It’s the ultimate test for marathon lovers – the coldest race in the world.
But it was so bitterly inhospitable that none of the 16 hardy runners, whose faces were caked in ice, managed to complete the full distance in the bone-cracking winter temperatures in Siberia.
The extraordinary glacial run was held at the Pole Of Cold – the village of Oymyakon in Russia’s Yakutsk, the world’s coldest inhabited settlement in the diamond-rich Yakutia region.
When participants were under starters orders, thermometers registered a punishing -52°C. In future years, organisers want to encourage foreign participants, but for this debut run only Russians braved the race in the freezer.
Competitors varied in age from 21 to 71, and we’re not sure the organisers have a tourist attraction of the calibre of Nambour’s Big Pineapple, but they seem fairly hopeful.
“We wanted to make running in -45°C temperatures and colder more popular,” Russian champion runner Yegor Abramov told The Siberian Times, “and to show that athletes can adapt to extremely low temperatures.”
“We could see utter amazement in the eyes of tourists who travelled here from Australia, Taiwan, Japan and India to watch the world’s coldest race,” added runner Sargylana Neustroyeva. “This was our first try at organising the extremely cold marathon. Next year we are definitely doing another race, all athletes from around the world are welcome.”
Is it just us, or does it not seem likely people are going to pay a squillion dollars in airfare and accom to go somewhere and freeze their ’nads off?
Good on the Yakutskis for having a crack, we say.
As it turned out, no-one was actually able to go the distance. A true marathon is 42.2km, and it takes a tough bastard – or bastardess – to finish one when conditions are ideal. In Oymyakon at -50°C conditions were anything but. Still, there were some amazing efforts:
- Mother-of-eight Anastasia Stepanova completed 25km in four hours
- Veteran Yegor Permyakov, 71, took two-and-a-half hours to run 15.2km
- Youngest runner Innokentiy Olesov, 21, bowed out after 68 minutes when he had completed 10km
- Head of Emissa village, Ilya Pesterev, ran just over 36km then sooked it after three hours and 53 minutes
- Four-time world and European marathon champion Stepan Lytkin completed a measly 20 kilometres in two hours and 25 minutes
- Russian and European champion marathon runner Valentina Dorguyeva took four hours to complete 25km.
Those who hung in there saw conditions improve. At the finish – which nobody got to – it was a toasty -48°C and the St Johnski’s people were standing by, probably with all the gear needed to handle heatstroke.
They must be an optimistic bunch in Oymyakon. Let’s hope they get a good roll up in 2020. Maybe a freeze on the cost of entry would help?