2007 Antarctica Marathon

February 26th, 2007

The Official Race Map


The morning of February 26th dawned a fresh blanket on the Antarctica marathon course around Maxwell Bay at King George Island. Runners from 19 countries traveled to the bottom of the Earth to challenge the 26-mile course which included glacier ascents, rocky beaches, hurricane force winds, sub zero temperatures, blizzards, shoe sucking mud, dive bombing skuas, and angry fur seals. 


Mike and I Before Boarding the Zodiaks


We were shuttled in Zodiacs over choppy waters from two Russian research ships, the Ioffe and Vavilov, for the 9AM start at Bellingshausen, the Russian scientific research base.  As they dropped the zodiacs into the icy waters via crane runners assembled in the mud room to suit up Wetskins and lifejackets.  Gear in hand, we began lining up for the transfer ashore.  My first zodiac ride was a wild one as we surfed the big sea towards the beach.  Most of us managed to keep our running clothes dry under our waterproof spray gear.  The ride was eerily quite as everyone was wondering what to expect for the rest of the day. 


Suiting Up in the Mud Room, Most Ridiculous Race Prep Ever


Boarding the Zodiaks to Head to Land


Sam, Don, Austin, & Bruce with Their Bags Packed



Conditions were anything but ideal for a marathon, but what do you expect it's Antarctica.  Truth be told, I was glad the conditions were tough.  I'd be disappointed to say I'd travelled 7,000 miles to run a marathon in 40 degree weather with no real challenges.  The temperatures dropped below zero and the winds roared over 45mph.  The snow kicked up about an hour and a half into the race and I was thankful I had goggles on.  The snow and ice combined with the wind would have made it extremely difficult to see without them.  


Leaning Into Some Hefty Winds Around Mile 2.5


Hopping Streams Around Mile 4


The first mile and a half had me worried.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it the full 26.2.  The hills, rocks, streams, and snow were taking a lot more out of me than I had expected.  Luckily, I managed to find Mike Mills, my roommate on the Ioffe and an US Air Force meterologist from Washington DC, and we settled into a steady 10min/mile pace.  Around mile 4 we came across a couple small rivers.  None of which were bad, until we came back around on the second lap.  


The 1st Mile Gang


Mile 3


Mile 8


Around mile 6 Mike and I caught up to Christina Harding, of Cambridge, MA.  The three of us kept each other entertained for the next 7 miles or so.  At the half way we all went our separate stations we had set up before the race to get our nutrition and water.  I made it out of the stop first and wanted to keep my legs warm so I kept moving.  Mike wasn't far behind and kicked up the pace and caught back up quickly.  Christina stuck around a little longer and that was the last I saw of her until my second descent of the glacier.  At that time she was in second place.  As I passed her as she was ascending, I relayed info to her that the race leader was cramping pretty badly and she didn't look too happy.  She charged up the hill and passed the leader on the way back down.  The move was strong enough to hold off the competition for the rest of the race and she took 1st place in the women's division with 4:55:50.


The Champ, She's Kinda a Big Deal


Other than the first mile and a half, the glacier was the toughest part of the day.  Mike's GPS device registered a 25% grade for the last portion of the climb.  The average for the whole climb was just shy of 20%.  The first climb wasn't bad and the descent went very quickly.  However, conditions had deterioriated by the time I came around for the second loop.  The winds had picked up and the footing was icy.  I was only able to go about half the speed as my first descent without risking a catastrophe.  Mike got his foot stuck and cramped pretty badly as he tried to pull his leg loose.  I had already made it to the bottom of the glacier and that's where we parted ways for the day.


Collins Glacier on The 1st Lap


 The Data Mike's GPS Recorded


Plot from Brenda's GPS (the small red line is the comparison to Heart Break Hill at Boston)



Summit of the Glacier the 1st Time, I was in no mood for photo ops on the 2nd


Looking Back Down the Glacier


Aside from my sopping wet shoes, frozen laces, windburned face, and nostriles that had frozen shut twice I felt suprisingly good on the second half of the race.  Earlier in the day Mike said that we weren't going to let anyone pass us for the last 13.1 miles and pick off as many as we could.  I managed to hold off most people but I did get passed by Michael Smith, who I didn't get to know at the time.  He ran past me at mile 19 and wasn't wearing a hat.  I called him a crazy bastard and he smiled, muttered something in a Scottish accent, and charged on.  I didn't see him again until mile 22.  He had his hat on this time.  I didn't put much distance between the two of us because at mile 24 I stopped and waiting about 15 seconds for him because I needed someone to take a picture of me with the three fur seals that had just decided to join the course. 


