An Irishman has won the world’s coolest marathon - the North Pole Marathon. Forty-three athletes from 22 nations took part in the race, which is recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's most northerly marathon. It is also the only marathon that is run entirely on water - the frozen water of the Arctic Ocean.
The participants were flown from Spitsbergen in Norway to a drifting Russian ice base in the high Arctic Ocean, where a 4.2 km course was prepared. Contestants had to run 10 laps of the circuit at the Geographic North Pole, passing through spectacular ice hillocks and vast ice floes.
The race got under way at 2:45am GMT on 7 April, but with continuous daylight at this time of year, visibility was not a problem. In fact, the runners enjoyed brilliant sunshine, which took the edge off the -25C temperature, although they needed three layers of clothes to cope with the frigid conditions.
Thomas Maguire, from Ireland, completed the gruelling 26.2 mile course in a record time of three hours, 36 minutes and 10 seconds. Shunning the heated refreshment tents along the way, Maguire - who finished 12th in the 2006 World 100km Championships in Korea - chose to complete his epic run without stopping for food or water. He won a Kobold expedition watch for his efforts.
Italy's Francesco Galanzino finished second, seven minutes behind Maguire, with Spain's Juan Antonio Alegre in third. Britain's Andrew Murray finished fourth, with Northern Ireland's Peter Bell in fifth.
The women's race, which also offered an expedition watch for first prize, was won by Britain's Susan Holliday in a time of six hours, 17 minutes and 40 seconds. Holiday was almost 18 minutes ahead of compatriot Katy Disley in second place, with Russia's Liubov Bleykh in third.
Perhaps the most amazing achievement was that of Paralympic athlete William Tan. He used the specially-prepared flat runway section of the course to complete a marathon in a wheelchair, covering his particular circuit in just over 21 hours. Tan, from Singapore, is attempting to complete marathons on all seven continents.
As he sat in his wheelchair at the precise Geographic North Pole, Tan declared it to be the happiest day of his life. The race organiser, Richard Donovan of Ireland, explained that Tan’s efforts were truly remarkable given that it was not possible to freewheel on the icy surface.
The next North Pole Marathon is provisionally scheduled for 6 April 2008. For more information, see www.npmarathon.com.
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