Pienaars ‘ice’ polar race

2016-12-21 06:01
PHOTO: supplied Stephen (left) and Eleanor Pienaar run the icy course of the Antarctic marathon hand-in-hand.

PHOTO: supplied Stephen (left) and Eleanor Pienaar run the icy course of the Antarctic marathon hand-in-hand.

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IT’S lucky number seven for Pietermaritzburg couple Eleanor (31) and Stephen Pienaar (32), who ran the Antarctic Marathon on 24 November, completing their seventh marathon on seven continents in seven years.

They now boast prestigious membership of the Seven Continents Marathon Club.

With Antarctica considered one of the toughest marathons in the world, the pair trained for months in preparation for the icy course, the sub-zero temperatures and the strong downslope winds that sweep through Antarctica.

After delayed flights and four days of travelling, they reached Antarctica only to discover the race was postponed by a day.

“Because it was so cloudy, everything everywhere was grey-white and we would not have been able to see where we were stepping, which can be quite dangerous,” said Eleanor.

On the day of the race, they started off at noon in temperatures of -12 degrees Celsius.

“It was a very tough race, but we had trained hard for it.

“It was a dream run,” said Eleanor.

“It was so well organised. They had two marshalled checkpoints and another checkpoint where they were serving hot chocolate to the runners.

“They also had doctors checking for frostbite and making sure everyone was okay.”

Eleanor said that beach training had paid off as running on ice and snow was similar to running on sand.

“The ice is harder and more compact so it is actually easier to run in the snow, although every now and then we would hit a soft patch and sink ankle deep, and that totally throws you off balance and rhythm.”

Eleanor said she and Stephen ran together the whole way and although they could have run the course faster than they did, they chose to take in the scenery along the way.

“It was the most majestically beautiful place and an unbelievable course,” Eleanor said.

She said she became quite emotional when they reached the finish line, especially when three fellow South African runners, who had also completed the marathon, met them at the finish line.

“They were waiting for us and gave us a huge South African high-five,” she said.

After the marathon, Eleanor said they were sad to leave Antarctica, but “elated” that they had reached their goal of seven marathons on seven continents.

“It was a life-changing trip. It was so amazing.

“We still just look at each other and cannot believe we did it.”

She said they were looking at taking on the “Six Majors” next where they would run six of the best marathons around the world.

** Eleanor and Stephen have completed the Comrades Marathon, The London Marathon, The New York Marathon, The Sydney Marathon and The Great Wall Marathon.

Last year the two ran the Rio de Janeiro Marathon and have now completed marathons on all seven continents.

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