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Blind athlete tackles Antarctica

2012-10-15 18:45
Hein Wagner (File)

Johannesburg - Blind adventurer Hein Wagner will take on next year’s Antarctica Marathon with seasoned athlete Mike Bailey as part of the 100-man race.

It will be the first time in history that a blind person participates in this extreme endurance event, which takes place on March 7, 2013.

Wagner has set aside the fact that he has been totally blind from birth to live a fulfilling and abundant life and never hesitates or stands back for any challenge.

“I’ve taken on many daring adventures such as the Cape Epic, mountain climbing, sailing from Cape Town to Rio, running several marathons and becoming the fastest blind driver in the world (he holds the World Land Speed record for a blind driver) and am excited to tick this one off my bucket list.

"Mike Bailey approached me around three years ago with the idea to participate in seven marathons on seven continents. I asked him which one was the most difficult of the lot and his answer was the one in Antarctica. Luckily, I’ve already participated in the New York, Hong Kong and Cape Town marathons.”

The marathon offers two options - a half marathon of 21.1km and a full one of 42.2km, which is the one Wagner and Bailey will be competing in.

Wagner said: “The biggest challenge of this race is the unpredictable weather. On a nice day it can be minus ten Centigrade, with little wind, but just the next day it can be minus 35 degrees with gale force, icy winds. Of course the wind plays a major role - the harder it blows the less I can hear what’s going on around me, especially instructions from my running partner. The terrain is also very uneven with ice and slush making up most of it.”

Not only is the race treacherous, but the journey there as well. “We depart from the world’s most southern city, Ushuaia, on a Russian reconnaissance boat. It takes around two days to get to Antarctica and the route will take us through the Drake Passage."

Wagner’s guide, Mike Bailey, is a pharmacist by trade and well-known in runner circles. “We’ve only gone for a run once, but will train together at least once per week over the next five months. We need to get the off-road part of the race sorted, as this is what awaits us in Antarctica.

"At the moment I’m running about 50km per week, but need to increase this over the next couple of weeks. We need to find the coldest places in the country and train there as well.

"We’ll also try to set up a treadmill in a cold storage room to try and get used to the low temperatures. I’m not sure what we’re going to do about the wind, but perhaps the West Coast is an option!”

For Wagner, the most difficult event he has ever participated in has to be the Cape Epic: “It was most definitely my hardest event to date. It was the toughest eight days of my life! I promised myself at the time that I’ll never get on a tandem bike again, but alas, time makes you forget.”

Wagner still wants to pilot a Boeing filled to the brim with passengers from London to Cape Town, a dream that could become a reality soon!

Read more on:    hein wagner
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