- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) - In storytelling, the concept of man vs. nature is one of the oldest archetypes there is. This one definitely applies.

Jay Schuler, owner of GIANTS Snacks in Wahpeton, completed a difficult goal in early March by running a 26.2-mile trek through the wilderness of Antarctica. It was his last check of the list, the seventh and final continent in which he’s run a marathon.

The story started years ago, when a heart attack prompted Schuler to change his lifestyle.

“Both my father and grandfather had bad hearts and died early from heart attacks. I had one at the age of 40. I had to change things, so I became a vegetarian, lost some weight and began working out,” Schuler told the Daily News (http://bit.ly/1eWAIIb). “Being a competitive person, I started running marathons at 50. I get wound up a lot and it relieves stress.”

It was a relatively new experience for Schuler, who ran a little track in high school. Now he runs five days a week for miles at a time.

“After (high school) was over with, I said, ‘I’m never going to run another day in my life. I should have played baseball,’” Schuler said.

Business brought Schuler to all corners of the globe, and with his new hobby, it provided him new opportunities. Through the years, he competed in marathons in Norway, Argentina, Russia, South Africa and China, among other places, and across the United States, as well. He conjured the idea of running on all seven continents, so after some online research, he found a group crazy enough to head down to the southern tip of the Earth.

Schuler was supposed to run in Antarctica four years ago, but their boat was damaged by an iceberg and the voyage was cancelled. Finally, in March, he got another chance. They flew to the southern edge of Argentina and sailed south through the Drake Passage to get there. The untouched land was breathtaking, he said.

“It was absolutely gorgeous and stunning with the blue ice and penguins and the activity there,” Schuler said.

Finally, it came time for the run. It was unlike anything Schuler had experienced before - freezing temperatures and unforgiving terrain.

“It was by far the hardest (marathon I’ve ever ran). It rained all that day so the road was just soft mud. There was clay, gravel, and we had to run through water and over small glaciers,” he said. “Every other marathon I’ve run has been relatively flat and they weren’t in a blizzard. It was the toughest I’ve ever run. There were some really good runners who didn’t finish.”

Schuler himself thought about stopping, but pressed on.

“You’re hitting all these adverse elements and wondering if your body is going to hold up. It was tough. The course was in the shape of a figure-8 and I could’ve been done at the halfway point,” he said. “But I thought, ‘I waited four years for this. I came here to run the full marathon. I’m going to do it.’”

Schuler’s previous record time of 3 hours, 59 minutes (set on his 60th birthday) was impossible. At just past six hours, he finally crossed the finish.

“I was just elated. I’ve done it. I made it. I had brought dry clothes, and I was so cold when I finished I couldn’t untie my shoes,” he said. “I had to kick them off.”

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