Midnight Run at 2011 North Pole Marathon
The 2011 North Pole Marathon ran throughout the polar night (in daylight) and all runners completed the race in temperatures as low as -32C. The winner of the men's race was Istvan Toth of Hungary while Australia's Richelle Turner won the women's title.
The annual 42.2km race, known as the 'world's coolest marathon', takes place in the high Arctic Ocean at a temporary Geographic North Pole camp floating between 89N and 90N latitudes. This year's event commenced at 22:00 CET on 8 April, a day later than scheduled. The short delay was caused by a combination of adverse weather conditions and necessary repairs to the runway after a crevasse opened up.
The race circuit included spectacular hillocks of ice but some increasingly difficult snow conditions underfoot as the 3km loops were repeated. Temperatures as low as -32C meant runners were on guard for potential frost damage.
The men's race was a very close affair over the first 10km with Dmitry Mamadaliev (RUS), a former special forces paratrooper, Istvan Toth (HUN) and Fernando Gonzales (ESP), the reigning Himalayan 100 Mile champion, all exchanging lead position. However, by the half-way point Toth had developed a 5-minute gap over his nearest rivals -- Gonzalez and Mamadaliev -- while John Braun (LUX) and Peter Van Den Berg (GBR) made steady progress behind.
Toth would eventually prevail in a time 4:54:03 while Braun came through for second position ahead of Mamadaliev in third, with a mere three seconds separating the latter two.
There was an Australian victory in the women's division when Richelle Turner, the 2009 Antarctic Ice Marathon champion, won in a time of 6:03:06. Turner led from the start to finish ahead of compatriot Sharyn Fitzgerald in second place and Sue Bradford (GBR) in third spot.
This year's race was dedicated to the memory of Mari-Simon Cronje, an 11-year-old girl who died in a tragic accident last year. Her father Andre was part of team called The Arctic Challengers, which took the team title and raiseed £180,000 for Great Ormond Street Children's Kidney Centre in her memory - see www.arcticchallengers.com Indeed, many of the competitors raised substantial sums for charity via their participation in the race. Several competitors also joined the Grand Slam Club by running a marathon on all seven continents and at the North Pole.
Marathon organiser, Richard Donovan, also used the event to pay tribute to the Russian cosmonauts celebrating 50 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Famous Russian cosmonauts Alexei Leonov (the first man to walk in space) and Valentina Vladimirovna (the first woman in space) personally signed diplomas for all of the North Pole Marathon competitors.
The 2012 North Pole Marathon will take place on 5 April and new sportswear label UVU, whose products are created from the highest performing fabrics and tested in extreme conditions, have partnered with the North Pole Marathon as title sponsor. The company's product range, catering for ultrarunning and extreme running, will be available later this year.