Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 127, February 2020 - Page 32

Many runners who tackle this incredible challenge do so as part of the Seven Continents Challenge, to run a standard marathon on every continent, or one better, the Running Grand Slam, consisting of standard marathons on all seven continents as well as within the Arctic Circle. There are even some who participate in the World Marathon Tour, which features seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. But for South African runner, triathlete and coach, Mauritz Janse van Rensburg (48), running the Antarctic Ice Marathon late last year was more an unexpected bonus adventure at the end of a crazy year of globetrotting to run four international marathons. And even more of a surprise was when he finished second. “I have international clients that I coach who live in Boston, so I normally go visit them for the Boston Marathon, which I ran for the fourth time in 2019. In July those same clients told me they needed to prepare for icy conditions, as they were going to run in Antarctica in December, so I started helping them with training for the race,” says Mauritz, or Mo, as he’s known to friends and family. “I already had plans to run the Chicago Marathon in October with an SA client, and just after that the clients in Boston let me know that one of the guys had to withdraw, and they were inviting me to join them for the trip to Antarctica in December. There are limited places in this race, only 60 runners go each year, so it is very exclusive, and naturally I grabbed the opportunity. I also decided to run the New York Marathon in November with the Boston clients, to help me acclimatise a bit to the cold. I didn’t plan to run four marathons in one year, but the opportunity was just too good to miss.” Running in the Genes At this point in the story, it is appropriate to mention Mo’s impressive running pedigree and coaching background. He is originally from the Free State, having grown up in Bloemfontein with his older brother, Jacques. Both were talented athletes, with Jacques running a 3:57 dream mile at just 19, setting several SA junior records, and going on to captain two SA cross country teams. Meanwhile, Mo achieved provincial colours for cross country and can look back on running personal bests of 31:06 for 10km, 1:09:56 The giant Russian cargo plane that takes runners to Antarctica for the half marathon, and a marathon best of 2:36:15, but he found even more success in multisport. Mo represented SA in both triathlon and duathlon, racing professionally for Montpellier club in France in the late 90s, and later completed six Ironman events, including the Hawaii Ironman World Champs. His fastest Ironman finish was 10 hours five minutes in the 2008 Ironman South Africa in Port Elizabeth. When trail running really took off in SA, Mo and Jacques teamed up to win the inaugural Cape Odyssey five- day event, and also took age category line honours at the AfricanX three-day event. Sport also played a leading role in Mo’s career path. He attended university in Bloemfontein and completed a B.Com degree, going on to run a successful sales and brand marketing business for 16 years, representing various sporting and surfing brands. He eventually decided to move his family down to George in the Southern Cape to be closer to the mountains and the ocean. “It was a lifestyle decision, but I still commuted to the Free State for business. Then 10 years ago I took a leap of faith to start Soul Running Coaching with my brother. We are now the official coaches of the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon, and we offer an online coaching service. Through the race, we have met quite a few international clients, which led to me going to Antarctica Marathon.” To the Ends of the Earth That saw Mo winging his way back to the USA for a fourth time in a year, followed by a long flight to Punta Arenas in Southern Chile to catch the plane to Antarctica. “They just tell you to be in Chile by a specific date, where you do a safety briefing and pick up all the gear you’ll need, because safety arrangements are paramount in this event. Then it’s a four and a half hour flight in a massive Russian Ilyushin IL-76 transport jet, with a very basic interior, The start of the race 32 ISSUE 127 FEBRUARY 2020 / Antarctica I t is incredible how quiet it is in Antarctica. There is no machinery, no traffic, and no animals or insects either. The silence is actually deafening, even disorientating. And if you’re there in December, the sun doesn’t set, so you need to wear sunglasses even at 3am when you get up to go to the loo. Not that the sun warms things up too much... an average day is anything from minus-10 degrees Celsius to minus-30, depending on the wind chill factor. Also, it’s dry there, like a desert, and the thin, cold air, burns your lungs. No, Antarctica is not everybody’s cup of tea, and definitely not a place you want to go running... unless you’re entered for the Antarctic Ice Marathon.