by Albert Martens
In December 2017, the 6th Polar Bear Marathon took place in Churchill with 17 International runners. It was a challenging event this year because of the indirect effects of the railroad tracks not being in service.
We had Mohamad Ahansal from Morocco run with us. He is a long-time friend from the Sahara Desert, a true “son of the desert,” which is where I met him while running the Marathon des Sables four times. We also had three runners from Mexico, two from Germany, three from Toronto, several from Churchill, and two from Tadoule Lake.
A concern, of course, was to keep the three Tarahumara runners from Mexico safe and warm. The three, from the Copper Canyon, did really well. The father, Santiago Ramirez, ran 50 km in five hours and four minutes. Mario, son to Santiago, ran the full marathon, whereas Juana, daughter to Santiago, ran the half marathon. All were kept safe with no frostbite, even though it was -22 C with chilly wind.
The Athletes in Action dessert night in Steinbach, Man., went very well, with over 200 people coming. Some just showed up without registrations.
The Mexico connection to the Polar Bear Marathon is pretty huge. I was totally surprised to have this become such a big media event. A radio station in Toronto requested an interview with me about the Tarahumara runners. What is so special is that one runner from Mexico is a believer in Jesus, which makes the whole event of the running ministry more meaningful.
Many of you may have heard of the book Born to Run by Chris McDougall, where he writes about the Copper Canyon, the Cabello Blanco 50 mile ultra marathon, and barefoot running. Often the Tarahumara runners run in sandals and the girls run in skirts. Lorena Ramirez is another family member who is famous for her long distance running in Mexico. She could not be with us, because she was running somewhere else during that Polar Bear Marathon weekend.
David Peters was my translator for the Ramirez runners, and he came with me to Churchill to help. He has written more about what happened when the Ramirez family returned to Mexico. Their reception was huge, he says. He called it a “zoo.” The runners were met at the airport by media and government officials, and a press conference was planned with the governor at his palace. (The governor also congratulated them on his Facebook account.) Only then could they go home.
A scientist in Churchill had filmed the marathon and he put it on YouTube. This was picked up in Mexico and, in turn, shown on Mexican national television. David also informed me that Mario was given a house by the governor for all his accomplishments. Pray for Mario as his dream is to develop a Christian school for his Tarahumara people.
I have a long list of people to thank for all the help that was given to organize the marathon in Churchill to the dessert evening in Steinbach. It was a massive event that influenced many people worldwide. Thank you. I greatly appreciate your continued prayers.
Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action. He has a long history of ministry and of long-distance running and combines the two in service to Christ.