The North Pole Marathon – literally the world’s coolest race
Recognised by the Guinness World Records as the northern most marathon on earth, this is also the only officially measured marathon to be run entirely on water (in the form of ice floes made from the frozen waters of the Arctic Ocean).
Assuming your nerve holds, you will now find yourself at the geographical North Pole camp, 90º north – exactly opposite the South Pole, where everywhere else on earth lies to the south, and in one of the remotest places on the planet. From here, the excitement and anxiety can only build as you find yourself billeted overnight in tents at temperatures below freezing – and that’s not including any wind chill.
Around you there’s nothing but snow and ice, and while the course is undoubtedly flat, there are still areas of snowy hillocks to be overcome. As for race kit, forget shorts and T-shirt, think skiwear, goggles and woolly hat. Stepping out into the frozen silence on the day of the race, the sound of scrunching snow is pretty much the only noise you’ll hear as you follow the small red flags marking out this multi-lap course around the North Pole.
And when you cross the finish line, with your hat, scarf and eyelashes frosted white, you’ll become one of the select few to have run a marathon on the top of the world – and by all accounts, that’s exactly how you’ll feel, too.
Comrades Marathon – the largest ultra-marathon in the world
This marathon has been held every year since 1921, apart from the war years (1941-45), and must therefore be one of the earliest organised ultra-marathon events in existence. It was the brainchild of World War I veteran Vic Clapham from London. When the war ended, not only was Vic left deeply affected by the atrocities suffered by his comrades, but he was also struck by the camaraderie evinced in the men in overcoming them. So he came up with the idea of a 56-mile race as a living memorial to all those who had fallen in the war, aptly naming it the Comrades Marathon.
The race itself is a series of up and down hills – all named, many historically, and each with a story to tell – and every year the start and finish of the race is reversed, alternating between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. In 1921, the event attracted 34 entrants; in 2010, there were over 12,000, although only 9,000 officially finished the race.
As if the race itself isn’t tough enough with the heat, the hills and the distance, there is also a cut-off time at the 87km point. If you miss the cut-off, you are excluded from the race. Despite this, many runners return year after year – one of them being 100 Marathon Club’s Dave Ross, who has completed seven races so far and seeks to attain one of the revered ‘Green Numbers’.
These are only attainable after completing 10 Comrades Marathons. Once you acquire a Green Number, you have that number for life and nobody else can ever wear it.
The Brathay Windermere 10-in-10 – 10 marathons in 10 days
For the 100 Marathon Club members it’s obviously a quick way of building up their numbers but it is also incredibly tough, testing both physical stamina and mental strength.
It's already billed as the UK’s ultimate endurance running event despite only springing into existence in 2007, when founder Sir Christopher Ball, a fellow of the Brathay Trust, seemed to think it might be a tip-top idea to incorporate an endurance running event of, oh, say, 10 marathons in 10 days within the Brathay Windermere Marathon.
Or, to put it another way, runners would cover a total of 262 miles over 10 days, completing the same undulating marathon course around the picturesque Lake Windermere every day.
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Running Crazy is written by Helen Summers and published by John Blake Publsihing Ltd.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.