Written by Eric Holden Friday, 15 April 2011 00:00
His feet sink deeper and deeper into the cold, swampy terrain that cascades unmercifully across the barren Antarctic landscape.
He races toward the finish line that stands 30 feet ahead as mud sloshes about his ankles with every step. The wind swirls and twists violently over his head, howling like a hungry wolf. As he glances to the left, he sees an ice-covered mountain range and glacial melt-water that stretches for miles. In his perimeter vision, rays of sunlight peek through the ominous clouds that loom overhead. A wave of emotion encompasses his body as he completes the last leg of travel through the vast expanse and the awe-inspiring scene is one that not many will ever have the chance to witness in their lifetimes.
Westbury resident Les Madey knows firsthand that traveling by foot yields a rare and unique perspective of the world.
On Feb. 28, Madey became the newest member of the “Seven Continents Club,” an exclusive group comprised of the 230 athletes who have conquered a marathon on all of the Earth’s seven continents. He finished second in the 50-59 age group.
The Boston-based Marathon Tours & Travel company organized the inaugural Antarctica Marathon on “The Last Continent” in 1995, and the race has since become an annual event. It is perhaps the most formidable challenge of any long-distance race in the world, as strong katabatic winds, ankle-deep mud banks and frigid temperatures are just some of the many obstacles to overcome during the 26.2-mile run.
Madey, a 54-year-old physical therapist, has been dedicated to the sport of running for over two decades and finishing the 2011 installment of the Antarctica Marathon was the final step toward achieving his dream of completing a marathon on each continent.
For many of his global travels, Carle Place resident Mike De Iulio accompanied Madey. The men ran side-by-side in six of the seven intercontinental races, while supporting each other every step of the way.
“The rain mixed with melting snow and ice made for mud paths that were unbelievable,” De Iulio said. “It was shoe-sucking, foot-soaking, sinkhole-type mud. There were no paved roads and everything was dirt. At the beginning of the race I was a little warm, but that quickly changed as it was raining for about half the race.”
While De Iulio completed the Antarctica Marathon in 2010, political issues surrounding the Antarctic Treaty forced officials to cut the field of competitors by half and Madey was pushed back to the 2011 edition of the race.
The Madey and De Iulio families had previously found success on the local level, as they were the top two finishers in the 2010 CPCA Family Fun Run.
Besides the long-distance run through Antarctica, the well-traveled duo traversed the globe to achieve their goals and dreams.
“The experience has been surreal,” said De Iulio. “Along the way, we endured ice, snow and brutal equatorial heat. Our journeys include running through the big city of Tokyo, racing with wild animals in a Kenyan game park and seeing penguins in Antarctica.“