Originally scheduled for Feb. 25th, inclement weather in Antarctica delayed the start of the race and threatened to cancel the marathon completely, despite having a three day window in which to run. Late on Feb. 26th, weather cleared up enough to permit a short window of opportunity to run in Antarctica. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Nikolas and his father flew from Chile to arrive on King George Island, Antarctica, for a pre-dawn start as the sun rose over the crystal glaciers of Antarctica. After Nikolas and his father completed 18 miles on the island, the weather caved and interrupted the race. By then, only 17 of 44 full-marathon participants had completed the marathon, and the entire group was forced to flee Antarctica. They headed back to Chile to complete the marathon there. Nikolas and his father finished their remaining 8 miles in Chile, resulting in a 6 hour, 20 minutes total combined time. According to marathon rules, if weather forces an interruption in a race and it is completed in another location, it can be certified as completed in the original location. So, even though the run was divided, Nikolas is on record as completing an Antarctic marathon.
And what does Nikolas say about his experience? Although the terrain was muddy and hilly which made the run a bit tougher, “It was really fun and I was so excited to run with the penguins!” Remarkably, Nikolas stated that the final 8 miles in Chile, “were the easiest 8 miles I’ve ever run!” After finishing his 26.2 mile marathon, Nikolas donned a penguin costume (a gift from a fellow runner) and went back out on the course to accompany Eddie Vilbar Vega. Vega, who was attempting his third marathon barefoot, cut his foot in Antarctica, and was forced to finish the race in shoes. Due to his injury, Vega struggled to complete the last leg of the marathon so Nikolas kept him company until he reached the finish line. And how did Nikolas feel the next morning? He said “I’m not even sore at all!” The entire experience exemplifies Nikolas’s extraordinary spirit, his ability to adapt, both mentally and physically, and is further testament to his exceptional commitment and absolute preparedness to complete the marathon.
Ultimately, Nikolas’s running is all about helping children. Operation Warm, which provides new winter coats to children and provided over 200,000 coats in 41 states in 2012, was founded by Nikolas’s grandfather, Richard Sanford. Nikolas has volunteered with Operation Warm in various ways, from handing a child a new coat to donating money from his own piggy bank. “I’ve learned how important it is to help other people who need it,” Nikolas says, “and I think that Operation Warm is great because every kid should be able to have their very own warm coat.”
Last summer, Nikolas decided to combine his love for running with his enthusiasm for Operation Warm. After visiting several pediatric specialists and undergoing comprehensive medical tests to make sure it would be safe, Nikolas’s parents agreed to support Nikolas’s idea. As part of “Running the World for Children,” Nikolas’s goal is to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents. His goal is to raise a dollar for each step, a million being the approximate number of steps he will take to complete seven marathons resulting in 1 million dollars. Nikolas is literally running the world for children. Nikolas ran his first marathon in Delaware on Dec. 1st, 2012.
Like other children his age, Nikolas has to make school work a priority. In preparation of this trip, Nikolas worked to get a head start on the assignments he would miss during the race. He was also required to write a report on his experience and things he learned along the way. “I know my school work still needs to get done and my teacher has been great. My teacher worked with me so I wouldn’t miss any of the material while I was away.” Nikolas’
As he continues on his odyssey, Nikolas’s enthusiasm for what lies ahead is contagious. With a magnificent grin, Nikolas says, “I get to do something I love and help children through Operation Warm at the same time. It’s so awesome! Is there anything better?”
Nikolas’s own words sum it up simply: “You don’t have to be grown up to make a difference in the world. You can be little, you just have to find your favorite thing to do, and do it well!”
To learn more about Running the World for Children and Nikolas Toocheck and to make a donation, please visit: www.nikrunstheworld.com. For more information on what steps the family has taken to ensure Nikolas’s safety, please visit: www.nikrunstheworld.com/
Operation Warm, Inc. is the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of new winter coats to children in need. Operation Warm’s vision is that every child wearing a new winter coat is healthy, able to attend school regularly and develop a strong self-esteem. In the winter of 2012-2013, Operation Warm served over 200,000 children in 41 states. To date, Operation Warm has served 1.2 million children. For more information, visit: www.operationwarm.org