Edward Young

Ice Marathon 2015

One of my life goals is to run a marathon on every continent. So while I’m here, I figured I’d tackle the Antarctic one. Due to our work schedule, I didn’t have much time to train, so I just decided to grit my teeth and run it. And that’s exactly what happened.

The Ice Marathon is organized by the McMurdo recreation department and is run entirely by volunteers. It’s common to thank race volunteers at every race, but the ones at the Ice Marathon deserve all the praise in the world. People here get one day off a week, and all these volunteers woke up early and helped set up the course in the cold on their only day off. Many stayed until the last runner crossed the finish line, more than six hours later. There were three aid stations fully stocked with water, Raro, cookies, pretzels, and granola bars. The second aid station, which functioned as the halfway point for the half marathon also had a barbeque with burgers, hotdogs, wings, and beer!

The course is entirely on the ice-shelf. The running surface is almost entirely ice, which is the hardest surface I’ve run on. This lead to sore knees and hips the next day. At several points, the ice is slightly melted and mixed with dirt, forming a disgusting slush that was almost impossible to run on.

The race starts right outside the New Zealand base, where the ice shelf meets land. The first aid station is about 3 miles out. From aid station 1, we ran towards Pegasus Field, the airfield where our C17 landed when we arrived. Halfway to Pegasus field is aid station 2, the halfway point for the half marathon. I continued out to aid station 3, which is at Pegasus field. From there, you turn around and retrace your steps all the way back to aid station 1. Instead of heading back to where we started, we run towards the other airfield, Williams Field. At Willy field, we turned around and headed back to the starting line, which is also the finish line.

I tracked the run on my phone’s GPS, so the course is shown in the Google map above. I plotted my speed, and it confirmed what I already knew. Below is a perfect example of how not to run a marathon. I got consistently slower as the race went on. I skipped the first aid station going out, and stopped at every one after that. Willie Field had no aid station, but had a bathroom, so I stopped there too. The road conditions were terrible outside Willie field, which slowed me down going in and out of that stop.

AS1 is Aid Station 1, AS2 is Aid Station 2, AS3 is Aid Station 3, and WF is Willie Field.

AS1 is aid station 1, AS2 is aid station 2, AS3 is aid station 3, and WF is Willie Field.

My time was terrible. My pace was worse. My knees now hurt. But my goal was to reach the finish line, and I did. Two continents down, five more to go. Who’s up next?

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