Race Report: Antarctica Marathon – March 16, 2018
By Ana Wright
Ten days off the grid on a Soviet expedition ship (Akademik Ioffee), traveling from Ushuaia, Buenos Aires to Antarctica. We sailed on March 12, crossing the rough Drake Passage (where the Atlantic, Pacific and southern seas meet – 600 miles of rough seas) both ways.
Little did I know that the marathon was just a sideshow to the most incredible trip of my life. The trip included excursions to see whales, penguins, seals, glaciers and icebergs. And yes, this is the only tour which allows you to step on the actual continent of Antarctica!
But this is my marathon race report after all, so here it goes:
March 16 - We received a wake up call at 5:00 am that the race was a go. After an early breakfast, we were briefed about the weather and wind conditions to prepare us for the race. The weather in Antarctica changes by the minute so race start time is always dependent on the weather. Previously, races were cut short due to extreme winds (30 knots and above) which are rendered unsafe for runners and the risk of hypothermia. We were lucky that we experienced balmy two degree weather with only 17 knots of winds (that quickly dropped the temperature to -10 with the wind chill) while we were running.
We went back to our rooms and prepared for a 9:30 am race start. Prior to arriving on King George Peninsula (where the Chilean, Uruguay, Russian and Chinese bases are), we had to wear our wet skins. All 100 runners (most of which were doing the half) were whisked onto the Zodiacs to be taken ashore. There were no pitstops for water or nutrition – everyone had to be self sufficient as zero plastic wrappers are allowed on the island.
Race Start - At about 9:20, it started snowing quite hard and I was so glad I wore my goggles! Starting out on the first 4.1 mile loop (one has to do six to complete the marathon), my IT band acted up but I was determined to make the 3:10 midpoint cutoff. If a runner does not reach the midpoint by 3:10, they automatically receive the half marathon time. Additionally, if a runner makes the 3:10 mark and continues on but does not finish, there will be no medal received.
The course was very challenging given the out and back scenario; less wind going which allowed you to sweat, blizzard-like winds on the way back which helped your sweat turn into ice. My nutrition froze and fumbling through my waist pack surely slowed me down. Thirty-six hills total – six per loop! Elevation total was 2600 up and 2300 down with a ton of rocks, ice sheets, slushed ice and gravel. I ran all of the hills except on loop five, where I slowed down (walked/ran) when the wind really started kicking in. I didn’t take this trip to miss the cutoff, so yes, at 6:14, I crossed and finished!
I will be taking a break from running until September as I have a bodybuilding competition coming up. But, I will be back training with the Gazelles to prepare for my race next year in Petra, Jordan (Petra Dessert Marathon). Going forward, I will bring Gilbert's face to every race I complete as I pursue my quest to run in all seven continents! I did the Great Wall of China last year and Barcelona the year prior. Going forward, Gilbert will always be with me.