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Final Countdown to 2008 North Pole Marathon

March 21, 2008

A field of twenty-six athletes from ten countries will participate in the 2008 North Pole Marathon on March 26th. The 26.2-mile race, known as the world's coolest marathon, will take place at the drifting Russian ice base at the Geographic North Pole.

The North Pole Marathon always features a diverse range of competitors and the 2008 race is no different. Among the field is a three-time Olympian at rowing, a former special forces soldier, a top ultra athlete and many seasoned marathoners. Three German participants - Sarah Ames, Hans-Wilhelm Hamke and Jurgen Heilbock - have already run a marathon on every continent. They will be joining the Marathon Grand Slam Club by finishing the distance at the North Pole. Joining them will be Dawn Hamlin (USA) who has just set a new world record for the shortest duration to run marathons on all seven continents.

Korea's Byeung Sik Ahn, winner of the Gobi March desert race in 2006 and a top finisher in other multi-stage races, will be hoping to perform well at the front end of the men's field. But he won't have it easy with the challenge of the Germans and Great Britain's Charles Sanders. Peter Ferris of Ireland, the most experienced marathoner in the race, will also be looking for a good showing. He has almost three-hundred marathons to his credit and holds a PB of 2:47.

Jeremy Clay of Great Britain will be running in memory of his friend and work colleague Mark Clifford. Mark completed the North Pole Marathon in 2006, but tragically died in a quad bike accident one year later. Organisers are also dedicating this year's event to his memory and a minute's silence will be observed in the frigid conditions.

The women's field will see eight runners from Denmark, Germany, Great Britan, Sweden and the USA battling it out. Included among them is Alison Gill of Great Britain, a veteran of the 1988, 92 and 96 Olympic Games in which she competed in rowing.

The outright winner of the 2008 North Pole Marathon will receive a coveted Kobold expedition watch for his or her efforts on the high Arctic Ocean. The 2007 champion was Irishman Thomas Maguire, a top 12 finisher in the World 100km Championships. He established a new record of 3:36:10 for the event.

Competitors for the upcoming race will gather at Spitsbergen Island off the course of Norway before departing to the North Pole camp by Antonov jet. Running in anticipated temperatures of about –25C, they will negotiate a course comprising small pressure ridges and hillocks of ice. Leads, or open water, will be avoided. The participants will look forward to finishing the race and standing at the exact Geographic North Pole in celebration.

Al Jazeera English will be on location to film the 2008 North Pole Marathon for its Sportsworld programme. A 30-minute special on the race is provisonally set to be broadcast on the network from April 7th. Meanwhile, Mike King, twice UK Sports Photographer of the Year, will photograph the event.

The North Pole Marathon, which is recognised by Guinness World Records as the northernmost marathon on earth, has included polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes among its former participants.

Registration for the 2009 event is now open. 2009 is the Centenary of Man reaching the North Pole but there will be limited places available for the 2009 North Pole Marathon in accordance with aircraft capacity constraints. The North Pole Marathon is a member of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS).

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