On a cold, windy Sunday on Ross Island, most residents of McMurdo Station were enjoying the shelter of a warm building and hot food. Hasmin Sherwin, however, was among a group of 64 athletes who braved headwinds and crosswinds, uneven snow, blinding sun reflecting off ice, and capricious weather on the nearby ice shelf.
His destination: a line drawn in the snow between two trail flags and populated by a cheering crowd, marking the finish line of the McMurdo Marathon.
Organized by the station’s Recreation Department and staffed by volunteers from the community, the McMurdo Marathon consisted of three events this year: a half-marathon, full marathon, and an ultra-marathon distance race of 31 miles. Each race was open to both runners and skiers.
The marathon has been held annually for about 20 years since its inception on another cold, windy January day in 1995, when Karen Joyce and Nancy Ford ran 26.2 miles, back and forth between New Zealand’s Scott Base and Williams Field, an airstrip for ski-equipped planes.
Joyce already had more than 20 marathons under her belt when she first came down to the Ice. “The place was so flat, it looked inviting,” she said by e-mail.
This year’s course began near mile-marker one on a compacted snow road that crosses two adjoining ice shelves – the McMurdo Ice Shelf and Ross Ice Shelf – that lead to a pair of airfields used by the U.S. Antarctic Program to transport people and cargo to and from the Ice.
Half-marathoners went past Williams Field to a junction with the second of three aid stations along the route. From there, the half-marathoners turned back for the finish line, while the full-marathoners continued on toward their turnaround point near Pegasus Airfield.
Sherwin, who works as a steward in the station’s kitchen, learned of the race midway through the summer field season, a five-month stretch of time when scientists arrive to conduct research across the continent, much of it funded and supported by the National Science Foundation.
He decided to try it, despite having never run a marathon before and knowing he would need to intensify his training schedule to accommodate an abbreviated month-and-a-half of preparation time.
Sherwin admitted that staying motivated to run four days a week was, “challenging at times,” but he benefited from mentorship offered by more seasoned runners, introducing variety into his workouts, and consulting a training guide.
Source:: Antarctic Sun Featured Articles