Leamington duo endured 150k Arctic challenge

Temperatures -30 degrees below freezing and disorientation as a result of tiredness and hunger were among the things a Leamington man had to endure when he took on an extreme foot race challenge.

Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 9:34 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 9:36 am

David McGee, 57, had no experience of any type of endurance race when he signed up to take part in the Rovaniemi 150 Arctic winter race in Lapland.

He had been inspired to take on such a challenge by his friend Leila Javadi, an artist and personal trainer whose adventures in the Arctic have been covered several times by The Courier over the years.

Having turned down the offer to take part in the race last year he decided it was now or never this time around and at the request of his wife Teresa, David who is an operations manager at Fozmula in Leamington, asked Leila to come along with him to offer her experience and guidance to him.

Peter McGee after the Rovaniemi150 race in Lapland.

He said: “In the past I had played rugby and I have done a bit of hill walking and I’ve always stayed reasonably fit but I’d never done anything at -20 or even -30 degrees and no ultra endurance challenges so this was so far removed from any of my previous experiences.”

In the six months before the race, which took place from February 25, David ran between 30 to 40 miles each week along the canal tow paths of Warwick and Leamington.

But he had never experienced anything like the conditions he was about to face.

Pulling small sleds carrying food, extra clothing and safety equipment and weighing about 30kg the David and Leila completed the 150k course in 41 hours and eight minutes, sitting down for only 20 minutes along the way and not sleeping.

Leila Javadi during the Rovaniemi150 race in Lapland.

They crossed the finish line with only 52 minutes left to spare and they were the last to finish but they still fared better than 14 non-finishers and ten non-starters.

Leila was the only woman from the UK to finish the race and David was also the oldest competitor to cross the line for this event and the third oldest man in the race’s history - which started in 2012.

David said:”It was very hard.

“After about 120k I was feeling OK and then we got up to about 6am on the second day and from then I started to feel very tired.

Leila Javadi at the Rovaniemi150 race in Lapland.

“My decision making had become very poor and I didn’t stop to put extra clothing on when the temperature dropped by ten degrees.

“I hadn’t eaten enough or stopped to take on food and water and I started to hallucinate - I was very wobbly and unstable on my feet.

“It was at that point that it was so good to have Leila on board.

“She gave me her walking poles and all the food she had in her pockets and made sure I got back into the swing of things.

Photo taken by Leila Javadi during the Rovaniemi150 race in Lapland.

“It’s an old adage but when the going gets tough, the tough get going and that’s what Leila did.

“I didn’t realise how badly shredded Leila’s feet were until she showed me at the end of the race - she didn’t show any signs that she was in pain.

“She also sacrificed her position in the women’s race - in which she was second at one point - to stay back with me.

“She really was hardcore.”

Leila is an ambassador for the This Girl Can Sport England campaign.

She said: “I’m always promoting the fantastic sporting challenges women complete, but this time I want to take my hat off to David.

“He is certainly an inspiration. I had began as his mentor but he showed complete strength and resilience and held his own.”