Clear blue skies, sand-type snow conditions, and katabatic wind gusts of up to 45 knots greeted competitors in the inaugural Antarctic Ice Marathon held on January 7th. The 26.2-mile marathon is the only one held within the Antarctic Circle and took place at an altitude of over 3,000 feet in the scenic foothills of the Ellsworth mountains at 80 degrees south.
Running under a sun that nevers sets at this time of year, Evgeniy Gorkov (RUS) took a commanding lead over the field from the outset. However, John O´Regan (IRL) and Steven Seaton (GBR) worked together over the initial half-marathon and O´Regan eventually succeeded in narrowing the gap to only 4 minutes with six miles remaining. But Gorkov, winner of the Gobi March desert race in 2005, found greater strength in the latter stages and pulled further away in the hushed indomitable surroundings to win in a time of 5.09.38. O´Regan took the runner-up spot with Seaton rounding off the top three.
Scotlands Wendy MacKinnon was first lady home in a time of 6:33:30 followed by Stevie Matthews in second place.
The marathon race was followed by the frozen continents first ever 100km (62.1-miles) event the following day. Poor visibility for the first half gave way to improved conditions and Richard Donovan of Ireland completed the run alone in a time of 15:43:55 hrs. Like the marathon competitors, Donovan negotiated the difficult terrain in a pair of trail running shoes and was covered from head to toe with layers of clothing to protect against the elements. The race distance represented almost 10% of the distance to the South Pole.
The races were organised by Polar Running Adventures, organisers of the annual North Pole Marathon and expertly supported by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions. The overall first place finishers of the marathon and 100km were rewarded for their efforts with spectacular Polar Surveyor watches from Kobold Watch Co. The second operation of the event is already scheduled for December 10th 2006 and details can be found at the official race website www.icemarathon.com.
The complete results are: