#45. DAVID KUHNE – How to run the North Pole Marathon without freezing!

From the camaraderie to the sense of achievement, David ticks all the boxes on why running in the cold should be on your bucket list.

As a 14 month old baby, doctors told David Kuhne’s parents that he would never run or play sports. By the age of 5 he was playing soccer, by age 11 he was playing Aussie rules football and at 26 ran his first marathon. David’s recount of the North Pole marathon will have you in awe. Completing a marathon in minus thirty five degrees on unforgiving terrain is something David will happily do again!

David explains the ins and outs of running this incredible event and why everyone should consider the North Pole Marathon.

Starting Out In The North Pole Marathon

David Kuhne 0:00
So we’ve landed on the north pole on the ice shelf, and they open the doors and you get there and suddenly, the air is sucked out of you. Again, it’s minus 35. And I’ve only got a little kid bag, and that’s got all my. I’ve got most of my clothes on. But that’s got all my change of clothes for however long we’re going to be here.

How David Kuhne Started Running

Jackie 3:14
David, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m very excited because Well, firstly, let me just say a mutual friend of ours, Dave Merriott, who I had on the show a couple of weeks ago now. We were talking, I said If you know anyone who you know you think should come on the podcast, let me know. He’s got back to me, he said. So I know this guy who’s done the north and south pole. What do you reckon? And I just thought, yes, he would be great to talk to. So I’m looking forward to it. But what I find really interesting after learning a bit about you is that your parents were told at a very young age that you wouldn’t ever run or play any sport. Can you tell us why it was that and then your journey to running and running your first marathon?

David Kuhne 4:17
Yeah, it must have been devastating for my parents at the age of about 14 months or thereabouts. My mum had noticed that I wasn’t really walking that well. And I was either stumbling or not getting up and so she took me to the doctor and they said, Oh, he’s got scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine. So chances are, you’ll never run and you will never play sport. And the treatment at that stage was simply to put me in a brace or a harness if you like and I had one arm out of the house and I was strapped in. And this sort of was for about 10 hours a day. And I was quite ingenious as a child. Apparently, I worked out a way of getting out of it. But my father was an engineer, and he worked out a way of putting in extra straps.

Jackie 5:06
That’s it. Keep you in it.

David Kuhne 5:08
Yeah, I had to bend my spine back the other way, if you like. And so that worked. And at the age of five, I was playing soccer. And I remember being told my grandparents came up to Womerah, you know, just for a visit, and saw me playing soccer and were in tears. It was either because they never thought I would run, which wasn’t expected, or that I was such a bad player. So I really don’t know which should they use. But my money is…

Discovering The Skill

Jackie 5:40
We don’t need to know.

David Kuhne 5:43
To tell this story that I always used to say, Yeah, but mom, if not for you. I’d never run. So yeah, I was lucky. She picked it up. And from that time on, I played Aussie rules soccer and still didn’t run if you like. Never thought I’d run more than two laps to the oval. Then in 2000. Well, going back, I was 27, 1977. We’re playing in Aussie rules. We’re about to go into the finals. I managed to get reported on a Thursday night, or sorry, on a Saturday, and got off on Tuesday night. Thursday night, I did cartilage. So I mean, after a few weeks, getting the cartilage removed the old, open you all up, take the cartilage out. So you’re back on crutches for six weeks, and I had to do something in the summer to get fit. So I decided I’m going to run with the blokes that I know from my footy club around the prospect area. So we did. And I found out that I actually wasn’t as slow as a lumbering Rockman that I thought I was. And so this is 1977, 78.

Jackie 6:56
Wait a minute. Rockman. How tall are you?

David Kuhne 7:00
I’m about six foot two. So I’ve got a long stride. I used to have a leap, but that’s gone. And so is my long stride, actually. So I found I was actually relatively quick compared to the rovers. And at one stage, there’s a friend of mine. He was my best man. He hasn’t spoken to me of running ever since I ran backward around an oval to keep up with him. And because I was marathon fit back in those days, he has never forgiven me for it. So I digress. So where were we were playing football, we’ve done a knee, and it’s about 1978 into a couple of half marathons and alike. And then this bloke called De Castella. You might have heard of him, Robert, born in the same year as me just, incidentally. And he’s won a couple of marathons. And I think he ran in the Commonwealth Games and was running against a Japanese fella. And it was just so thrilling as a two-hour event can be to see a man surge and get brought back surge and get brought back. And he just seemed to have this tenacity. And I thought if De Castella can run a marathon, so can I. So in 1983, I ran my first marathon. And at that stage, I thought I’d only ever run one. And I had a really good trainer in that my wife and I were just courting at the time. And so she would get on the bike on a Saturday morning, and she would ride with me and we’d go uphill and I would beat her up the hill and then she’d come down the hill. And there she goes. But she would ride at a constant or fairly constant pace. So I finished my first marathon in under three hours. And I thought this is easy. Second marathon the next year in Adelaide finished within one second. This is great stuff. And the next year, I think we’d gone to Canberra for work. And so I ran in 1986. We’re talking, you know, some of your most of your listeners would have never been born in 1986. But anyway…

Challenges Faced In Other Marathons

Jackie 9:14
I’m a year old by now.

David Kuhne 9:17
Fair enough. I’ve entered into the Sydney marathon. I’m running that and at the 33k mark. Around about me fairly hot day, no water, they’ve run out of water at the water stop. It’s played with my head and I finished in I don’t know, three hours 14. And so I’m devastated. And I basically give up marathon running in 1986

Jackie 9:41
Because you ran three hours 14?

David Kuhne 9:44
Yeah, I would saw my left leg off now for three hours 14.

Jackie 9:48
I would too.

David Kuhne 9:49
But I was absolutely devastated at the time. This is what happens when you’re young. You have unrealistic expectations of life. And so I basically didn’t run from then until it was about 2000.

Embrace running in the cold and join David Kuhne on the adventure of a lifetime or browse through our archives and listen to some of our most popular episodes.

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