What’s more bananas than running 26 miles in the sun? Running it in sub-zero temperatures.
A marathon held last week Siberia is thought to have set a new record: the world’s coldest ever marathon. Racing in temperatures reported to be as low as -53°C (-63.4°F), 65 runners completed the “Pole of Cold” race on January 21, 2022. To make matters even worse, they were competing first thing in the morning – unbelievably, temperatures would drop even further later on.
The marathon was held at Oymyakon, in the Yakutia (also known as Sakha) region of the vast Russian province. This small settlement is what gives the race its name – the Pole of Cold. It earned the nickname thanks to its reputation as the coldest permanently occupied human settlement in the world – you may remember it as the city where your eyelashes freeze, your saliva becomes “needles that … prick [your] lips,” and funerals are preceded by days-long bonfires just to warm the ground enough for a burial.
Competitors in the marathon hailed from locations as diverse as the United Arab Emirates, USA, and Belarus – but the locals beat them all. First place went to Russia’s Vasily Lukin, who crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 22 minutes; the best women’s result was Marina Sedalischeva, a Yakutia local, who ran it in 4:09.
Since the marathon was postponed last year due to the pandemic, this is Lukin’s second victory in a row after he won the extreme race in 2020. The year before that – the marathon’s first – saw just 16 people brave enough to face the sub-sub-sub-sub-zero temperatures.
According to Guinness World Records, the coldest marathon yet recorded was held in 2001, also in Siberia – the Siberian Ice Marathon, at a comparatively balmy -39°C. Other frozen marathons include the North Pole Marathon and the Antarctic Ice Marathon (a name which seems mildly redundant), but if you’re really set on defying Mother Nature, there are a few even more extreme options. Take, for instance, the Antarctic Ice Ultra: 100 kilometers across the world’s most southern continent in temperatures of -20°C. The last time it was held, the top 10 finish times ranged between 11 and a bone-chilling 21 hours of running – something that’s much more possible on a continent with 24 hours of uninterrupted sun.
With the new world record, the organizers of the Pole of Cold marathon hope to attract more publicity for the event in future. As it is, the 2021 race was attended by around 100 warmly-dressed spectators – not much for the average marathon, it’s true, but under the circumstances? Pretty cool, actually.