How many North Pole Marathon races have occurred?
The 2017 event is the 15th edition of the North Pole Marathon. The very first North Pole Marathon occurred in 2002 when race director Richard Donovan covered the distance alone. In 2003, the first exploratory competitive race was advertised and attracted ten competitors. There were further races in 2004 and then 2006 through 2016 making fourteen North Pole Marathons to date. The race is now an annual fixture on the international marathon calendar and 426 people from almost 50 nations have successfully completed the event.
I have no prior extreme weather experience. Is it ok for me to run at the North Pole?
Yes. Proper clothing should enure the cold is not an overwhelming problem when running or walking this race. A large heated tent is also available every 4 km to 5 km. Most participants will never have encountered extremely cold conditions before travelling to the Pole.
With little or no marathon experience, should I be able to finish the North Pole Marathon?
Yes. If you train properly and can run or walk a distance of 26.2 miles comfortably, then you should be able to complete the North Pole Marathon successfully. Some of the previous participants had never completed a marathon before: determination is the key ingredients to finishing. However, it is important to keep warm and maintain a good body temperature. One of the priorities of the organiser is to have everybody finish the race and there is generally no cut-off time of major significance.
Can I raise money for charity?
Yes. It is a great idea to use your participation to raise funds for a charity or cause that you feel passionate about. Previous entrants have raised millions of euro for charity.
Is it ok to have a sponsor?
Yes. You can bring a sponsoring company's logo or product to the exact North Pole to have it photographed. The race is broadcast extensively each year and you can wear sponsor logos on your headgear, and the sides of your arms and legs during the event (the official race number is placed on the front of your torso).
How will I get to the North Pole?
You will arrange round trip flights from your homeland to a town called Longyearbyen, which is situated on Spitsbergen island (part of the Svalbard archipelago) off the coast of Norway. There are daily flights from Oslo to Spitsbergen. From there, you will be flown to the North Pole via specialist aircraft. Please see the Race Travel section for details.
Do I need a visa for the North Pole?
No. You do not require a visa to visit the North Pole. However, citizens of some countries may require a visa to visit Norway, the departure point for the Pole.
Is there any land at the North Pole?
No. The North Pole is not situated on land, but on the Arctic Ocean. Athletes will therefore be running 'on' water, frozen water! You will be running on an ice sheet some 6 - 12 feet thick above 12,000 feet of Arctic Ocean on the top of the world.
What date will the race take place?
This next marathon is providionally scheduled to take place on 9th April 2017. Competitors will leave Svalbard on 8th April and return to Svalbard 10th April, therefore spending about 36-48 hours in the polar region if there are no delays.
Can I be guranteed to be in and out of the North Pole as scheduled?
Absolutely not. Although the races are often operated in a very timely fashion, you are going to one of the most difficult places to fly to in the world. There could be many days of delay and you should not plan anything important for a minimum of one week after your expected return. Allow yourself time to enjoy this unique experience without the stress of time pressures. Of course, every effort will be made to keep to the scheduled departure and return date, but all flights are subject to weather, aircraft serviceability, bueaucracy and local conditions.
Where exactly will the race take place?
The race will be run from a drifting North Pole camp called Barneo, which floats about the North Pole between 89N and 90N. There will be a circular route of 4.2 km, if possible, which must be repeated ten times. Leads (breaks in the ice) and safety criteria will ultimately determine the maximum length of the circuit. The finish will occur at the ceremonial Pole where all the lines of longitude symbolically meet.
Will it be safe to run?
The race is a contained one in that it is run on a circuit. Flags will guide athletes around the course and participants should be visible at all times. Moroever, there should not be a discernibly greater risk from the activity of running vis-a-vis doing any other activities at the Pole or being in the general location.
Will the circuit be a perfect circle?
No. The circuit will meander among hillocks of ice and incorparate part of the aircraft landing runway. The map opposite depicts the shape of the 2007 North Pole Marathon course, which was a loop of 4.2km. Competitors repeated this loop ten times to finish the marathon distance.
Will the course be moving during the race?
