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Monday, December 27, 2010

Race Around the World

As my friend Pablo put it, the Race Around the World is the South Pole version of the San Francisco Bay to Breakers: any means of transportation are permitted, costumes are allowed, and arrangements can be made even for those who would rather watch the race from a couch.  This year the Race Around the World was a 2.1-mile loop around the station and around the geographic South Pole.  Two tracks were groomed: an inside track for the runners, walkers, and skiers, and an outside track for the vehicles.  The winner of the race gets a free ride to McMurdo to compete in the Antarctic marathon.  The field is surprisingly competitive, as the South Pole attracts people of a great level of fitness and highly accomplished in all kinds of sports.  This year we had on station Everest summitteers, world record holder in mountain running, astronauts, snowboard champions, and several Alaska mountain guides.  Out of a station population of about 250 more than half chose to run or walk or ski the course. 
Don, the fire Captain,  on the left in this photo, appropriately dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, sounded the horn promptly at 10 AM.

The skiers lined up behind the runners and before the walkers.

Some of the Ice Cube workers rode in a chariot that they had built last year for this purpose ...

... while others watched the course from a moving couch.

If you are a snowboard champion, a snowmobile can provide the thrill of a downhill slalom.

Back to the official race, the first turn in the course was at the Cosmic Ray Detector platform.

Just before the halfway point we come to Spool Henge.  This is what is left of gigantic spools of cables laid into the ice over the years to send data from scientific experiments in the ice back to the science buildings.  The Ice Cube project alone used more than 100 miles of cables.  Now Spool Henge has become a South Pole landmark, but at some point all of this will need to be taken out of the continent.

Rickey won the race by a large margin.  He is an avid mountain runner and holds some of the most unique world records: among them, he has the world's fastest time climbing to the top of the Empire State Building in New York.  He is also the record holder in the run from Yosemite Valley up to the top of Half Dome and back (he can do it in some 2 hrs and a few minutes, if you can believe it).

This is me approaching the finish line in fifth place.  Racing at 9,300 ft of elevation takes your breath away.

And finally some of the costumes: here is Pablo with Elissa.

I did not have a costume, but I put on the joker hat that I brought back from Kathmandu several years ago to take this photo with Joselyn, before heading back to the station for brunch.


  1. congrats on the 5th place finish ! Best wishes for the coming new year.

  2. Would it be permissible to use one of these photos in an educational publication?