The Coldest and Windiest Marathon on Earth

 

Through endurance we conquer.
― Ernest Shackleton

The day we were all ready for had finally arrived. It was RACE DAY on King George Island! The biggest lessons of the day?

  • The power of the human spirit is simply magical and heart-warming.
  • You can attain everything you desire in life, but first you must believe.
  • Faith manifests miracles.
  • Mother Nature is undoubtedly a universal force to be reckoned with.
  • Antarctica is indeed the coldest and windiest place on earth!

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Whether running the full 26.2 miles, the half marathon or volunteering, it was important to dress appropriately and prepare nourishment without the need for any wrappers that could be easily blown away.

Both the full and half marathons started at 9am. Due to the weather and trail conditions, our marathon race route was re-designed. The full marathon consisted of running a 4.36 mile loop between the Russian Base Station (Bellinghausen) and the Chinese Base Station 6x.

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God bless Marathon Tours, OneOcean Expeditions and all our volunteers!

The race started off around 32 degrees Fahrenheit with sheets of rain and low winds. I was into my second loop when the wind speed dramatically picked up, changing the drenching rains to pelting sheets of ice. The already muddy trail run became treacherous with sizable puddles and ice-covered loose stones. With gale force winds around 61 mph, I was bone-chilling cold.

As I neared the China Base Station (lap 4?) I had a fleeting notion that it was entirely possible I could freeze to death before I was able to return to my dry bag for additional layers. My hands and feet were completely frostbitten blocks of ice. My cognitive abilities began to decline as hypothermia set in. I was moving much slower than normal, and was having trouble formulating a coherent sentence or thought. I remained focused on one thing — each step carried me closer to crossing the marathon finish line. Success was the only option.

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I remain most grateful to the individuals who wrapped me a down coat and neck warmer, inserted hand warmers into my gloves, and handed me a thermos of the most amazing hot chocolate I had ever tasted at the China Base Station. Divine timing…

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I did it…and placed 2nd in my age group! Picture proof of my crossing the marathon finish line with frostbite and the onset of hypothermia.

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My favorite penguins of all time! Running dressed as penguins to raise funds for a charity dear to their hearts.

 

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Race spectator who didn’t seem to mind the gale force winds and ice as much as the registered runners. So cute…

Following the race, I was so frostbitten that I had difficulty putting on my boots and wet skins for the zodiac ride back to the boat. After receiving a bit of help, I was finally ready for the zodiac return trip. The numbness penetrated so deeply that I couldn’t feel the high waves crashing upon us, further drenching us. Nor could I feel the continued ice pelting into my face at 61 mph.

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I ascended up the gangway as quickly as possible, and was ushered inside. I sat down on a couch unable to move or formulate a sentence. Sharon Ryder (who impressively set a new women’s record!) entered the room and quickly guided me to an elevator. When we reached my cabin, she began removing all of my top layers as quickly as possible. My hands were numb, swollen and purple. Apparently, I said many things I don’t remember (haha) before she placed me in a steamy shower. I stood for a bit under the hot water…and then I laid down under the warming water for nearly 45 minutes.

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Thawing and Drying Out

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The power of the human spirit. Due to the gale force winds and safety concerns, the boat’s captain called the race early, leaving some runners unable to complete the full marathon. So what do committed runners do? They took to the treadmill to finish their 26.2 for a sense of accomplishment, even if not recognized as part of their official race result.

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Stephen, a fellow marathon runner, was unable to participate in race day festivities due to illness. He was, however, availed the opportunity to complete a half marathon as other passengers took to the polar plunge at Argentina’s Base Station. Kudos to Stephen for running 13.1 miles by way of a 50 meter path in fresh powder — by himself. Bravo!

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6 Continents Down, One To Go!

Interested in reading about my journey from the beginning? Antarctica Expedition Day 1 (click here).
Ice Ice Baby (click here for the next post in the Antarctica blog series)
We Are All One (click here)

Published in April 2016.