Fuelling the Modern Man

Reckon you’re tough enough to compete in the world’s coolest marathon?

26.2 miles across one of the remotest landscapes on Earth. Bliss.

Josh Butler
Published 24th November 2016

Marathon running is hard enough as it is, what with 26.2 gruelling miles to complete before you collapse to the ground, vomit and are hastily wrapped in a large foil blanket like a wilting burrito.

But could you imagine running one on some of this planet’s toughest terrain? Biting winds, sub-zero temperatures and shifting sea ice – that’s what awaits entrants in the arduous North Pole Marathon.


The event is directed by Richard Donovan, the first man to run marathons at both the North and South Poles, and is one of the only – if not the only – long distance race that isn’t run on dry land at all.

Instead, only a thin sheet of ice, measuring a perilously frail six feet in places, separates the runners from a fatal plunge into the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean, where temperatures rarely breach 0°C.

As if that’s not cold enough for you, air temperature during the race has been known to drop as low as -30°C!


Note to self: do NOT forget balaclava next year.

Aside from the marathon itself, there is also a prestigious team competition, which is decided on a group’s cumulative times of the first three runners. According to their website, everyone from army divisions to corporate companies are welcome!

However, there is a slight catch. For the privilege of running yourself half to death in one of the world’s remotest regions, you’re going to have to shell out €13,500 (£11,464).

The cost includes, but isn’t limited to, flights to the Norwegian autonomous region of Svalbard, accommodation, helicopter transportation to the start line, medical support, an official video, a medal, and – ominously – emergency evacuation support.


It’s not everyday that you run a marathon where polar bears are a legitimate threat to your attempts to finish the race. Pull a hammy in a park run and it’s race over; pull a hammy out here and you could be on the menu!

The 2017 edition kicks off in April for its 15th instalment, having first been run by race director Richard Donovan, who completed the tortuous journey alone in 2002.

Since then, competitors from nearly 50 nations have risked the snow and ice and complete the marathon, with the fastest time coming in 2007, posted by Irishman Thomas Maguire in a time of 3:36:10.

Imagine, in that time you could have watched the whole of the Return of the King with enough time to stick the kettle on and pop for a quick toilet break.

So, if you reckon you’re fit/brave/mad [delete as appropriate] enough to take on the world’s coolest marathon, you can head over to their website and sign up to become part of a very elite club.


Meanwhile, we’ll settle for just watching the YouTube stream of the race, thank you very much.