PORT ANGELES — Bruce Skinner loves to run and travel.
The longtime Olympic Medical Center Foundation executive director will do plenty of both in March as a competitor in the Antarctica Marathon.
Skinner, 70, has been training for the 26.2-mile race on the arid, icy continent since Nov. 1.
If he finishes the looping course on King George Island on March 17, Skinner will have completed a marathon on five continents.
Skinner plans to join the “Seven Continents Club” by running subsequent marathons in Cape Town, South Africa, and in Santiago, Chile.
“I really love to run,” Skinner said in a Friday interview.
“And I love to travel. So it’s an opportunity to do both and to go places I probably normally woundn’t have gone.”
Before lacing up his trail running shoes in Antarctica, Skinner and his wife, Kathy, will spend a few days in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The 93 runners and their supporters will then board a research vessel in Ushuaia, Argentina, and sail across the infamous Drake Passage to King George Island.
“They say definitely bring seasick pills, which I plan to do,” Skinner said of the two-day water crossing.
Marathon Tours & Travel, which has been offering the Antarctica Marathon since its inception in 1995, books the race years in advance.
Skinner signed up for the 2020 Antarctica Marathon but was offered a spot for 2019 when one became available.
“I want to get it out of the way,” Skinner said of the Antarctica challenge, adding: “I’m not getting any younger.”
The Antarctica marathon and half-marathon courses change from year to year. The primitive roads on King George Island that serve research stations may be covered with snow and ice, Skinner said.
“It can be muddy,” Skinner said. “It can be icy and snow covered, which definitely slows you down.”
Skinner said he expected the course to be a series of loops. Runners are required to pack their own water, sports drinks and energy gels to the island.
Meals are provided on the research vessels, the cabins of which are similar to cruise ships, Skinner said.
“It’s not roughing it,” he said.
Marathon Tours & Travel, which has a waiting list for the 2020 and 2021 Antarctica Marathons, offers packages with travel from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia to King George Island and back starting at $6,990.
Skinner is funding his Seven Continents Club challenge out of his own pocket.
“To race on Antarctica is a goal of many runners,” Race Director Thom Gilligan said in a news release.
“On average we have participants from more than 20 counties who join this tour that takes you to the most pristine corner of the planet.”
Runners were told to expect temperatures between 10 and 34 degrees. March 17 is late summer in Antarctica.
Skinner said the winds and surface conditions will be more important on race day than the temperature.
“I run here when it gets down into the 20s — that won’t be an issue,” Skinner said.
“But if it’s icy, that definitely slows you down.”
Skinner intends to complete the full marathon in Antarctica. He finished full marathons in New York in 2013, Paris in 2015, Iceland in 2016, Istanbul, Turkey, in 2017 and Sydney, Australia in September.
It was after the race in Reykjavik, Iceland that Skinner learned about the Seven Continents Club and realized that he had a realistic chance to accomplish the feat.
To prepare for Antarctica, Skinner has been running 55 to 60 miles per week. His longer training runs are about 20 miles on a route from his home at Lake Sutherland to his office in Port Angeles.
Skinner typically runs in the morning. He mixes his training with the occasional hike to Lake Angeles and run back to the trailhead.
“As long as a you have good raincoat and rain pants, it’s better than training in the heat, which a lot of people have to do,” Skinner said of winter training on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Skinner was a solid runner in his 30s — he posted a 3 hour, 59 minute time in a domestic marathon — before trading his running shoes for a bicycle.
“I’ve always exercised,” he said.
In 2004, the former Fiesta Bowl executive director was asked to expand the popular Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series to Phoenix and later to Seattle, Portland and San Antonio.
Skinner was encouraged to walk a half marathon with friends in Indianapolis, which led to more half marathons and better times.
“All of a sudden, I was running more than I was walking, and then got to the point where I ran the whole thing,” Skinner said.
These days, Skinner is able to finish a full marathon in a respectable six hours.
“If you have good knees and hips, anybody can do it,” Skinner said, “because I never was an elite runner by any stretch of the imagination.”
Skinner trained to run the entire New York City Marathon in 2012. That race was canceled because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Upon his return from New York, Skinner ran the entire North Olympic Discovery Marathon course, which follows the Olympic Discovery Trail from Blyn to Port Angeles.
Skinner made his comeback official in the 2013 New York City Marathon.
“Running through New York is an incredible experience,” Skinner said.
“Running through Paris is a great experience. For me, it’s a great way to travel and to see a city.”
Or a continent.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].