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Baltimore Native Robert Gensler, 60, Completes Antarctic Ice Marathon

March 18, 2018
By Evan Raigrodski

There are few tasks more daunting than running a marathon. 

Marathons differ from most other competitions because the runners are typically not professional athletes. They are often everyday people who train to run 26.2 miles. Competing successfully in a marathon requires an enormous commitment of time, and then there is the pain and wear-and-tear that marathon runners inflict on their bodies. Most marathoners can at least anticipate weather conditions appropriate for a grueling race -- unless you're 60-year-old Robert Gensler.

Gensler, a Baltimore native who attended Pikesville High School, competed in what is known as the Ice Marathon Nov. 24, 2017, held annually in Antarctica. It was his seventh marathon in 2017. 

While working as a portfolio manager for more than 20 years, Gensler has travelled extensively -- visiting 83 countries -- and lived in Africa, London, Singapore and the United States. He's always had a passion for running and took up marathons on a dare from a coworker. Then he fell in love with it.

"My coworker was supposed to be running a marathon, and six weeks before the race he got injured," Gensler said. "We were talking at the office and he said, 'Gensler, you'll run,' and I did and I've loved it ever since." 

After his first race, Gensler competed in a couple more marathons -- including one in London in 1983 -- before focusing more on his career. Now retired, Gensler returned to one of his biggest passions. 

As if competing in a marathon wasn't challenging enough, Gensler decided to take it a step further. He pledged to compete in seven marathons in 2017.

"Six for each decade and one for good measure," he said.

Gensler completed marathons in San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Baltimore. But it all culminated in Antarctica. 

Issue 242: Robert Gensler Ice Marathon 2
Photo Credit: Mark Conlon/Antarctic Ice Marathon

"I was actually going down there to do my photography, which is another passion of mine," Gensler said. "That's when I heard about this race and thought while I'm down there I might as well do this, it would be something I've never done before and a great experience." 

Gensler went to Antarctica, and with snow and ice covering the ground, ran a full marathon. People from all over the world came to participate, and Gensler loved the experience and the sights.

"I loved meeting people, and there were some really interesting people who made their way down," Gensler said. "One person I met actually dressed up as a pear for the race and apparently she dresses up in costumes for all the races she participates in."

Added Gensler: "I love the running community. In no other sport do you get the same sense of community that you do in running, because when you are running and training together everyone roots for each other and there are no enemies."

Gensler prepared for the Ice Marathon like he would for any other race, but nothing could prepare him for the wind and horrible traction. 

"You're running in minus-25 to minus-30 degree temperatures, but that's not even the hardest part," Gensler said. "Running across the glaciers, it is almost impossible to get footing. I would say it is akin to running on sand."

Despite having to take some breaks, Gensler completed the race and finished before four others out of a total of about 30 runners. He said he felt a sense of accomplishment in easily the most difficult environment he ever raced in. 

"My body just wouldn't let me keep running no matter how much I wanted to," Gensler said. "I typically will always try to run for the entirety of the race, but for this one, I had no choice. I'm just happy I finished in front of the pear."

Photo Credit: Mark Conlon/Antarctic Ice Marathon

Issue 242: March 2018 

Originally published March 15, 2018