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IWC Schaffhausen

The Journal

CHASING THE EXTREME: A DAD’S NORTH POLE MARATHON

CHASING THE EXTREME: A DAD’S NORTH POLE MARATHON
Read Time: 4 min
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Seth Wise

Seth Wise

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SETH WISE HAS A DREAM: TO RACE AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD, LITERALLY. FIND OUT HOW THE FATHER OF THREE PREPARES FOR THE WORLD’S COOLEST MARATHON®.

My three children have just gone to bed, it’s dark, it’s cold, and the rain is gently falling. I’m tired and all I want to do is jump into a hot shower and relax on the sofa after a long and exhausting day at work. The reality is that I am lacing up my trainers, donning my gloves, teeing up my next podcast and heading out for a 10-mile run under the streetlights of Chichester…

 

 

RUNNING ON TOP OF THE WORLD

If you are not aware of the North Pole Marathon, it’s exactly as it sounds. A full 26.2 mile [approx. 42 km] marathon run each year (where possible) on the Polar Ice that sits on top of the Arctic Ocean, at the geographic North Pole. In short, it is without doubt the coolest marathon on the planet, and the only one that sees competitors run quite literally on top of the world! Due to its unique, fragile nature and the continued threat of climate change, it is also an event that’s unlikely to be able to take place in the not-too-distant future.

 

The North Pole Marathon has taken place 16 times since its conception in 2002, when it was run by a single competitor: Richard Donovan. He’s the mastermind behind a number of extreme and unique running challenges that take place across the globe.

 

To date, only 532 people the world over have ever completed the North Pole Marathon. And after two postponed attempts in 2021 and 2022, in April 2023 I will finally get my chance to compete in one of the harshest and most remote environments on the planet, when I take on the 17th edition of the North Pole Marathon.

 

Seth Wise preparing to race in the North Pole Marathon

— Seth Wise preparing to race in the North Pole Marathon 

[Back in 2016] less than 500 people in the world had ever completed the race. For context, approximately 6,098 people have summitted Everest.
Seth wearing the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium IW388106

— Seth wearing the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Top Gun Ceratanium IW388106

 

 

STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD

But why would you want to run a marathon at the North Pole? It’s a question I often get asked, and one that I have spent some time thinking about. Ever since I was a child, I have always looked for ways to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps through insecurity, or just a natural desire to be the centre of attention, I have always strived to achieve things that others wouldn’t, or think they can’t.

 

I didn’t find endurance sport until my early thirties, when I took on an Ironman Triathlon in Lanzarote. Ironman gave me a glimpse of a different world, a world full of people I can only describe as superheroes. Hundreds of what looked like finely tuned athletes, challenging themselves in a way that was totally alien to me at the time. 

 

But the elation of completing my first Ironman triathlon was short-lived, as the commercialisation of the Ironman brand turned it from a mythical adventure for a select few, into a global machine with hundreds of events and hundreds of thousands of competitors all over the world. And as such, the search continued for that ultimate opportunity to set myself apart.

 

It didn’t happen overnight, but 6 years ago, I stumbled across a social media post talking about the 2016 running of the North Pole Marathon. For whatever reason, the race immediately captured my attention. Perhaps it is my long-standing love of Christmas, Santa Claus in particular. Or the fact that at the time, less than 500 people in the world had ever completed the race. For context, approximately 6,098 people have summitted Everest. Either way, it soon became my mission, my goal, my destiny to complete this totally ridiculous yet incredible race. 

 

There is no land at the North Pole, and although flat, we will be running on what is effectively a giant iceberg.

 

 

CHANCES AND CHALLENGES

I am now four weeks out from my departure to the Arctic, and the dream has never felt closer to becoming a reality.

 

Preparing to take on a marathon in temperatures that could range from -25 to -40 degrees is, as you can imagine, a challenge in itself. It’s nigh on impossible to replicate the conditions that I will face at the North Pole here on the South Coast of England, so a lot of my training has been focused on preparing my body for the arduous physical nature of the challenge. 

 

There is no land at the North Pole, and although flat, we will be running on what is effectively a giant iceberg. Underfoot conditions will vary from sheet ice, to knee-deep drifting snow. It’s these tough underfoot conditions that I have looked to try and replicate in my training, with a lot of my running taking place on the rough and muddy trails of the South Downs. 

 

Although on the ground infrastructure is provided by the event organisers, the kit that I will complete the race in is my own responsibility. Ironically, the feedback from previous runners of this epic race is that one of the biggest problems they faced was overheating. As such, a layering system is used to enable you to ventilate your body heat, while also protecting you from the biting cold. Keeping my extremities (fingers, toes, nose) safe and warm is a big one for me. Frostbite is a very real danger, and can start to develop within 20 minutes of exposure. 

 

The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium IW388106
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The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium IW388106

IW388106

Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium®

14.100 €

Ceratanium® case, Automatic winding. Black dial with luminescence, Black rubber strap with textile inlay, Strap width 20.0 mm.

Made in Switzerland

— The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 TOP GUN Ceratanium IW388106

My life is full of commitments and pressures. I sometimes wonder how I have time to think, let alone train for a marathon of the magnitude of the North Pole.
Seth Wise getting ready for the North Pole Marathon

— Seth Wise getting ready for the North Pole Marathon

 

 

A TASTE OF WHAT THE ARCTIC HAS IN STORE

I will have the opportunity to test my expedition kit. Through my professional network I have secured the support of an automotive partner who will allow me access to the extreme cold chamber in their factory. I’ll have the chance to run on a giant treadmill designed for cars as the team of engineers drop the temperature to -20 degrees, affording me a taste of what the Arctic has in store.

 

I am not a professional athlete, or adventurer. I am a husband and father of three young girls. I have a full-time job. My life is full of commitments and pressures. I sometimes wonder how I have time to think, let alone train for a marathon of the magnitude of the North Pole. But the burning desire to achieve something incredible, and to inspire others to do the same, is always there in the back of my mind, fueling those late night or early morning training sessions. 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Seth’s journey to the Arctic.

 

Seth is using his journey 90 Degrees North to raise funds for the charity Love Your Hospital - a UK-based charity that supports NHS-owned hospitals within England. 

IWC Schaffhausen