In 2003, a British man by the name of Martin Tighe ran the distance of over 40 kilometres in five hours.
Considering the average time taken by marathon runners around the world, one would dismiss Tighe’s attempt as unimpressive. However, to truly understand the significance of his achievement, one must learn where Tighe’s race was run – the North Pole.
16 years later, Robert Schimek will attempt to do what Tighe and a select few after him did – conquer one of the most perilous terrains on the face of this planet.
By day, Robert Schimek is the Group Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of FWD Insurance, the very organization sponsoring the northernmost marathon of the world. However, there is more to the man than many would notice at first sight.
Robert is also an athlete with a high level of perseverance. He has competed twice in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and three times in the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour endurance test, in Nevada. He has also completed some of the world’s toughest city marathons in a myriad of weather conditions including London, Chicago and most recently, Hong Kong.
For now, the FWD Insurance Group COO and MD is enjoying his life in Singapore:
“I found that Singapore has two temperatures, hot and hotter,” says Robert, “I found that even in the short time since I’ve arrived here In August 2018, my body reacts differently to the heat. For the first time in my life my body is sweating more than ever; really adjusting to the idea of running in hot temperatures.”
“To be honest with you it makes me a little concerned about how my body is going to respond when I go to run out in the cold in the North Pole.”
Cold temperatures are usually not of concern to Robert, as he admits himself. However, even the strong-willed would think twice before going running in minus forty degrees.
“I like cold temperatures in general but I’m not so sure that I like 40 Degrees below zero. So the effect for me tends to be in the extremities. I am worried about my nose freezing off. I’d worry about my beard freezing except I can’t really grow my beard too well,” he jokes.
No Ice, no problem
Robert is well-and-truly immersed in his training at the moment and has used rather unique methods for the same. After all, extreme challenges require extreme preparations!
“What better way to prepare for the North Pole Marathon than working out in the back of an ice truck,” he says, “Doing all the exercises the way you’ll actually have to do them in the North Pole; in conditions as close to the North Pole as we can make in Singapore.”
The Singapore-based Group COO & MD has also been preparing in a slightly more professional surrounding of an ice lab, where he is getting acclimatized to the extreme temperatures.
However, despite all the training and preparation, Robert is still up against one of the harshest climates in the world. One which takes away from a runner the very first step of any race – the warm-up!
“In its very basic form when you begin any workout you begin by warming up. So almost by definition, the concept of warming up for the North Pole Marathon isn’t there – I guess I will warm up later on with a hot cup of cocoa!
“And as a result of that, I do think you have a higher degree of risk of injury. I had knee surgery. I’ve had shoulder surgery after some extreme events. And I do worry a little bit about how those injuries will respond to the cold weather.”
A ‘Special’ run
For the third straight time, the ‘coolest’ marathon in the world will be sponsored by FWD Insurance; an organization which delivers on its promise to celebrate living. The very motive of the institution is built around inspiring people to live their lives to the fullest and supporting them in the cause.
And for an organization which calls for a better living, what better way to live up to the standards than by having one of their own run the marathon!
“I am a person who really enjoys his life and because of that, I enjoy an adventure,” says Robert.
“I want to experience things that I have never experienced before. Things that the people haven’t really experienced before.”
“It’s not something most people will ever realistically have a chance to do. To me, that is extremely exciting.”
Running in such extreme conditions is not just about personal gain for the FWD man. Instead, it is his dedication towards a cause that makes it all the more special:
“I love the idea of running with a purpose. When you’re running for charity it reminds you of two things – number one you never quit on the charity. And number two, if you achieve your objective, that you would have earned all the money that you raised.”
Robert has been associated with several charities ever since his first event in Philadelphia. Since then, most of his charity work has been around two areas – Disabilities and Education.
“I’m really proud to have raised over a quarter of a million dollars for the Challenged Athletes Foundation in the two Ironman World Championships I’ve competed in. And it’s my big hope that my friends will help me step up and be big fundraisers for the Special Olympics in the North Pole Marathon,” says Robert.
It is for that very cause that Robert and the rest of the athletes will travel to the North Pole – to raise funds for the Special Olympics, the Hong Chi Association, breast cancer awareness and for prosthetic legs.
FWD have themselves joined hands with the Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Special Olympics provide year-round training to over five million athletes; a cause which FWD and Robert Schimek will be supporting.
At his core, Robert Schimek does what he does for the love of running, something that makes him take his place on the starting line – no matter the place, no matter the distance.
“I like to be out there, by myself and think,” he says
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