Marco, Rickey and Christina at the finish

Now, I’m not in a good position to talk about any rivalry. I mean – I’ve really only spent time here at Pole, so I don’t have a lot to compare with. Well, yes, there were those three days in McMurdo, but that’s not nearly enough to get a sense for the culture there, or how they do things.

But I do like the way Polies think.

For example: remember the “Race around the World”? A couple of miles over snow, berms, along the skiway, then out in front of the station, finishing where we started, in front of the geographical South Pole (otw, in case I’ve not made that point before). We had some amazing participants – Keith is a veteran extreme distance runner, Curtis, who’s won it something like 5 of the past 7 years, and the newcomer, Rickey, who holds a handful of running world records – things like time to the top of Half Dome, and other mountains. On the distaff, there were women like Christina, Haley, and Katie, who can easily run mere mortals into the ground. It was a good race, and Rickey blew the doors off of everyone, covering the course in 13:32. That’s 6:25-minutes per mile over rough terrain, at 9300 feet of altitude at -20F. Let that sink in. Next finisher (Curtis) was still under a 7-minute mile, but over a minute and a half behind. Christina clocked 18:22 for the best womens time, also beating second place by a minute and a half.

Anyhow, the prize for Rickey and Christina went beyond mere glory – they earned the right to represent the Pole at McMurdo’s annual “Antarctic Marathon”, which was held this morning.

Flying finish for Christina’s first ever
marathon (and a South Pole record)

Except. The weather at MacTown hasn’t been very good the past few days, and our Herc flights kept getting canceled. Yesterday afternoon, when their last possible ride down to McMurdo in time for the run was scrubbed, everyone was pretty disappointed for them. It meant a lot to them, of course, but also to us as Polies. I don’t think there’s a person here who isn’t fond of either of them – they’re just, well, really kind, thoughtful, engaging people. Who happen to be really, really fast. (Honestly, the rumor around Pole was that the weather was fine at McTown, and they were just scared of our runners).

But this morning the station was plastered with fliers, advertising “The South Pole Contingency Marathon”. Rickey and Christina couldn’t run the McMurdo marathon, so out of nowhere, the station decided to organize its own. It would be held this very afternoon, consisting of a circuit over the Round the World course and enough laps up and down the skiway to make up the rest of the 26.2 required miles. All were invited to help and participate.

When Sarah isn’t spontaneously
running marathons, she’s an
astrophysicist at Stanford

Rickey and Christina ran it, of course, but also Keith, and Marco and Sarah. We went out to see them off at 1:00, and took turns running and skiing alongside of them as they made their laps along the skiway. Rickey finished with an astounding time of 4:02:15 (remember: rough terrain, 9300 feet of altitude, -20F), followed over the next hour by Marco, Keith, Christina and Sarah (In the spirit of full disclosure, Sarah skipped the final lap to prevent an incipient knee problem – not a good thing to have at the Pole – but had only decided to run at the last minute anyway. 21 miles over polar ice cap on a lark is nothing to sneeze at).

Okay, maybe it’s not the *best* thing to have
written on your finish-line tape, but you make do
 with what what you have.

What I like about this: we took sour lemons (the weather cancellation) and made some pretty tasty lemonade. They didn’t get to represent Pole at McMurdo, but Rickey and Christina (4:53:30) can now claim world records on possibly the highest, coldest race in the world: the first annual South Pole Marathon.

(Oh, by the way: Curtis, our RATW second-place finisher, had flown down from Pole to McMurdo a couple of days earlier for redeployment. I understand he won their Marathon by a rather substantial lead. Didn’t I say something about rivalries back at the beginning?)

More pictures, and a much better description of the race itself over at “Life at the Bottom of the World“.


In other news, Linda organized a South Pole spelling bee this afternoon – not the first, it turns out. I held on until the final three, flaming out on “rhinocero[u]s” – yes, I know there’s no “u” in rhinoceros – there’s a bad joke buried there somewhere, despite the fact that rhinoceros (rhinoceri?) are herbivores. Jesse and Steven battled it out on staphylococci, xanolith and the like until Steven tripped on psoriasis and Jesse walked away with first prize: a $100 gift certificate.

Justus on the spot
Just like 8th grade, all over again.

Jesse (left) thinks he’s got it. He does.

I still need to tell you about my tour of MAPO, and the ongoing South Pole Coriolis Dish Pit experiment. Busy times at the Pole, busy times.

One response to “Rivalry?

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