The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the only official marathons located on the continent of Antarctica. Each year, athletes travel to Antarctica to compete to be crowned the winner of a marathon in one of the world’s harshest climates. This unique opportunity provides athletes the opportunity to run on Antarctica, a continent most people never get to step foot on. The marathon is held at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, a few hundred miles from the South Pole.
Running a marathon is no easy feat and this event pushes athletes to their limits as athletes are competing in one of the most challenging locations on the planet, battling extreme cold, strong winds and an altitude of 700 metres. Athletes must compete through snow and ice with cold weather gear on. Due to high winds, it is not uncommon to see slower times than standard marathons. Despite this, in 2017 the fastest men’s time was 03:37:46 (Frank Johansen from Denmark) and the fastest women’s time was 4:56:37 (Kelly McLay from the United States). For comparison, the fastest men’s time from the 2017 New York City Marathon was 02:10:53 (Geoffrey Kamworor from Kenya) and the fastest women’s time was 02:26:53 (Shalane Flanagan from the United States).
Shirley Thompson, an Antarctic Ice Marathon competitor from a previous year said was “One of the most memorable and enjoyable weeks of my life!”the race is a huge challenge.” Certainly, battling the cold and winds make this race challenge to remember!
Last year, Paul Robinson ran a mile in 04:17:90! This elite running ran while the temperature was -20C. Robinson clocked in the fastest mile ever recorded in Antarctica. While these times are slower than your standard road marathon, the top times from the Ice Marathon certainly attest to the physical and mental strength of these athletes!
Athletes first meet in Punta Arenas, Chile on December 11 for pre-race briefings, followed by a four-hour flight from Punta Arenas Airport to Union Glacier, Antarctica the next day. The Union Glacier Camp is only accessible by air and aircraft land on a naturally occurring ice runway. On December 13, athletes will then compete in this test of fitness. After running the marathon, Athletes stay one more night in Union Glacier before departing to Punta Arenas and then their respective home countries.
Athletes are housed in Union Glacier, a camp that operates during the Antarctic Summer (November through January). Athletes stay in double walled sleeping tents. Athletes sleep in a polar sleeping bag to help combat the cold. At this time of year, Antarctica experiences sunlight 24 hours a day, so the tents are naturally heated from the sun. The camp aims to minimize environmental impact as much as possible so while athletes can utilize solar powered charging stations, they are encouraged to limit their use as much as possible while in residence in Union Glacier.
The camp also features a centrally located dining tent where competitors enjoy fresh-cooked meals and snacks at any time. A logistics company flies in fresh produce, meats, fish, and beverages from Punta Arenas. Union Glacier is staffed by a small medical clinic, where staff are available to treat minor injuries and illnesses.
Union Glacier is equipped to keep the athletes, logistics crew, and media personnel connected with the outside world during their stay in Antarctica. In addition to using radios to communicate with the logistics office in Punta Arenas, competitors can use pre-paid phone cards to make phone calls.
While it is not possible to attend this event in person, in past years several global media organizations such as TV Globo, Al Jazeera English and France 3 have been on location to film content for documentaries. Reuters, Euronews, CNN World Sport and CBS News Broadcast capture footage of the event each year. There has been no official press release regarding documentaries that may be filmed at the 2019 race.
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