Antarctica Marathon 2014: Runner Highlight – Hein Wagner

Antarctica Marathon 2014: Runner Highlight – Hein Wagner

This is a post about the first blind runner to finish the Antarctica Marathon!

Runner Highlight: Hein Wagner

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He was the first blind runner to ever sign up for the Antarctica Marathon. He was awarded the first seeded number for the Marathon. For the fast runners, they can choose to put in their time to try to get one of 10 seeded numbers for the marathon.

He completde the marathon and gave a very moving speech at the dinner afterwards. He has not completed all 7 yet but look to be the first blind runner to finish all 7 continents. I uploaded the video of the speech:

He is from South Africa and runs for charity that promote the abilities of those living with disabilities and to raise funds and create awareness of the VisionTrust, a non-profit organisation he founded in mid-2008, which strives to make the world as we know it a more accessible place for persons living with disabilities. The fundraising goal for this adventure is R500 000.00 after expenses. With the above funds raised for this adventure, the VisionTrust will be able to reach more of its objectives such as assisting an additional 20 blind previously disadvantage individuals to obtain access to the appropriate software and equipment to do such basic things as reading the daily newspaper, access to the Internet, e-mail and study materials.

His website is //www.heinwagner.co.za/

Here is an excerpt from his website:

Wagner has set aside the fact that he has been totally blind from birth to live a fulfilling and abundant life. He never hesitates or stands back for any challenge. “I’ve taken on many daring adventures such as the Absa 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 at 322.52 km/h) and am excited to tick this one off my bucket list. I’m always up for a challenge with a difference and if nature and overcoming its elements forms part of the challenge, it draws me even closer to my creator.”

The marathon offers two options – a half marathon of 21.1 km and a full one of 42.2 km, which is the one Wagner and his guide Nic Kruiskamp will be competing in. Says Wagner: “Since I can remember I’ve had a fascination with the North and South Poles and when Mike Bailey came up with the idea to try and get an entry for the Antarctica Marathon, I jumped at the chance! The waiting list for this adventure is around 5 years and we applied to the race organisers back in 2008. We were accepted for last year’s race, but an iceberg damaged the ship, the Akademik Ioffe, which would have taken runners to Antarctica and the race was cancelled at the last minute. Due to a knee injury, Mike won’t be able to run with me this year and Nic and Lara Kruiskamp agreed at the last minute to act as my guides. Mike will join us as part of the support team.”

In preparation for this year’s race, Wagner will be putting miles on the treadmill as well as the road. Wagner has run the Bay-to-Bay 30km race in early January, which he finished in 2 hours and 49 minutes. He reckons that he is marathon ready, but admits that he needs to do some leg strength for the rugged terrain of the Antarctica Marathon.

Not only is the race treacherous, but the journey there as well. “We will fly to the most southern city in Argentina, Ushuaia, and from there travel on a Russian exploration boat across the Drake Passage heading south to Antarctica. It’s a five- day journey by boat to reach the 7th continent.”

Wagner reckons besides the freezing conditions – temperatures are well below zero – the wind will be their biggest challenge. “With a howling wind, I’ll not be able to hear the directional commands of my running partner and guide. We’re investigating using inner ear communication devices should the wind be too strong. The terrain is made up of mud, ice and sludge so my guide will have to talk me through all of it. It will definitely be my most challenging marathon to date! I’m sure I’ll have to walk in some places and be very careful not to strain an ankle, slip or come down on the ice!” Wagner adds.

Wagner’s says: “This race is so unique I don’t think you can be 100% ready for it no matter how often you train together. We’re currently training in the cold room at Cape Union Mart in Canal Walk to help us acclimatise. I’ve recently worked in Oslo where the temperature outside was minus 6 degrees – excellent preparation for Antartica.”

For Wagner, the most difficult event he has ever participated in was the Absa Cape Epic: “It was most definitely my hardest event to date. It was the toughest 8 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.”

Says Wagner: “It is a huge honour to be participating in the 15th Antarctica marathon as very few people ever get the opportunity to set foot on the 7th continent. It’s a very tough race and given the rugged terrain, I will not be gunning for a personal best. My plan is to enjoy the journey instead.”

Wagner reckons he has not had many disappointments in life, but has learnt many life lessons. He says the most difficult thing he has had to do, was to accept his blindness unconditionally. “It wasn’t easy, but when I started looking at it from a different perspective, it became my biggest opportunity. One of the highlights of my career was definitely winning the World Cup Cricket for the Blind in 1998. It was the first time that the event was held and to be part of the team that won was indescribable. To break the World Land Speed record also had me smiling for days.”

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