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Park City couple trains for third continental marathon in Antarctica

FILE - The Park City couple won't be seeing any penguins on their marathon run March 20 as the penguins live in another part of the continent, but will see them after the race.
The Park City couple won't be seeing any penguins on their marathon run March 20 as the penguins live in another part of the continent, but will see them after the race.

It’s a goal of Recycle Utah Executive Director Carolyn Wawra to run a marathon on all seven continents and her husband Chris Neville is joining in. Perhaps their most challenging 26.2-mile run will be next month on the most southern aspect of the world: the frozen continent of Antarctica.

In less than a month, Carolyn Wawra and Chris Neville will be one of about 150 people competing in the annual Antarctic Marathon. Why, might you ask?

“I really like running,” Wawra said. “And maybe I was getting bored with races in the US. I felt like I have done a lot… I’ve run 29 marathons and Antarctica will be my 30th and I was looking for something to do and a fun way to travel.”

Prior to this, the couple has run a marathon in South Africa through a game preserve.

“There were literally park rangers there guarding wildlife to make sure that the wildlife didn't see you as prey during the race. We didn't have any close calls. It was very safe, but you felt protected. It was a very different kind of race and a very authentic culture, like African music playing along the course. So that race kind of got us hooked on this whole continent thing.”

They will fly into Argentina and then to Ushuaia to board a small cruise ship. The crew will use a smaller dinghy boat to transport racers between the ship and the shore on race day.

“There's a rule about Antarctica, there can only be 100 runners on the continent at a time,” she said. “So, they’re shuttling people back and forth… 10 runners will finish and they’ll grab 10 more runners to go start. They make it very clear that this isn't going to be your goal race, it's not going to be PR [personal record]. It’s like we will get you on the land to run. This isn't going to be like your dream race. I think the course is like a four-ish mile loop that you do six times, and you're running between a couple of research stations.”

Daytime temperatures, she says, typically range between 25 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. But the conditions could be extreme with freezing temperatures and icy winds. Participants are advised to bring a few pairs of running shoes as the track could be frozen, slushy or muddy.

Wawra doesn’t expect to run her fastest race; it’s all about the adventure. Her personal record is about 4.5 hours, so she’s hoping to finish within an hour of that.

After the race, they’ll have another week to explore, visit the research stations, photograph penguins and do the polar plunge into the Southern Ocean.

Their next adventure marathon destination she guesses will be South America or Europe.