Marine. Lt. Col. Bill Conner completes the Antarctica Marathon; raises more than $40K for Semper Fi Fund



A year’s delay, an early-race pulled muscle and a lot of mud didn’t stop a boots-and-utilities-clad Lt. Col. Bill Conner from finally finishing the Antarctica Marathon earlier this month.

“Quitting was not an option, and I limped forward on the course and persevered,” Conner wrote in an email.

Getting to the race took an extra year, three long flights and three days on a ship for the Oahu, Hawaii-based Marine to arrive at the starting line March 9.

Related: Using brawn to raise bucks: Tips from troops who turn extreme endurance feats into charity fundraisers

The 40-year-old initially entered the 2013 race but wasn’t able to make an alternate date when the trip was postponed. Just days before the group was to leave, the ship to take participants from Argentina to Antarctica was damaged by an iceberg.

So Conner set his sights on the 2014 race and used the extra time to do more fundraising for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial support for wounded service members and their families.

The marathon was Conner’s sixth race with the charity. He raised more than $46,000 during his two years training for Antarctica, bringing his lifetime total to almost $135,000, says Corey Petersen, community athlete coordinator for the charity.

“My dream is [for] every Marine to do one fundraising event for a veteran’s charity like the Semper Fi Fund,” he wrote.

Conner’s geographic disadvantage meant getting creative with his training. It wasn’t the distance that worried him, he said, but how he’d train for an Antarctic event while living in sunny Hawaii.

“I was very concerned about the weather conditions in … Antarctica, especially since the only time I was able to train for cold weather while stationed in Hawaii were several trips up to Mauna Kea and my leave in Oklahoma over Christmas,” he wrote.

While race-day conditions were dreary by mainland standards — with light rain, 20-mph winds and temperatures in the mid-30s — Conner said it was better than he’d expected.

“I was mentally prepared for much tougher conditions and for it to be much colder,” he wrote. “Mother Nature was overall kind to us this year.”

The mud and a pulled calf muscle at Mile 6 made this race the slowest marathon finish for the distance veteran, but said Antarctica’s beauty was worth the trip. The marathon was his 20th finish of 26.2 or father.

“I was not able to run up the hills and [that] made for a very long day,” he said of his finish time.

Conner doesn’t have any other big trips on the calendar for this year. He’s been accepted into the 39th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and plans on running Maryland’s JFK 50-mile race in November.

To donate, visit Conner’s Semper Fi Fund fundrasing page here, and for more information on the Semper Fi Fund, go to www.semperfifund.org.

And want more stories of service members going the extra mile? Check out Marine Sgt. Tyler ChittickMarine Staff Sgt. Derek DowellMarine Capt. Mosi Smith and Marine Sgt. Enrique Treviño.

Are you or one of your buddies doing anything physically extreme for a good cause? Let us know at pt365@militarytimes.com.

(Photo by Charlie Lawrence Photography and Design)

Sara Davidson

Sara Davidson is an ultrarunner and contributor to PT365. She's run 7 marathons and 32 ultramarathons -- including her first 100-miler. This fall she is training for the Marine Corps Marathon using our PT365 Run Plan. Reach her at sdavidson@gannett.com .