See the Seals in The Background?


After giving thanks for taking the picture I said "Come on, let's run it in together".  I've said this to many other runners and had it said to me many of times as well.  Everytime I or the other person has either run it in or given and excuse of why they can't such as "My legs are cramping too badly" or "Go without me, I don't have anything left".  Michael's response was was the most direct (and probably the funniest in hindsight) I've ever gotten, simply "No".  We had several good laughs about it over beers and frisbee sandwiches later on in the trip.  All in all, I managed not to get pass eight runners, three of which were in the last 5k, and not get passed by anyone permanently.  I felt lucky to take home 16th place in a time of 4:42:34.  Results are here.


Crossing the Finish (this shot was staged because I needed to submit a picture with my team, Snickers Energy, wearing their gear but it wasn't warm enough to actually run in)


Check Out The Guy on The Right, Excellent Outfit.  He beat me though, oh well must have been the pants.


Austin Budlong ran a great race and finished a little over a minute ahead of me.  He was waiting at the finishline to prop me up while I tried to figure out if it was really over or I had to go out for another lap.  We both laughed later on that night saying neither of us had hugged that many people in a day.  Mike was a couple minutes behind followed quickly by Christina, who we forced over to the cameras to interview her on her win (Mike is in the background with the flag and I'm taking pictures of him).  Hilarous, especially considering we were told it made SportsCenter.  By the time we had gathered most of our group there were some new competitiors on the course, two chinstrap penguins.  Funny enough, they were heading for the finish line as if they had run the race but a runner came flying around the corner, obviously ready to end his run, and scared the daylights out of them.  They scurried for the hills.


See The Penguins In The Lower Right Corner?


It was also interesting to watch Dr. William Tan, of Singapore, try and complete the race in his wheelchair.  The brutal conditions soured his second attempt to complete the 26.2 miles. The snow which drifted in parts to 10 inches was too much for his customized racing chair as he again completed the half-marathon in 5:59:29.  I admire the guys tenacity though, I heard him later toying with the idea of coming back for a third try and getting out the the chair and crawling the areas that were too tough, including the glacier.  Unbelievable.


Dr. Tan's Finish


The rides back to the ship was a marathon in itself as the sea had become more lively, providing us with a surf launch from the beach and a nice chop on the trip to our ship.  Solan piloted (I use that word loosely) our zodiak back to the Ioffe.  I took the brunt of the spray, but Mike and Christina got it pretty bad as well (see the picture of us in red).  Most of us gathered in the dining room to devour our first solid meal of the day, and then dispersed to the bar to exchange our stories of the run. Everyone seemed to agree it was one of the toughest, most ridiculous, yet best marathons we'd ever done. 


Me, Christina, and Mike in Our Stylish Wetskins After the Zodiak Ride Back From The Marathon


Little did we know that the best parts of the trip were still come.  These are the highlights of the scenery and wildlife, but they don't even start to do it justice.  You'll just have to go and see for yourself.


 Gentoo Penguin at Petermann Island



 Pod of Orcas Crossing the Drake Passage


 Petermann Island


 Fur Seal


 Neko Harbor Near Paradise Bay...I Beg To Differ


 Dinner Time


This Leopard Seal Played Cat and Mouse With This Penguin for an Hour


 Icebergs in the Graham Channel


 Humpback Whale Diving


 Another View of Neko Harbor


 Humpbacks Showing Off Between Our Zodiaks


 Humpbacks and Zodiaks


Sunset Before Camping at Dutch's Dome 


 Weddell Seal Sunbathing In His Private Pool


Leopard Seal Smile


 Reflections at Petermann Island


King of the Iceberg 


 Ice Bullets


 Skinny Dipping in -1C Degree Water. . . Great Idea


 Team Krill . . . Eaten


 Humpback Diving


 Skuas? Landing on a Iceberg


 Gentoo Penguin Up Close and Personal


(picture temporarily missing)

 Humpback Frontal Breach


(picture temporarily missing)

 A Gentoo Tobboganning


A Skua Attacking a Baby Gentoo, He Wasn't Successful 


Porpoisng Penguins 


 Blue Ice, The Color Is Because the Ice Is So Compressed There Isn't Much Oxygen Left In It


Other Adventures:

Great Wall of China Marathon


South Korea and Coastal China


Mt Everest Base Camp





Tanzanian Safari