Briarcliff man returns after running Antarctica Marathon in memory of wife
It's been a little over two weeks since Dave Ventresca, of Briarcliff, completed arguably the toughest race in the world -- all in memory of his late wife.
Ventresca and his brother-in-law, Sang Luu, ran the Antarctica Marathon in memory of Ventresca's late wife, My Luu. She wanted to become a member of the Seven Continents Club, a small group of people who've completed a marathon on every continent.
My Luu had completed six of the seven continents before losing her battle with blood cancer. She died just seven weeks after her wedding.
Getting to Antarctica posed a challenge in itself. Ventresca and Sang Luu boarded a boat for Antarctica at the southern tip of Argentina.
"For two days, you look out and you see nothing but open water," says Ventresca. "But then you wake up that third morning and you look out your porthole and there are glaciers and icebergs, and you're like 'we're here!' That moment, I won't forget it."
When it came time for the marathon, Ventresca and Sang Luu did the first loop together. Ventresca told his brother-in-law to take off without him after that since Sang Luu is a faster runner, but Ventresca caught up Sang Luu around mile 18 before finishing.
"I think she would have enjoyed the moment," says Ventresca. "She would have celebrated the victory then immediately would have shifted to what's next, what's next on the list ... what other hurdles, what other mountains can I climb."
Part of Ventresca's goal had been to raise $50,000 for the My Luu Memorial Fund, with every cent going to a group called Y-Apply. They've currently raised between $28,000 and $29,000. The organization helps identify high-achieving public school students and helps guide them through the process of applying to college.
"[These kids] have accomplished a lot without the same benefits that other students have," says Ventresca. That's not unlike My Luu, who came to the U.S. as an immigrant from a refugee camp in Malaysia. She learned English in first grade as a 6-year-old and eventually became valedictorian of her high school. She then attended Yale -- securing scholarships, grants and financial aid without telling anybody in her family.
On the last night in Antarctica, Ventresca and Sang Luu realized how much My's story had touched everyone on the trip. They were presented with a Seven Continents Medal, the one My had strived for.
Ventresca jokes it's "to be determined" if he'll run another marathon again.