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Runners battle minus 30C at UVU North Pole Marathon 2013

April 12, 2013

Ireland's Gary Thornton and Great Britain's Fiona Oakes have won the 2013 UVU North Pole Marathon, known as the world's coolest marathon.

The race took place at the Geographic North Pole on 9th April at 00:30 hrs Central European Time (GMT +1). With continuous daylight at the North Pole this time of year, the start time was irrelevant to competitors. However, the -30C temperatures coupled with challenging underfoot conditions for the race made the event extremely difficult.

While the course had solid ice for some stretches, approximately half the route was energy sapping soft snow, with a few deep patches in places. It was this latter feature that mitigated against the possibility of faster times for the front runners.

Unlike conventional marathons, the race medical team was primarily on alert for frostbite and other cold weather injuries while armed guards marshalled the course in case of a polar bear threat.

The camp for the event was prepared by paratroopers who were airdropped at the North Pole. A tractor was used to flatten a runway on the ice so that a specialist cargo plane was able to land safely on the ice floes.

With no land at the North Pole, the race is literally run 'on' water, the frozen Arctic Ocean. Only 1-2 metres separated runners from the Arctic sea below.

Thornton said it was the "most surreal running experience of his life". Holding a marathon PB of 2:17 hrs, he said it was "very tough after the first third of the race" and a "mental battle to get to the finish".

He led for almost the entire 42.195 km except for a brief period over the initial kilometres when Renaud Michel (FRA) hit the front. Among the other leading contenders over the first half were Ian Egan (IRL), Fiona Oakes, a 2:38 marathoner in normal conditions, and Peter Moffat (GBR).

However, the trying conditions took their toll on many competitors who set out quickly. Thornton's winning times was an impressive 3:49:29 hrs and Michel maintained his rhythm to finish second overall in 4:34:29 hrs. However, while others dropped due to the cold, Willy Steinskog (NOR) judged the conditions perfectly to move through the field for third place in the men's division in 5:04:07 hrs.

In the meantime, Fiona Oakes dominated the female competition to win in a time of 4:53:10 hrs ahead of Stephanie Gicquel (FRA) in 5:48:56 hrs and Anna Chernova (GBR) in 7:27:09 hrs, respectively. Oakes' time was a new female record for the race.

The team competition was won by UVU Racing Team - UVU (You versus You) is a premium performance clothing brand for adventure endurance athletes. 

Full results are posted below, including half marathon finishers and an experimental x-country ski marathon.


Richard Donovan, Race Director -

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