In air so cold human teeth hurt, Beth Sanden, 62 years old and paralyzed below the waist, steels herself for the final push to accomplish what no human has ever done:
Complete a full marathon — 26.2 miles — using a handcycle at the North Pole.
For more than six hours, the San Clemente resident has cranked herself around a frozen runway in a land of ice and snow so hostile that even polar bears stay away.
But as Sanden nears the final two miles, something happens that could kill her dream to cross the frozen finish line.
The batteries that warm her gloves start to break down in the minus-41 degree weather. Within seconds, the batteries conk out.
Instantly, Arctic cold creeps through several layers of gloves.
She completed a similar marathon in the Antarctic and endured early frostbite. But there, the temperatures were far warmer — only 10 degrees below zero.
In the Antarctic, her batteries easily lasted more than 10 hours. In the temperatures that Sanden braves at the North Pole, even eyeballs hurt. If she carried a mercury thermometer, the metallic liquid would freeze.
The challenged athlete reaches up to pull apart the frost-covered skin on her eyes. It’s 1.5 miles to the finish line. She figures she can cover the distance in a half-hour.
But at what cost?
If you know Sanden, you know what this woman who has completed marathons on every continent on the planet will do.
This mother of two adult daughters is on a mission to inspire others, to prove the impossible is possible. She decides to endure the punishing cold of the North Pole.
Her inner voice warns, “Do it and…