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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac: Antarctica Marathon

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about the fifth annual Antarctica marathon. Snowy trails and icy glaciers make up the course for this coldest of races.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

[Vangelis "Chariots of Fire (& Ice)," CHARIOTS OF FIRE (Soundtrack)]

CURWOOD: Over the glacier, and through the mud, to the finish line they go. It's time for the fifth annual Antarctica Marathon. And if the weather holds this week, about 100 men and women, from more than a dozen nations, will challenge the rugged terrain on King George Island.

JENNINGS: Most of it's run on dirt roads; although, depending on the temperature intensity, into very muddy roads. Some of the course does go over a glacier. It's not a flat course. In fact, the glacier itself is quite hilly.

CURWOOD: That's Cliff Jennings, a sales manager for Marathon Tours in Boston, the company that organized the original race back in 1995. Right now, it's summer in Antarctica, with temperatures hovering around a balmy freezing mark. So, runners need only long underwear and tights to keep warm. A Gore-Tex outer layer protects them from the strong wind, while trail shoes handle the snow and mud.

So far, no one has suffered frostbite. But, one year, a competitor did have to be talked out of running the race in a t-shirt and shorts. In the past, racers have had to run around penguins and seals. A few have even been dive bombed by native birds including skuas and terns.

But sometimes, just getting to the race is the hardest part. Last year, stormy weather prevented the runners from landing on King George Island. So they improvised. On calmer seas, just off the Antarctic coast, the racers ran the 26.2 mile marathon on the deck of their transport ship. That's about 400 laps to the finish line. The official Antarctic marathon time to beat, two hours, 23 minutes for men; three hours, 40 minutes for women; and six hours and 47 minutes for penguins. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.




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