Running Around at Pole

Traditionally for many years (beginning in 1979-80) there has been an athletic event known as the Round the World Race... usually held around Christmas...and Christmas 2010 was no exception. In the past the race was usually several laps around the taxiway and various portions of the skiway, but in 2010-11 things were a bit different...due in part to the presence of serious professional mountain runner Rickey Gates (he has some amazing world records to his name). Rickey got together with equipment operator Megan Whitmore and they devised a unique course that was still 2.1 miles but visited some of the more interesting real estate...towards ARO, past the dark sector, up the ski hill, through the old arches at the End of the World, past Spoolhenge, and of course ending up near the South Pole itself. The race was a great success with excellent weather...

and they're off
The runners at the start (RS).
arch rivals
At the End of the World, Nate Cannon leads a small pack (DPC).
Roman around
Here's the IceCube chariot (RS).
a couch incident
And a few more of the traditional sedentary participants (RS).

Rickey won, as he expected, with a time of 13:32. The fastest woman was Christina Knoblock with a time of 18:22, and Marco Tortonese scored first in the Masters category (age 40+) at 16:52. These three folks were scheduled to travel to McMurdo on Saturday 15 January to participate in the McMurdo Ice Marathon on Sunday the 16th. But...weather intervened. Not bad weather at Pole or McMurdo...but good weather elsewhere on the continent, so all of the scheduled Pole flights on the 15th were cancelled/diverted to a field camp in West Antarctica.

Curtis Moore, who had finished second, about 90 seconds after Rickey, had just finished his stint as an IceCube driller, and had flown back to McMurdo on a previous flight...so he would be the only Polie representative in the McMurdo race. But the stuck Polies didn't just sit around and mope...instead they got together and created a race, which Rickey promptly named the South Pole Contingency Marathon....(TG).

fast minds at work
So...at 1600 on Saturday afternoon, here are the three marathon co-conspirators, Rickey (left), Christina and Marco...sitting in comms plotting out a race course and making plans for the event. It had to be scheduled around folks' work schedules as well as a planned NGO DC-3 flight for Sunday...so it could not start at 0900, the official start time for the McMurdo race. So a start time of 1300 was selected, the race was officially sanctioned, and the rest of the planning began...arranging for assistance and aid stations, creating posters to publicize the event, and, well, get ready (MT/TG).
a plan
This is the map of the course...laid out with the help of surveyors Kurt Skoog and Tim Riley-Burnett. The first portion duplicated the course of the Race Around the World, and the rest consisted of 5 round trips on the skiway.Let's see...26.2 miles is 138,336 feet, which worked out to:
Race Around the World, 11,088'
Pole marker to the skiway, 2433'
10 lengths and a bit of the skiway, 122,433'
and skiway to Pole marker, 2433'.
before
Marco, Rickey and Christina before the start of the race (RS).
off for a jog
At the start...actually eleven runners showed up! Most would do shorter distances, but there were four marathon finishers. The temperature was -19F, with wind chill of about -40 (RS).
a head start
Rickey and Marco out in front near the start of the race (RS).
don't throw your paper cups on the pavement
Here's one of the aid stations (RS).
massages and hot drinks
The event got lots of support from the rest of the station...here's a group of Polies at one of the aid stations (SJB).
high fives
Because of the repetitive course, the racers passed each other many times. Here's Sarah Stokes giving a high five to Rickey and Jamie. Jamie won the half marathon, and Sarah ran 22 miles (RS).
winner
Rickey Gates came in first, with a time of 4:02:15. He was 29 years old (RS).
finishing counts for a lot
The second person to the finish line was Keith Fouts, age 32; he'd opted to start all alone two hours early, his time was 6:16:04 (RS).
second is good
Marco, age 49, pulls the second place finish in 4:32:42 (RS).
historical first
And here's Christina...age 29...the first woman in history to finish a full marathon at Pole...in 4:53:30. This was her first marathon (RS)!
whew!
Marco, Rickey, and Christina...the post-race hero shot! (RS)

One final note on the race...remember Curtis Moore did make it to McMurdo for the Ice Marathon...he did participate...and he WON it in a sea level time of 3:15!

The historical background from what I've found documented: the first marathon distance run at Pole was completed by Chuck Huss on 20 April 1981 (Patriots Day, the date of the Boston Marathon)...on a treadmill, in Biomed (!) I can't imagine that. The first documented outdoor marathon was not a USAP event...rather an event sponsored by Adventure Networks on 21/22 January 2002...with five participants (three of which ran the full marathon, finishing at Pole). The event was fraught with controversy...and it has never since been held on the plateau here's my coverage with links to the details. On a final historical note...in 2011-12, marathon and half-marathon events were held on New Years weekend.

Sources and additional credits...here's Antarctic Sun article written by Marco Tortonese...as well as Marco's own blog coverage. David Pablo Cohn also covered the event in his blog, as did Michelle Springer and Rickey Gates. Many of the photos are by Robert Schwarz (RS), others are by Stijin Jan Buitink (SJB), Tina Green (TG), and Pablo (DPC)(from the common drive).