>>>The North Pole run
Photo: North Pole Marathon / Copyright, North Pole Marathon

The North Pole run

At 30 degrees below zero even sweat freezes. The North Pole Marathon, the most northerly race in the world, doesn’t make things easy for the runners.
T
he Pole at last! The prize of 3 centuries, my dream and ambition for 23 years. Mine at last…” That was what the American explorer Robert Peary wrote in his diary. He had become obsessed with becoming the first man to reach the North Pole, the ‘world’s freezer’. His feat, which was supposedly achieved in 1909, was spoiled by his archrival Frederick Cook, who claimed that he had planted his flag there a year earlier. Today, reaching 90º north latitude continues to be the objective of the North Pole Marathon, the ‘coolest’ race in the world. The first marathon was held in 2002, when Richard Donovan, who is the current race director, covered the distance alone. 42,195 kilometres contested on ice with a thickness of up to one and a half metres and that moves at a speed of twelve kilometres a day. That’s the only thing that separates the runners from the 4,000-metre depths of the Arctic Ocean. “The good thing” says Donovan, is that “you don’t have to worry about the traffic”.
The record is held by Irishman Thomas Maguire, who completed the race in three hours, 36 minutes and 10 seconds.
Photo: North Pole Marathon / Copyright, North Pole Marathon

That cold object of desire

For years, five countries have been in dispute over the ownership of the immense riches of the Arctic. The United States with Alaska, Denmark through Greenland, Norway, Russia and Canada.

The adventure (and acclimatisation) begins in April on the archipelago of Svalbard (Norway), where the bears outnumber the human population. If the weather is good, the runners fly in an Antonov aircraft to one of the most remote areas in the world, the Barneo Ice Station, which is built for a period of three weeks close to the North Pole. Only half a dozen tents break the colour of the dazzling white plain. As soon as the runners set foot on the ice, they put their trust in the god of ‘good weather’ to allow them to start. And this could be at any moment, as there is sunlight for 24 hours a day at this time of year.
“This race is only for runners who have the guts”, warns Donovan. That said, it doesn’t deter all types of people from entering. From athletes and ultramarathon runners to a 66-year-old grandmother from Wales.
Generally, the physical preparation takes between 15 and 20 weeks.
Photo: North Pole Marathon / Copyright, North Pole Marathon
Here, the clear enemy is the extreme cold and the apparent temperature can reach -60ºC. That’s why some runners, like Spain’s Fernando González, choose to train inside industrial refrigeration plants. Ironically, the main problem at such a low temperature is that sweat freezes and causes a feeling of suffocation for runners who wear too much clothing. Another one of the challenges is the terrain, which is deceptively flat and full of cracks, blocks of ice and soft snow.
Registration for the 2019 marathon is now open. It costs €16,000.
Photo: North Pole Marathon / Copyright, North Pole Marathon
“Nothing quite compares to the surreal experience of the North Pole Marathon. It’s a priceless adventure”, states Steven Seaton, runner and editor of Runner’s World Magazine. After finishing the course, the least important thing is who wins. The prize shared by all the runners is being transported by helicopter to the exact northernmost point in the world, where the compass shows the coveted 90º north latitude. A photo is taken there as proof of their trek, something which Peary and Cook could never have had, and which confirms their conquest of the North Pole.

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