Last weekend, I entered my first-ever Nordic skate-skiing race, the McMurdo Ice Marathon. Fifty-two people raced in this out-and-back running and skiing event on the McMurdo Ice Shelf here in Antarctica. Racers could choose to run or ski the full or half marathon, and a great volunteer team of thirty-plus people came out to support the cause.
The morning began at the Berg Field Center for race registration. With emergency gear and race numbers in hand, we then all walked outside to pile onto “Ivan, the Terrabus” for a 1.5-mile journey out to the ice edge. Since McMurdo Station is situated on Ross Island, we’re surrounded by brown dirt and volcanic rock in town…
…but as soon as we transition from land to the McMurdo Ice Shelf, it’s all snow and ice, all around.
Once we were dropped off on the ice shelf, we had fifteen minutes to sort our gear and get warmed up. And then it was time for the ready…set…go!!!
The morning began beautifully, and temperatures continued to climb into the mid-thirties (Fahrenheit) by noon. When I passed my friend Gracie at the turnaround, she was stripped down to her tank top and looking really strong here (she’s a total badass). Gracie ended up taking a proud second-place finish in the women’s full marathon run category.
This day was one of the best days so far this season for skiing—very little wind and big blue skies. Besides—the McMurdo Ice Marathon is a once-a-year opportunity to ski supported, so I carried only a light pack and helped myself to snacks at aid stations along the way.
I felt strong and happy throughout the race–thanks to the hot pink leg warmers, I’m sure. The conditions were so good that I felt like I was flying on skis. I finished with a respectable time of two hours and fifty minutes to win the women’s full marathon ski category. I was still smiling after I crossed the finish line, so it couldn’t have been that painful…right?
The first-place male marathon winner, Curtis Moore, wasn’t too far behind me. It was amazing to see him running far ahead of the other runners at the turnaround point. He floated through this race and inspired everyone with his finish time of three hours and sixteen minutes.
One of the things that struck me after the McMurdo Ice Marathon was how much it brought our community together. Counting participants and volunteers, more than eighty people in our local population participated. There are only about a thousand of us here right now, so I felt like it was a large percentage of participants for such a small population. It was a great inspiration to watch people I know train for this event over the past few months and then race in it. Even more of a boost: hearing volunteers shout out my name in encouragement as I skated by.
Thanks so much to the McMurdo Ice Marathon volunteer photographers for taking the above photos. Matt Truch took the photo of Ivan the Terrabus in town and the top right photo of me skiing; Stan Schweitzer took the start line and snack table photos; Dan Costa photographed all others.