​Cynthia Orms – Running the Desert Storm 218 Miler in Antarctica

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Sitting at the Earth’s axis on a shifting continental ice sheet just under two miles thick and at an elevation of 9,300 feet with an average monthly temperature in the winter of -76°F is the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

That’s where 56-year-old Cynthia Orms is set to complete her miles for the Marine Corps Marathon Organization’s (MCMO) Desert Storm 218 Miler – just in time for the South Pole’s eight-month long winter season.

“Right now, the temperatures are around -46°F with 20 knots of wind and we currently have 24 hours of daylight,” says Orms, the Safety Engineer at the U.S.’s scientific research station in Antarctica. “But the austral winter is approaching, which means the temps are going down quickly and the winds are increasing.”

The former Marine started running in 2017 to get in shape and increase her ability to walk after suffering from nerve and bone damage to foot and leg during her service, which forced her disability retirement.

“Due to my injury, I require a spinal cord stimulator to walk,” said Orms. “I started training for and participating in races and triathlons to lose weight and prolong my ability to walk due to some of the deficits caused by the injury, the spinal cord system and 15 surgeries.”

Orms is a member of a group who usually runs relay trail races across the country, but because of the pandemic, group runs have been very limited. So, when the MCMO announced the Desert Storm 218 Miler, another teammate and fellow retired Marine suggested they all participate.

“We haven’t been able to do something together due to COVID-19 since last February,” said Orms. “So, Jeanette Arroyo put this team [the Howitzers] together. Due to the size of the team, each of us are running about 9.47 miles.”

Although she has a plan in place to complete her required miles, Orms admits that the altitude has affected her ability to run.

“Some days we have white out conditions even though we have 24 hours of daylight. Hopefully, I’ll get a clear day out of the three.”

Running at the South Pole isn’t new to Orms though—last Christmas, she participated in the station’s annual Race Around the World, a two-mile route that passes through every line of longitude—so she’s ready to tackle this challenge and contribute to her team’s 218 miles.

Orms will run 3.25 miles each day over three days, starting each lap at the geographical South Pole and ending at the ceremonial South Pole.

Written by Jheanel Walters, Public Relations Coordinator for the Marine Corps Marathon Organization.