Hakan Jonsson has ice in his veins: there can be no doubt of that.
We’ve been following TMC’s very own extreme athlete over the last year as he prepared for one of the toughest races on earth. TMC was proud to support him on his journey, helping him to raise funds for Kids Reach 5, a charity that he passionately supports as it tries to get young children under five back into school in the townships of South Africa.
We’re delighted to report that Hakan has now achieved his fundraising goal through this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Heartbeat caught up with him to find out how it feels to beat the odds at the bottom of the world. Here is an account of the last leg of his amazing journey.
We left Sweden on the 19th of November, by plane from Kastrup to Madrid and then on to Santiago de Chile and Punta Arenas in southern Chile. By November 21st it was time to board the big Russian military plane which would transport us to Union Glacier. The camp was located at almost the same elevation as the geographical South Pole, so now we were officially as far south as you can possibly come.
Even getting our boarding passes for the flight to Antarctica was an awesome feeling. When we got there, the trip to Union Glacier took about four hours. The few steps down to the cold, blue ice were truly surreal. We were greeted by an amazing view of an immense white landscape with only the occasional mountain top breaking the horizon’s solid line. Icy winds pushed us around mercilessly and we had to tread carefully not to slip and fall before our transport, a tracked vehicle that could more easily manoeuvre on the ice, continued.
Because of the heavy winds we were told at around 10am that we would be running by noon, November 24th. The weather forced the organisers to rearrange the lap route, resulting in a four-lap race with a shorter track distance instead of the planned two-lap race. By this point, everything became a rush, changing into the proper clothes and equipment and making all our other preparations. When the race finally began, it was truly amazing.
The first lap went smoothly on the fresh track, but after running about 15km my expedition partner Andreas got a cramp in his calf, which marked the beginning of our problems. At times, we needed to stop completely, or walk instead of running, which just made the cold bite even harder through our layers of clothing. Between laps 2 and 3 we even took a break inside the heat tent to regain some warmth before continuing the race. This pit stop might have lasted almost 30 minutes.
Despite the poor conditions, we pushed on to the finish. Because of the harsh weather, low temperature and fairly regular walking periods, our total race time was not impressive. Around seven hours after we started, we crossed the finish line with the temperature at minus 25ºC, and wind to boot. We were among 53 runners in the marathon and six runners in the half-marathon.
At the start of this adventure, we only had one clearly defined goal: to complete the race and enjoy the experience while it lasted. We did our best, but the last laps in particular were made more difficult by the snow build-up, forcing us to wade through the drifts and battling the constant winds. But all the hard work, training and sacrifice were worth it. As of today, we have collected more than 150,000 SEK to benefit our campaign and, as you can imagine, we met a really interesting group of people along the way
This race is not for everyone. We were a striking gathering of oddballs from all over the globe, including a group of American marines who ran together with the widow of a fallen soldier for the benefit of veterans’ rehabilitating programmes. There were also two runners who completed the Grand Slam, meaning they had run a marathon on the North Pole and were members of the Seven Continents Marathon Club.
Without a doubt, the biggest experience of the journey was passing the finish line. I carried the Swedish flag and Andreas carried another flag emblazoned with the words: ‘TO FIGHT CHILD MORTALITY.’
We had finally done what we had lived, breathed, prepared for and even partially feared for the last two and a half years. It was a feeling of indescribable happiness and joy. We had done something not many had before us. Never in my life have I felt so I proud of myself, or of what we had accomplished together. I feel privileged to, through my running, be a part of something bigger than myself; an important work that tries to create better conditions for children and young mothers to help them gain the opportunity for a better, longer life.
All of our collected money is being invested to the international aid work of the Swedish Church, specifically the Philani project in the townships of Cape Town. Philani was founded by Swedish Dr Ingrid Le Roux and its work with mentor moms is making a huge difference to the most vulnerable children.
We’d like to thank everyone who supported us, including TMC, which was with us right from the beginning of this extraordinary adventure.
Now we look forward to new challenges. My current goal is to run a marathon on the roof of the world, Tibet, by September this year. I plan on topping it off by running on the North Pole and finally get the Grand Slam medallion myself.