The entire course will move with the direction of the Ocean current during the race. Competitors will not feel this movement happening, but it does! Athletes should simply feel like they are running on land at the exact same longitutude and latitude coordinates where they began. The diagram below depicts the map readings of a competitor's GPS watch for each of the ten laps of the 2007 race. One can see that the entire course was moving as a block during the 5+ hours it took him to complete the race distance.
Will I get to stand at the exact Geographic North Pole?
Yes. Assuming we are not by some remote chance floating over 90N when all have finished the race, we will travel by Mi-8 chopper to the exact Geographic North Pole (90N). Remember that we are floating on the Arctic Ocean and within minutes we will have moved away from the exact North Pole!
Will there be a threat from polar bears?
It is unusual for a polar bear to travel that far north, though the camp operators keep weapons for such an eventuality. To date, no marathoner has seen a polar bear on the trip but they have appeared at the camp on other days.
What is the weather usually like?
It is possible that the wind chill temperature could be very cold at -30C or below. In the 2009 and 2011 races, the temperature was -37C and -32C, respectively. However, it has tended to average between -25c and -30C. In 2002 - the first Marathon at the North Pole - the wind chill temperature was independently recorded at -60C! The wind chill temperature in 2015 was -41C.
What are the underfoot conditions at the Pole?
The terrain will be uneven, incorporating both reasonably solid ice and loose snow. The snow should not be deep, but it will nevertheless be energy sapping and there can be occasional deep patches.
What shoes should I wear when running?
A pair of trail running shoes will work best. Snowshoes are not allowed as they cut the lining of tents used for refreshments and accommodation.
What clothes should I wear when running?
A layering system is best. Please see the Race Gear section for specific details.
Will medical personnel be present?
Yes, a Russian medical doctor with expertise in cold weather injuries is always present at the Camp. In addition, a western trained doctor is normally brought with the marathon group.
Will there be media coverage of the race?
Yes, the event always generates substantial global media coverage.
What is the North Pole Marathon Grand Slam Club?
The North Pole Marathon Grand Slam Club comprises athletes who have completed a marathon on each of the seven continents AND the North Pole Marathon. Many athletes are members of The 7 Continents Marathon Club, but this is an opportunity to go one step further and add the Arctic Ocean to your running CV. Certificates, t-shirts and medals are issued to accepted Grand Slam members.
Does the North Pole Marathon have a carbon offsetting policy?
Yes. The North Pole Marathon pays the relevant amount of money to CarbonFund.org for carbon offsetting forestry projects in the Brazilian Amazon. Polar Running Adventures has been pioneering in this regard, becoming the first business to completely neutralise the CO2 effects of all its flights to the North Pole in 2007. In 2013, the event went even further and achieved official 'Carbon Free' status. First, the CO2 impact of the 2½ hour flights to the North Pole camp - and any related helicopter flights in the polar region - are scientifically calculated on the basis of the type of aircraft used, fuel burn rate, fuel type and flight duration. Second, the impact of attendees' contribution to CO2 emissions via their international flights to the departure point (Svalbard) is estimated. Third, the CO2 impact of other fuel use at the Pole, e.g. heating of accommodation tents, is worked out. This overall calculated impact is then offset by an investment in reforestation projects in the Brazilian Amazon. Competitors can travel to the North Pole with the knowledge that the event has been awarded Carbon Free status.
Does the North Pole Marathon have a positive environmental ethos?
Yes. The North Pole Marathon likes to use its race location on the polar ice cap in a positive environmental way. Indeed, many of the participants utilise the event to spread climate change messages to a large global audience. The event is is a foot race and naturally promotes fitness and exercise as a substitute to car and vehicle use. Furthermore, there is a carbon offsetting policy employed for the polar flights and indeed the entire event (outlined above). It should be highlighted that the emissions resulting from a 2½ hour return flight to the Pole are identical to those of a similar flight elsewhere in the world. Moreover, there could be a misconception that those flying to the North Pole are the ones leading to a shrinking of the polar ice caps, but this is obviously not the case!