What could be more bananas than a 26-mile run in the sun? It has been tested in sub-zero conditions. A marathon held in Siberia last week claimed to have set a new world record for the coldest marathon ever run. The “Pole of Cold” race was completed by 65 runners on January 21, 2022, in temperatures as low as -53°C (-63.4°F). To make matters worse, they were racing first thing in the morning, when temperatures were expected to plummet even worse.
The marathon took place in Oymyakon, in the large Russian territory of Yakutia (commonly known as Sakha). The race’s name comes from this little hamlet, which is known as the Pole of Cold. It got its moniker from its status as the world’s coldest permanently occupied human habitation – it’s the city where your eyelashes freeze, your saliva turns into “needles that stab [your] lips,” and funerals are preceded by days-long bonfires merely to warm the earth sufficiently for a burial.
Participants in the marathon came from all over the world, including the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Belarus – but the locals came out on top. Vasily Lukin of Russia took first place, crossing the finish line in 3 hours and 22 minutes; Marina Sedalischeva of Yakutia was the highest female finisher, clocking in at 4:09.
Lukin’s second triumph in a succession, after winning the extreme event in 2020, after the marathon was postponed last year due to the pandemic. Only 16 individuals braved the sub-sub-sub-zero conditions the year before when the marathon was held for the first time. The coldest marathon ever recorded, according to Guinness World Records, was staged in 2001, also in Siberia — the Siberian Ice Marathon, which took place at a pleasantly warm -39°C. The North Pole Marathon and the Antarctic Ice Marathon (a name that seems rather redundant) are two more frozen marathons, but if you really keen on defying Mother Nature, there are a couple of even more extreme possibilities.
Take the Antarctic Ice Ultra, for example 100 kilometers across the world’s most southern continent in -20°C temperatures. The top 10 finish times ranged from 11 to a bone-chilling 21 hours of running the previous time it held — something that is much more doable on a continent with 24 hours of unbroken sun. The organizers of the Pole of Cold marathon hope that the new world record will bring more attention to the event in the future. The 2021 race drew roughly 100 warmly dressed spectators, which is not a lot for a marathon, but given the circumstances, it is not bad. Actually, it is cool.