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San Clemente’s Beth Sanden trains on her custom mountain hand cycle in Big Bear in January. Photo: Courtesy
San Clemente’s Beth Sanden trains on her custom mountain hand cycle in Big Bear in January. Photo: Courtesy

Beth Sanden will travel to Antarctica for her toughest challenge yet

By Steve Breazeale

Beth Sanden has navigated her way over the bumpy dirt roads of Peru, traversed the cobbled streets of Rome and conquered a route up the Great Wall of China all in the midst of completing a marathon. Now the frozen tundra awaits.

Sanden, 60, who is partially paralyzed from the waist down, will embark on a trip to Antarctica on Feb. 13 to complete her seventh marathon on the seventh and final continent needed to complete a journey that has been four years in the making.

Upon completion of her 26.2 miles in Antarctica, Sanden will be the first disabled athlete to hit the seven-continent mark.

Sanden will join 48 other marathoners on a chartered trip to Antarctica by way of Chile. Sanden will take on the icy trek on a custom 45-pound hand cycle with large wheels that are studded for extra traction.

The trip will undoubtedly be her toughest test yet.

She is bracing for temperatures in the low teens and expects it to be slow goings over Antarctica’s unique landscape, which features slow-rolling hills. Sanden usually finishes up a marathon in a little over two hours. That won’t be the case in two weeks.

“I presume I’m probably going to be out there seven to eight hours … it’s not a paved road and it’s not my race bike,” Sanden said. “It’s a 45-pound mountain hand cycle that I have to push and I’m only 110 pounds. So it’s a lot. It’s a lot more work.”

She has spent months training in Big Bear and Mammoth in order to acclimate her body to colder temperatures and high altitude. The area in Antarctica where she will be doing the marathon is around sea level, but Sanden has been told the conditions will make her body feel like it is several thousand feet up.

Because of her condition, Sanden does not get proper circulation to the lower part of her body, exposing cold and frostbite as a real concern. But she has found custom battery-operated socks, gloves and hunting pants that have worked brilliantly in training, she said.

Sanden’s journey for her seventh marathon across the globe started back in 2011. Over that time, the San Clemente resident, who is also a coach for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and USA Triathlon team, did not start out looking for attention but rather to serve as a source of inspiration.

“I am so anticipating it … I’m not looking for glory, I’m looking to inspire. And hopefully the people that I coach, able-bodied and disabled, that they will see … I’m 60 years old and I can set goals. I’m 60 and I can still achieve them and they can too,” Sanden said. “Nonetheless, there are people who are training for Ironman or the Paralympics that I coach and they see an old lady doing something like this and go ‘Wow, OK cool.’ So hopefully it’s to inspire them to keep going.”

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