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Antarctica Marathon Finishers Conquer Challenging, Changing Antarctic Conditions
By: Marathon Tours & Travel
The 26.2- and 13.1-mile races took place in Antarctica - the coldest, windiest, least inhabitable continent on Earth.
The sold-out field of 183 participants hailing from 22 countries tackled the brutally hilly courses that transverse the rudimentary gravel roads and connect the research bases of Chile, China and Russia. Five research base personnel from China also joined in on the competition.
Held over two consecutive days to abide by an Antarctic environmental restriction of allowing a maximum 100 visitors on shore in any single landing area, the race waves were similar in size and include both marathon and half-marathon participants. Each day's results were combined to determine the overall and age group winners.
Both race days saw a barrage of volatile conditions and challenges unique to racing on what is known as the Last Continent. The first wave of runners - hosted on board the Russian ice-rated ship Akademik Vavilov - competed on Saturday, March 12. Winds were mild at the start, temperatures hovering around 32 F under mostly cloudy skies. However conditions worsened mid-race with wind speed accelerating to roughly 30 mph, dropping the wind chill into low, single digit temperatures.
On Sunday, March 13, runners from the second ship - the Akademik Ioffe - encountered intermittent snow amidst very low winds at the early morning start. Enter a very moody Mother Nature. Mid-race winds climbed to over 50 miles per hour near the turnaround point at the Chinese research base. The captain of the Ioffe, concerned about the runners' safety due to risk of returning passengers to the ship in Zodiacs fighting the high waves, ordered everybody back to the ship. Hence the maximum finish time had to be limited to those running under five and a half hours.
Running in the first wave, Maxime Bondue of France was victorious winning in a time of 3 hours, 15 minutes and 24 seconds, almost three minutes ahead of runner-up Reid Noch, 18, of the USA who was competing in his marathon debut (3:18:18.).
Despite the challenging conditions on the second day, Sharon Ryder of Australia dominated the women's field with an unofficial course record time of 3:38:03, placing first woman and sixth overall. Stephanie Madsen of the USA placed second in 4:19:21.
"Completing either of the race-day stages proved to be a true test of endurance," said Thom Gilligan, race director and expedition leader. "Sunday's weather was some of the wildest the event has ever encountered."
Traveling to a marathon on what is referred to as the "Last Continent," is a marathon in itself. Athletes travel an average of 7,000 miles each to Buenos Aires, Argentina before departing to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most city in the world. There they boarded either the Akademik loffe or Akademik Vavilov, Russian ice-classed ships, for a two-day crossing of the Drake Passage, a body of water that connects the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean with the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean and has earned a place in history as having some of the roughest sea weather in the world. The entire expedition spans 14 days.
Additionally eight runners wrapped up their goal of running a marathon or half-marathon on all of Earth's seven continents. The accomplished globetrotters were inducted into the Seven Continents Club™ during the post-race awards ceremony held at an outdoor barbecue amidst a backdrop of incredible scenery.
For more information on the Antarctica Marathon, please visit http://marathontours.com/
Marathon Tours & Travel