As if running a marathon isn’t challenging enough, the addition of ice and snow can take 26.2 miles and make it that much more grueling. Running in the cold stings your lungs, freezes your ears and hands, and makes you expend a whole lot more energy trying to get to the finish line. Some people think that choosing an “ice age” marathon makes you a masochist and then there are the rest of us running enthusiasts who have done it all and want an additional hurdle to push us a little past our limits.
Ice and snow marathons are not something you just strap your shoes on and run. They have specific training needs; they need endurance, and above all, they need the willingness to endure some of the worst conditions a person can be subjected to. If you are going to take on whatever old man winter has to throw at you, then these are the best marathons to freeze your amazing feat in time for a lifetime.
Known not just for its unique frozen appeal, the Baikal region is a favorite spot for cold weather sports, especially ice fishing. Nowhere else on earth does the water freeze down so many layers that you can walk across an entire lake safely knowing that you aren’t going to fall through. Touting one of the deepest and largest fresh waterways in the world, it is a resort where you can enjoy skating and other amazing outdoor adventurers. A severely mental course, it is not for the faint of heart. Small hills of ice rubble make this a “trail” running event, so although flat in nature, you never know what obstacles you will encounter including rough turbulent winds and seriously frigid temperatures. If you look at marathons and think “been there; don't that” this is another whole type of challenge.
Combining all the treachery of ice, cold and high altitudes, this is a race that is unlike any other marathon in the world. The seasoned athletes who make it through the Antarctic Ice Marathon can list themselves among the fiercest and hardiest competitors in the world. Starting at 80 degrees South, which is just a few hundred miles from the South Pole, the race takes place at the foothills of the Ellsworth Mountains. Runners can be prepared for temperatures that reach a minimum of -20 degrees Celcius and altitudes that reach as high as 700 meters. If you choose to take on the Antarctic Ice Marathon, however, you will have withstood one of the most amazing physical feats that anyone on earth can endure and then some. Being in a very small class of peers, it takes a special type of determination to make it through.
The Ice Ultra delivers exactly what the name implies. Not just frozen tundras, expansive mountains, and ice covered caps, sometimes you will get a warm snap that dips up to about thirty degrees Celsius. But, in general, you should be prepared for below freezing while making your way around one of the toughest courses in the history of marathons. One of the UNESCO World Heritage regions, you will not only be challenging yourself to do things that many runners can’t even fathom, but you will also be putting yourself in one of the most elite classes of runners worldwide. Perhaps even harder than the physical challenge of the race is the mental toughness that it takes to endure harsh extremes and to push marathoners to the finish line.
What you won’t find while racing around the North Pole are mythical elves making toys. What you will find while competing in the North Pole Marathon are physical and mental extremes that can push even the most seasoned and elite runner beyond their limits. Labeled the World’s Coolest Marathon, being at the top of the world, literally, runners will endure some of the coldest temperatures on earth. Mostly a flat course, there are drifts of ice, high winds and extreme conditions, including ice, which makes this one of the most challenging races globally. The difference between the North Pole Marathon and other cold weather marathons is that it is run completely on ice, which only makes it that much more difficult to keep your feet beneath you and to gain traction while racing toward the finish line.
Held in Greenland, the Polar Circle Marathon is not only known for the cold temperatures, ice, and snow, but for the beautiful and vast expansive landscape for miles around. Runners race around the ice and arctic tundra while passing through million-year-old glaciers, arctic desert, and marine landscapes. A portion of the race is run directly on the ice cap, but the majority is on a dirt road, although typically covered in a sheet of ice or snow that makes it not visible. One of the hardest challenges of making it to the finish line is the mentality of braving the severe weather. Whether physically in shape to run the 26.2 miles is not in question. Who has the endurance and the perseverance to make it through whatever conditions they encounter can call themselves one of the toughest competitors in the world.
Taking place in Siberia, Russia, the Siberian Ice Half Marathon is not for the newbie to the racing world. Runners will encounter temperatures well below zero and sometimes the lowest recorded temperatures on Earth. Attracting runners from around the world, it is an international phenomenon that brings people from all walks of life together to compete in extreme circumstances. Participants are not only part of a future elite class of marathoners, but they also get to view some of the most historical sites the world has to offer. Starting in Omsk, runners begin a three loop course through cold, snow, and sometimes ice. But, those who make it past the finish line, have accomplished something that most people couldn’t even dream of.