by Albert Martens
CHURCHILL, MAN.–The fifth annual Polar Bear Marathon in Churchill, Man., was once again an exciting experience.
Twenty-four runners were trying to figure out how they would manage in the cold. The atmosphere was full of suspense. It was hard to get their attention and communicate the importance of staying in a group of two or three runners near the accompanying vehicle. The excitement mounted. Will there be bears? The road was sleek with ice.
The Duke of Marlborough students came out to sing O Canada, and, after a prayer, one of the Rangers started us with a shot from his bear gun. Off we went, each runner with their escort vehicle. We were running east into the most beautiful red sunrise with a light wind on our backs and a mild temperature of -15C.
Two highlights for me were the awards dinner and the race’s documentary. It is always great to see runners share about their experiences at the dinner table. To introduce 24 runners and present them with awards, medals, and gifts (T-shirts, a soapstone bear carving, books and certificates) is a great pleasure. The Run the North documentary captures stories of runners, especially those of Tadoule Lake as it relates to their history with Churchill. At a premiere screening in the Churchill school, with about 110 viewers, the feedback was positive. One lady remarked to me, “The marathon is way more than just a marathon.”
What is the purpose of this crazy Polar Bear Marathon? It is a charity marathon in support of the Athletes in Action (AIA) work done in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, 250 kms west of Churchill. This work is dependent on volunteers and donations.
The Marathon has other “spin-off” effects like the networking of international runners and attracting many media producers. The real purpose is that of a Christian ministry. As an AIA/Power to Change staff member I am conscious of my calling to help other runners spiritually. Our mission statement reads, “Helping people know Jesus and experience His Power to Change the world.” Our faith statement includes, “The Lord Jesus Christ commanded all believers to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and to disciple men and women of every nation.”
How do we as Christians live out that directive? I found myself standing in the midst of 45 running crew and runners at the dinner table. I had prayed about this opportunity and prepared my notes. The Lord granted me peace and calm because I was obeying His voice and I sensed a lot of people were praying for me.
I shared what Jesus means to me and how my faith helps me and directs my life. I handed out my Christian book about running—Sand in my Shoes.
I want to speak up for Jesus at the opportune time and love, care, and pray for people. The Lord will take it from there. He is the One who gives life, who came to seek and save that which is lost.
Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.