2019 Polar Bear Marathon Report

The 2019 Polar Bear Marathon is in the history books, and in many ways, it was the best one ever.

Organizing an event like the marathon followed by another special public event three days later provided a number of challenges. A lot of details go into the planning of a marathon, especially when the event takes place a thousand km away from where I live. Although the number of runners remained constant, there were changes in the actual participants. About 5 runners were not able to come due to complications, sickness and unfortunate family emergencies, but 5 others took those spots. Naturally when challenges are piled up one after another, stress levels go up and the negatives are more easily spotted than the positives. Even though, like Edna says some “curveballs” came my way, which is normal in life, the actual marathon in Churchill was super good and exciting. So, I want to share of some of the fantastic experiences in Churchill.

  • The marathon leaves a great positive impact on the community of Churchill and that is because the Churchill community came forward to help in this event.

  • The Churchill Ladies Club presented all the runners with meal vouchers – redeemable at the Seaport Hotel.

  • The Duke of Marlborough Elementary choir (14 children) came to the Awards Dinner to sing 3 songs. The third song ended up being a tribute to myself, which totally blew me out of the water. Some of the words were, “… they looked High and Low and the world needs more friends like Albert.”

  • The Conservation Officer came out at 8.00 am on Saturday to start the run with a bear cracker gun shot.

  • Twelve Canadian Rangers, wearing the impressive red jackets and caps, came out to help us in the protection of the runners. For the marathon and ultra-distance runners, it usually takes about 4-6 hours to complete the run, and the Rangers are right alongside those runners the whole time.

  • The EMS was looking out for us, driving along the full length of the route with the ambulance.

  • The Mayor of Churchill came out to the Awards Dinner to bring us his greetings and well wishes.

  • A Tadoule Lake drummer entertained us with Dene Drumming – so special to see this.

  • A volunteer Ranger who is also a Parks Canada employee came to me and expressed her personal gratitude for the work we do in Tadoule Lake every summer. She said she reports very positively about our work in Tadoule and Churchill. This was a big encouragement to me. Her daughter shared at the Awards Dinner her reason for running the marathon – to remember her sister who committed suicide. She was in tears when she shared her personal story and how the marathon helps her.

  • I received hugs from people as huge encouragements, which I think I have never had before.

  • A lady from the restaurant came to me after the dinner, expressing her appreciation and how they look forward to this event every year. It has become a very special event for the Churchill people.

  • Runners and crew members expressed their enjoyment and excitement in having run this marathon.

  • One runner suffered to the end, her first Half Marathon and at the finish she wept – because the run was done, and she finished. She was so “done” and tired she could hardly stand as she wept for joy – because she finished and did not give up. She was emotionally and physically so worn out – she gave it her all. Her crew and I gave her a hug and congratulated her. She will not forget the joy and pain of this run for a long time.

  • AIA was able to donate $1000.00 to the community for the Churchill Children’s Christmas Party.

  • We are so blessed by the great and generous sponsors and donors who help with the Marathon.

  • It was neat to see 8 runners taking part in the marathon from Churchill

  • We did not see any polar bears, but in exchange we were privileged to see two wolves close up (we were in a vehicle fortunately) and several beautiful Arctic and Red foxes and white Ptarmigan birds in flight.

  • The weather was not a big challenge this year, it was the nicest weather ever for the runners experiencing -4°C weather.

  • The relationships that are growing deeper with the people in Churchill is so encouraging. The relationships that are developed between runners that come from all corners of the world is so special to see. These are certainly the best hi-lights each year.

  • One runner from Ottawa writes: It was an absolutely fantastic experience and really a privilege to be able to go the North.  I'm so blessed that I am able to do it. The Duke of Marlborough children were so much fun to watch and to listen to their songs.

  • A big thank you to Dave Peters (Steinbach), Dave Colley (Hornby Island) and pilot Ryan for their huge help in the marathon

Besides all the good things about this run, let me briefly state that the 17 runners all completed the marathon (either half, full or the Ultra). The fastest full marathon was around 4 hours. The scenery running along the ridge overlooking the Hudson Bay is just beautiful and breath taking. It was great to see three runners complete the Ultra Marathon (50 km). Martin Peters came in first with a time of 6.52 after which he sat down in the middle of the road with the mascot Polar Bear. “DONE & KAPUTT”. No bears were sited, just 2 wolves after the run.


Albert Martens

Athletes in Action