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Scotland's Andrew Murray has won the UVU North Pole Marathon 2012, known as the world's coolest marathon.
The 42,195km race, the world's most northerly marathon, took place on 6 April at 21:00 GMT. All forty-one competitors, comprising 36 male and 5 female runners, managed to finish the grueling event at the Geographic North Pole in 'ideal' temperatures of -26C.
In order to reach the race location, competitors assembled at Spitsbergen, an island situated 1,000km off the northern coast of mainland Norway. In a major logistical operation, they were subsequently flown on a specialised aircraft to a temporary ice base that was constructed in the high Arctic Ocean at the Pole.
A marked circuit of 4.22km was laid out through the small pressure ridges and ice hillocks that dotted the horizon and contestants were required to cover 10 loops exactly. The course was patrolled by armed personnel as two polar bears were spotted in the area one week previously.
With no land at the North Pole, the athletes from 18 countries and 5 continents were running on moving ice floes on the Ocean although the movement of sea currents was not felt by them.
Spain's Luis Alonso Marcos forced the pace at the outset, leading for most of the initial 10km with Murray (GBR) and James Matthews (GBR) in close pursuit.
It was the 10th edition of the North Pole Marathon and sophisticated electronic timing was introduced for the first time with Ultra High Frequency Rfid disposable tags built into the participants' race bibs.
The ambitious timing system revealed a 50 second advantage for Murray over the Spaniard at 12.6km and this lead was extended to 2 mins 33 seconds by the half-way point. At the end of lap seven of ten, Murray's advantage had grown to 5 mins 8 seconds and victory seemed certain, but the Arctic can be an unforgiving and unpredictable environment. As the effects of the cold temperatures and underfoot snow terrain suddenly began to impact Murray, Marcos fought back to dramatically slice his advantage in half by the finish line.
The first three finishers were Andrew Murray (GBR) in 4:17:08 followed by Luis Alonso Marcos (ESP) in 4:19:38 and James Matthews (GBR) third in 4:41:01.
The women's race also witnessed a close finish amongst the top three with Australia's Demelza Farr prevailing in a time of 6:06:36 followed by Great Britain's Rebecca Newmann (6:11:39) and Julie Brailsford (6:14:40) in second and third, respectively.`
Adding to her joy upon winning the race, Demelza's boyfriend James Alderson proposed to her on crossing the finish line and she accepted. It was another North Pole Marathon first!
The event was not all about the front runners, however, and special mention must go to Philippe Laurent (FRA) who completed the marathon despite suffering from multiple sclerosis. It was a truly heroic effort by Laurent, who was accompanied by Ireland's Paul Grealish throughout his race. A number of runners also managed to complete a 'Grand Slam' by finishing a marathon on all seven continents and at the North Pole.
After all participants stood at the exact Geographic North Pole, Murray, Farr and Laurent received specially designed race jackets for polar conditions from title sponsor UVU, a new premium performance brand that launched on the day of the marathon. In addition, the top male finisher and top female finisher received a Bering watch and engraved crystal.
**Quirky Facts - During this year's trip, Lars Samo Tobiassen became the youngest person to complete the North Pole Marathon and spectator Jaimie Donovan became the youngest visitor to the North Pole.
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