Teresa Strad has never run a half-marathon, but she will soon compete in a most unusual – and chilly – one, in Antarctica.
On Nov. 19, along with 50 other runners from all over the world, Ms. Strad will compete in one of the southernmost races on Earth, the Frozen Continent Half-Marathon, held in conjunction with the Antarctic Ice Marathon, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole at Union Glacier. Ms. Strad will contend with temperatures averaging -4 degrees Fahrenheit, strong winds and an altitude of 2,300 feet, not to mention a snowy and icy route.
“For me to do this … it’s not competitive, it’s the challenge of achieving it, it’s the challenge of being in Antarctica, one of the most desolate places in the world, and finishing a half-marathon,” Ms. Strad said. “It’s going to be an amazing experience.”
Ms. Strad has run a few races before, a 5K and a 10K, and she has traveled and worked in various places around the world, but she never considered traveling to Antarctica, much less competing in a race there, until she saw an article in Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel 2014” book about the Antarctic Ice Marathon.
“I thought, I could never run a marathon there, but then I saw there was a half-marathon [13.1 miles] and thought, ‘Oh I could do that,’” Ms. Strad said.
Around the time she saw the article, she said, there was “some sadness in my family that made me look at me … at the age I am now and going forward. I looked at what I’d done in my life.”
Ms. Strad, who was a nurse for 30 years, said that while she has been able to do some “incredible things” in her life, like working to help orphans in Romania after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime, and volunteering for organizations that help animals, she resolved to take on this new challenge.
As soon as she put down the deposit on the trip, Ms. Strad began thinking of ways her endeavor could help others. She decided to raise money for many of the organizations she has volunteered for on island, including the humane Society, CARE, Canine Friends and Feline Friends, and One Dog at a Time.
Then she decided a human element was missing, so she began speaking with the National Council of Voluntary Organisations about ways she could help its foster home. In addition to raising money, Ms. Strad came up with a creative way of letting the children in the foster home “tag along” on her Antarctic expedition.
“I wanted to figure out how I could have a connection with the children, so I got a penguin,” Ms. Strad said.
The toy penguin, yet to be named, will accompany Ms. Strad on her marathon journey. It traveled with her to New York when she went to buy the technical gear she needs to run in Antarctic temperatures, and it will be with her during the race. The penguin – and a photo album documenting its journey – will then live with the children in the foster home.
“The kids can go, ‘See look, Teresa and whatever the penguin is named did this, and it was for us,’” Ms. Strad said.
Ms. Strad said she hopes she can bring more attention to the Nadine Andreas Residential Foster Home, and has begun to think of ways of continuing to help the home in future years.
Ms. Strad said she is a “quiet person” and not one for putting herself “out there in the limelight” but now she feels that she is running the race for more than just herself.
“It’s about the other people behind me now, watching me, wondering ‘how is she getting on, did she do it?’” Ms. Strad said.
When she gets nervous she thinks, “Just deal with it.”
“Yeah, you’re going to be scared, you’re going to be meeting people that you have never met before, but you’ve got to get out there and do it,” she said.
She is not so concerned about the physical challenges of the race, which she will have six hours to complete.
“I like it when it’s cold, and I think the adrenaline of actually being there and being a part of it is going to carry me through any other thoughts or worries,” Ms. Strad said.
She is excited to experience the “vastness, the rawness, the quietness” of Antarctica, but has also considered how frightening it can be. She knows she’ll have to have her wits about her, and has considered everything that could possibly go wrong. “What if Mother Nature has a hissy fit and I end up floating away on a piece of ice?”
Ms. Strad will have her husband and a friend waiting in Punta Arenas, Chile, to celebrate with her after the race, and her mother in England and brother in New Zealand will be cheering her on remotely.
She wishes her father, who died five years ago, was around to see her do this. “He would be so proud of me now,” Ms. Strad said.
She said she feels humbled and privileged to be able to experience such an adventure, and cannot wait to run through the banner at the finish line with a Cayman Islands flag in her hands.
Those wishing to donate may deposit funds into a bank account Ms. Strad has set up at Butterfield Bank, under the name, ‘Mission Antarctica 2015’ and account number 13615809-0019. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/missionantarctica2015.