Near Blizzard Conditions at North Pole Marathon
The world's coolest marathon, the North Pole Marathon, took place in near blizzard conditions on 7th April. Twenty-five athletes from 10 countries braved 45km per hour winds, sub-zero temperatures and snowdrifts to complete the 42.2km race at the top of the world.
Marathoners first flew by jet from Spitsbergen, Norway to a drifting Russian camp at the Geograhic North Pole on 6th April. On the following day, the race commenced at 15:00 GMT in less than ideal conditions for runners. Although the core temperature did not plummet to the -37C experienced in the 2009 event, strong winds led to snowdrifts developing on the course and wind chill temperatures that reached -20C on occasion.
But despite the strong winds and unfavourable terrain on the frozen Arctic sea ice, every competitor managed to finish the race.
In the men's event, Joep Rozendal, a former Dutch marine, began to take control at the half-way point. Over the first 20km, the lead had changed several times with Rik Vercoe (Great Britain) and Yen-Po Chen (Taiwan) also vying for top spot in the opening stages of the race. However, Rozendal went on to record a victory over his competitors and the elements to win in a time of 5:00:58. Vercoe finished second in 5:07:30 with Chen, a 2:30 marathoner in normal conditions, coming third in 5:29:47.
Four women took part in the women’s competition. Emer Dooley of Ireland proved a decisive winner in a time of 5:56:54 while Julia Tizard (Great Britain) and Sarah Oliphant (USA) finished second and third, respectively.
Jamie Cuthbertson, a 49-year-old former British Royal Engineers captain, also succeeded in a challenge of a lifetime to finish the marathon. Cuthbertson lost his sight in an explosion in 1986, but accompanied by his guide, Alex Pavanello, he demonstrated it was no impediment to his ability to complete the world's coolest marathon.
After a celebration at the Pole, all compeititors returned to Norway on 9th April.
The next North Pole Marathon is provisionally scheduled for 7th April 2011. For more details, see www.npmarathon.com