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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

January 17, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Doc’s run at 20 below elevates quest to conquer all seven continents

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Dr. David Baras of St. Petersburg at the finish line of the Antarctic Ice Marathon Dr. David Baras of St. Petersburg at the finish line of the Antarctic Ice Marathon When you are running a marathon atop a glacier and it is 20 below zero, it helps to keep a spare change of clothes – to change into when sweat makes your pants freeze.

The run is hard enough without frozen pants restricting your legs, says Dr. David Baras, 58, of St. Petersburg. So, when he completed the first half of the Ninth Annual Antarctic Ice Marathon on Nov. 20, he changed clothes, making sure to don his Tampa Bay Rays shirt for the end of the race.

Frozen sweat wasn’t the only drastic difference in this run from the many marathons Baras has completed in Florida and other warm climes. The Antarctic marathon was at 2,100 feet above sea level, something Baras believed would make the run harder, but a factor he really did not have the opportunity to train for.

In addition to the bitter cold, he had to battle blustery winds, the threat of frostbite, blinding whiteout conditions from sun glare on the ice, and goggles that frosted up, limiting visibility so much that he had do de-ice them at every checkpoint. Then there were reminders at each checkpoint as to how critical it was to stay hydrated and nourished. In short, it was a race like no other he had ever run.


Dr. David Baras ran the marathon in 6 hours, 7 minutes. Dr. David Baras ran the marathon in 6 hours, 7 minutes. Baras said there was little out of the ordinary he and other runners could do to prepare for the Antarctic run, other than bring the clothing recommended by the race director. He had to order all the clothing for the run, as no local retailers stocked such gear.

“There were a few guys who found a large meat locker and trained by running inside it, but most did not do any unusual training. In fact, for 10 of the 52 runners, this was their first marathon ever,” Baras said.

For any marathon, Baras said he begins training four to six months in advance, running a certain number of miles per week, and usually getting in three to five longer runs, close to marathon length, before the event.

Baras thought running at a higher elevation than he is used to might be a problem, but turned out to be no factor, and the same was true for running in snow. There was a layer of snow atop the ice, but it was pretty compact and his shoes only sank in about an inch, he said. Having lived and run in Omaha, NE, he said, gave him familiarity with running in snow.

Baras was among runners from 20 countries who competed. The winner finished in little over 3.5 hours and the last one crossed the line around the 9-hour mark. Baras’ time was 6 hours, 7 minutes.

He usually finishes marathons in less than four hours, but he said the goal this time was just to finish – and to come one continent closer to his quest of running a marathon on all seven continents.

The Antarctic was his third and most difficult continental marathon. Since 1985, he has run about two marathons a year, all in North America except for the Dublin Marathon in Ireland about five years ago and the Antarctic Ice Marathon. He figures the other continents should be easy after Antarctica.

He read about the Seven Continents Marathon Club about four years ago, sparking his desire to join the group, which has about 100 members, 20 of them Americans.

He had to get on a waiting list for three years just to run in the Antarctic Ice Marathon. For runners, it was their seventh continental marathon, making them members of the exclusive club.

Runners made two loops of the course to complete the marathon, with the 13.1-mile halfway point at the camp where the race began. This is where Baras took a 25-minute break to change from his frozen outfit into new layers of clothing.

He had three layers for his upper torso, two for his legs, two for his feet and two plus a wool hat for his head. For his legs and torso the outer layers were a windbreaker type fabric, while underneath there were wool liners. For his chest there was also a fleece middle layer.

He wore regular running shoes, but a size larger than normal to accommodate a liner and a heavy wool sock. Some runners used small metal cleats in their shoes to handle the ice and snow, but Baras said he did not need it.

For his head he wore a balaclava that covered all but a portion of his face, and a gaithier, which is a wool scarf that covers the neck and is stretchable to cover the mouth and nose as needed. He used suntan lotion on his face and special UV goggles to shield his eyes from sun glare.

For his hands he wore a mitten, because he said the fingers keep warmer when they are touching, and over that, a heavy wool sock.

It was summertime in the Antarctic, but still, runners were warned before they came that weather conditions may delay or wipe out the race. Winds can be brisk and sometimes reach hurricane force.

The race went off on schedule, but wind was a factor.

“We ended up with 20-25 knot winds. That made it colder and harder to see,” Baras said, adding that his goggles would freeze over and he used hot water offered at every checkpoint to defrost them. Sometimes he would briefly remove his goggles to see the course, but he said runners risked blinding conditions from the glare on the snow if they did this for long.

Unlike all his other marathons, where spectators line the course to cheer runners on, there were none for this one. “It was like being in a desert, but just cold,” he said.

At five stations along the course officials recorded each runner who came by and offered hot water, hot cocoa or coffee. “These checkpoints had medical personnel to check for frostbite and make sure you are drinking fluids and eating something – a gel or some kind of food. I used gel packets, starting around the eighth mile, and used one every two miles.”

Everyone completed the marathon, though one man did suffer from minor frostbite and one took several hours to recover from the blinding glare. Clouds and high winds after the race forced runners to stay in their tents an extra three days before they could fly out.

Not only was the race a difficult run, but the stay before and after the event was also no picnic. There were two people per unheated tent, in sleeping bags rated for minus 40-degrees. He said in time, body heat warmed the tent some, but he still had to sleep with his eye medicine, suntan lotion and toothpaste to keep them from freezing.

Because the Antarctic is pristine, there were certain “bathroom areas” and everything left there was collected and shipped back to Chile, so there would be no contamination.

His family usually watches him run marathons and his wife, Mary Jo, runs half marathons, but he said his wife “was adamant” about not joining him for his Antarctic run.

The next continent he plans to run in will either be Africa (for a run in Ethiopia or South Africa) or Asia (where his choices are down to Myanmar or South Korea). For those and the rest of the continents he aims to conquer, he said his wife will come along.

Baras, a physiatrist who specializes in physical and rehabilitation medicine, and his wife moved here in 1986. They are members of Temple Beth-El and have three grown children.

Of his run in the Antarctic, Baras said, I know I won’t do it again, but I am so glad I did do it. … This for me is a once in a lifetime [experience].”


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