When Dave van de Wetering heard about the chance to run a marathon with just 45 other people in the North Pole, while also raising money for Habitat for Humanity, he quickly seized the opportunity. The at-home sales manager, who sells fibre optics communication systems to Bell for the Ottawa-based Ciena, received an e-mail from his employer looking for volunteers for this extreme adventure.
He immediately put his name in the hat to participate.
“I am a goal-oriented person and I really wanted to maximize the experience by doing this extreme activity, but also raise more than $30,000 for Habitat for Humanity internationally,” says van de Wetering, who led a local team that raised $21,000 for Habitat Nova Scotia between the UVU North Pole Marathon and a local event with the Bluenose Marathon in his hometown of Halifax, NS.
His employer, Ciena, covered the costs of the event, travel, and his running gear, which consisted of just three layers: a merino wool top and pants, a fleece jacket, windproof pants and jacket, plus a balaclava, goggles, gloves, and winter running shoes. The company also partnered with the Hibernia Network, allowing van de Wetering to have a running partner, Gary Seery, at the North Pole. The pair video chatted weekly leading up to the event and ended up finishing the marathon within a minute of each other.
Van de Wetering has been running since his Mount Allison days in the early ‘80s and had previously completed a number of Olympic distance triathlons, and an Ironman Triathlon distance, which includes a full marathon.
“I knew from that I had the endurance to complete the event, but I had to make sure to run at a pace so I wouldn’t sweat, because if you sweat, you die,” he says.
To train for the event he ran 10-15 hours per week in the harsh Maritime weather conditions, which he says gave him “a huge leg up.” To prepare for the psychological aspect, he also headed to Inuvik to do a “dry run” and mimic the conditions of the North Pole.
He finished the marathon in eight hours and 29 seconds, completing the first half of the 42 km run in just 2 hours and 45 minutes.
“It is really extreme and not really a race. You are literally running on the ice floe, where the snow is not packed down,” he says. “ You get the sense of being on top of the world, watching the sun move in a circle.”
With the run several months behind him, van de Wetering reflects that the marathon on April 9, 2015 was the most exhilarating and challenging thing that he has ever done and “the very best work day ever.”
He will be continuing with his philanthropic efforts, spending some time this fall volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Halifax.