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Selby High School

Selby High School

'Running together to make a difference!'

Mr Bowell, Selby High School and Médecins Sans Frontières

On 24th October 2015, I, along with approximately 141 other runners, made our way to Kangerlussaq on the west coast of Greenland, one of the largest and most barren lands on Earth. Myself and the other runners, were aiming to run in the ‘world’s coolest marathon’ across difficult off-road terrain, frozen-arctic tundra and grey-frozen lakes in the Arctic Circle making this a difficult and challenging yet bucket-list-ticking experience.

Along with my two teammates, we were running to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) a charity that provides emergency aid, support and health care to those in the poorest and often most dangerous conflicts, dealing with deadly infections, life-threatening wounds and appalling war-crimes. Through sponsorship and donations, the total currently stands at £2005 and more donations are still to be collected.

The race itself was an amazing experience. It was an early start with breakfast at 5:30am before the off-road vehicles took us up to the starting point on the ice cap at dawn. By the time of sunrise, the temperature was at -15c, although the wind was 30mph creating a wind-chill factor of -30c. The medical team initially looked worried due to the weather however the race was given the go-ahead and for the first 10km round loop on the ice cap, any skin that was exposed was in danger of getting frost bite from the extreme conditions. At points, the wind was whipping up pebble-sized ice and snow balls, in conditions similar to a sandstorm, causing visibility to be poor despite clear skies above. As well as this, in places, snow drifts on the ice from recent snowfalls added to the treacherous conditions. 

The first 10km took one hour and twenty minutes, but from this point on, the terrain became easier running on snow covered gravel tracks. Stunning views of the Russell Glacier as well as sparkling crystal frozen lakes added to the heavy silence, making this an incredible experience. I crossed the finish line in just over five hours, in time for the last of my support gels to be frozen solid.

Overall, despite the gruelling training, the challenging conditions and the isolation of running 42km in a barren landscape, this was a truly incredible experience that I never thought myself capable of achieving at the start of the year. From this, it is clear that with dedication, focus and determination, anyone is capable of achieving success if they put their mind to it. It’s all about progress, not perfection.

Gary Bowell

Early morning start

The view of runners as the sun rises on the ice cap

Mr Bowell on the ice cap

Five hours on and still smiling!