4 POLES MARATHON CHALLENGE
DEC 2021-MAY 22
Antarctic - North Pole
Dead Sea - Everest
In adventuring there is something called the Three Poles Challenge and at the time of writing 26 people have completed it. The challenge is to stand at the North and South Poles and the atop the third pole, Everest. Jason wanted to be the first to do something and so he came up with the concept of the 4 Poles Marathon challenge to reflect the spirit of the Three Poles Challenge but in the hope that being somewhat more accessible it will inspire others to take it on. The challenge consists of running organised marathons at the North Pole, Everest, Antarctica and the Dead Sea. These four locations mark the most northerly, most southerly, highest altitude and lowest altitude places on earth that you can take part in organised marathons. Many of these events are considered in their own right to be among the toughest foot races on the planet because of the combination of the terrain, weather conditions and, in the case of Everest, the effects of high altitude.
The North Pole Marathon takes place in April each year and the 26.2 miles is completed by running 10 laps of a 4.2KM course carved into the snow and ice. The lapped nature of the course enables the runner to obtain aid and warm up periodically as the temperature is typically at that time of year -25 degrees celsius with it being significantly lower than that when wind chill is taken into account.
The Everest Marathon takes place on the 29th May each year, the date that Tenzing and Hillary made their first successful ascent of Mount Everest. The race starts at Everest Base Camp at the Khumbu Icefall at an altitude of 5,356M above sea level. It then descends over 42.2Km to Namche Bazar over the same trail that trekkers take to get to Base Camp. The combination of the terrain, the profile and the high altitude means that this race regularly appears in the list of the top 10 most difficult running races on the planet.
The 16th edition of the Antarctic Ice Marathon is scheduled to take place on the 14th December 2021. At 80 degrees south, the most southerly marathon on earth is just a few hundred miles from the geographic South Pole.
The Dead Sea Marathon is recognised by Guinness World Records as being the lowest altitude marathon on earth at 430M below sea level. A trail run it passes literally through the Dead Sea on a spit that borders Israel and Jordan through a piece of land normally closed off to visitors but on the day of the marathon it is opened up by security forces to allow the event to pass through. Whilst not on the face of it the most dangerous event of the four, it is the only one that in the race instructions informs you that you can’t leave a firearm in bag drop or take one onto the course!
TALISKER WHISKY ATLANTIC CHALLENGE
Taking place in December each year, up to 30 boats take part to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic from La Gomera in the Canaries to English Harbour in Antigua & Barbuda. The appeal here is that more people have climbed Everest than rowed an Ocean. Sleep deprivation, salt sores, crippling fatigue and enormous waves are among just some of the challenges to be endured during the 1.5 million strokes over roughly 2-3 months it will take to reach Antigua. I can’t wait!
When all of the events scheduled as part of the ‘Four Poles Marathon Challenge’ were postponed due to the pandemic in 2020 it gave me an additional challenge. I had promised to raise funds for a charity, Young Minds, which helps young people with their mental health. With the pandemic, the need for their services had never been more acute and yet at the same time, with the cancellation of all mass participation events, the ability for them to fund raise was severely limited. Weeks before the 29th May when the Everest Marathon was due to take place, an auspicious date as it is the date that Tenzing and Hilary first summited Everest, the email came through to confirm that it had been postponed and I decided to put the fitness that I had accumulated training for it to good use. With national lockdowns being in place I thought it was fitting to do something in solidarity with the young people everywhere who were struggling with the isolation that was being imposed on them by the situation, and so the idea of the Isolation Ironman was born.
A standard Ironman triathlon consists of a 4.2KM (2.4 mile) swim, 180KM (112 mile) cycle and a full marathon run. With no access to anywhere to swim I decided to replace the swim with a row on the rowing machine in my garage. Instead of rowing the 4.2KM swim distance though, something that would have taken around 20 minutes, I decided to make this leg somewhat more challenging by rowing a half marathon distance instead (13.1 miles, 21.2 KM). I then hit the stationary bike, also in my garage for 180KM before heading out for 200 laps of the road that I live on to complete the 42.2KM (26.2 mile) run. On the 29th May 2020 and with the generous support of my family, neighbours, sponsors and many friends who cheered me on virtually, I successfully completed my self curated Isolation Ironman challenge, raising much needed funds for Young Minds in the process.