to lime green … if only my legs would have appreciated it!

We couldn’t carry any refreshments as they would freeze so I planned to come into the medical / refreshment tent every other lap to make sure that I was refueled, but this changed as I got to lap 8 and various body parts started to sizably ache, largely due to the stumbling, falling and enormous effort required just to run through some of the hillier areas of the snow on the course that, in places, meant we were running virtually up to our knees in the stuff.

Lap 10 was my only major problem when both my eyes froze and I committed the cardinal sin of removing my right hand glove (Greg Whyte had only told me about 400 or so times NEVER to do that!) to un stick my right eye which had only just iced over. Within no more than 20 seconds my thumb had frozen and was turning a delicate shade of white at the top (the first sign of frost nip) so I had to haretail fairly rapidly (well sort of!) back to the refreshment tent, fortunately only a third of a lap away, where they applied heat and TLC to ensure that I didn’t loose my thumb.

All the runners were concerned for each other, the comradarie both immense and intense.

So eventually the race was won in a fraction under 5 hours and I came in (not last as I expected !!) in 8 hours 34 minutes 44 seconds. Crossing the line was a lifetime moment that I shall never forget followed by a feeling of intense nausea and 90 minutes of constant convulsive body shaking! Some of the other competitors came round, stripped me of my sweaty gear, which had now turned to ice on my body, warmed me up, redressed me and threw me in a cosy sleeping bag … I am as indebted to them as I am to all of you who have supported this project of mine both financially and spiritually!

So finally ….. its over and your junk boxes will no longer be bombarded !

The TaNK treatment that Lee’s charity is helping fund is progressing very well and will, in time, help save many lives, which, as Mastercard would say …  is priceless!

Thank you all so much for your patience and your support: between us all we have raised enough money to give young Alex Field the opportunity of his life saving treatment.

All of my good wishes and positive thoughts now go to him – his battle is far more important than my challenge !!

Jon and Alex ...

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How to donate:

Cheques payable to: The Lee Smith Foundation Ltd

Reference: Polarrunner

Send to: The Secretary
The Lee Smith Foundation Ltd
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All dressed up but nowhere to go … YET !!!

31 10 2010

Training has been surreal – Greg Whyte has been working me on heartbeats per minute rather than distances so I now have to run 4 days a week between 30 and 60 mins with a heartbeat in the range of 154 – 164 beats per minute (with efforts in between raising my heartbeat to over 175). Surreal because two weeks ago I was at my home in Spain and running on the beach in 80 degrees … is this really the right environment to be training for the North Pole ??! Last weekend found me in Sussex running up hills again in 70 degrees sunshine in October !! Probably wishful thinking that I will experience anything similar at the North Pole – guess that would prove the climatologists correct after all !! I pushed on really hard this morning and took my heartbeat up to nearly 190, strange really, similar feeling to that last alcoholic drink that tips you over the edge and you reach momentary euphoria – except in this mornings case it wasn’t even pleasurable getting there ! But I do now have my own psychologist – Prof Andy Lane has joined my team – boy am I going to need him!!

Have had Stavanger in my head – not sure why but always felt I had to fly to Stavanger – so thought I would be up front and book the flights for next April leaving Gatwick and arriving in Stavanger 4.5 hours later.

Richard Donovan emailed me this week confirming my acceptance for the 2011 North Pole Marathon on the 7th April and the flight arrangements home from Spitsbergen … oooppps!  I booked the wrong airport. So had to book the whole thing again yesterday for another £700 (!) and this time the journey is 9.5 hours with 3 changes. What with 70 degree training conditions and only a 3 hour flight this was all looking like a doddle but suddenly the reality is beginning to bite … the North Pole is extremely cold, a long way away and 26 miles in those conditions is going to be a lot harder than 8 miles in the pissing wet around Barnet this morning !!

Got the kit! Now for the first moment of truth – I enter the climate chamber for the first time on November 9th to experience running at  minus 30 degrees! Want to also test run my ipod to see if it works in those extreme temperatures – I downloaded Coldplay as thought it would be appropriate! Inspired by one of my twitter (polarrunner1) followers (@marcelzzz) who pointed out the only person we know to have ever played the drums at the North Pole!

So just a couple of footnotes for today – we are still trying to finalise the recipient of our charity donation for this event; sadly we are considering a number of people but if anybody reading this has someone who they think we may be able to help – now would be a good time to communicate with me as I would like to give this event a major profile after Christmas. One final point – if anybody would like a return flight to Stavanger (its very pretty in Spring! and not much snow) leaving Gatwick 20.55 on April 3rd 2011 returning 20.25 April 10th – I have one going cheap !!! … we will sell this cheaply for the cause.

The KNEED to begin !!

7 10 2010

My physio team of Ed Blake and Peter Chum (those are his hands!) have performed miracles and in spite of various surgeons advice that this mission would not be possible with my sports battered, and particularly, badly injured right knee – I am up, running and relatively pain-free – its only five miles at the moment but that means I have only got to add another 21.2 in the next 6 months !!

I am also so excited that eminent Professor Greg Whyte (the man who got Cracknell and Fogel to the South Pole, Cheryl Cole et al up Kili and Walliams across the Channel) has agreed to take me on as a challenge ! He and Karen Williams at Sir John Moore’s University in Liverpool will be creating and supervising my training programme.

Greg ran me through the machines and all the aerobic tests last week and I am good to go !

Not going to add much today as the next event will be my visit to the climate chamber at Bisham Abbey on the 25th of this month which will replicate the North Pole and my first exposure to the realities of running in deep Arctic conditions – I purposely have kept the heating off in Hertfordshire to begin my conditioning!

Just a final note for today …. a very very big thank you to the four beautiful nurses at Hospiten in Estepona who sewed my toe back on in August when I managed to detach part of it near the beach !! They only looked about 12 but they were great at ‘needlecraft’ and I won’t even be able to feel the frostbite!

PS – Loads of causes coming in – thank you all so much … we are going to do some good work here. Will let you know as soon as we’ve sorted through so many suggestions.