Page 1

42.2km 26.2 miles

Issue 1

13.1 miles 21.1 km

Compression garments

Do they influence athletic performance and recovery?


Does eating chocolate help running?


Can’t Miss Marathon Brain Strategies



Your 20min program (on video)



42.2km 26.2 miles

13.1 miles 21.1 km


Welcome to the first issue of Marathon Running magazine The 9 Pillars


Core stability for marathon running Video Lee Troop talks with Craig Mottram


Compression garments Do they influence athletic performance and recovery?


8 Can’t Miss Marathon Brain Strategies Is your brain the most important piece of running equipment?


Does eating chocolate help running?


The Last Marathon - Antarctica By Mike Sohaskey Content


Welcome to the first

Welcome to the first issue of Marathon Running magazine. We are very excited to have made it to a different kind of start line and look forward to bringing you an exciting new interactive magazine that covers all things marathon related.

issue of

Take some time to get to know the layout of the magazine and the different ways in which it is interactive. You will discover that there are 9 categories we will be exploring regularly, which we feel make up the 9 pillars of marathon running. These are the things you need to hold you up in order to reach your marathon goals.

Marathon Running magazine

What you will find in the pages of this magazine is a collection of inspired and instructive articles written by industry professionals and avid marathoners. We are really excited to share the work of so many amazing people. Marathon Running Magazine is produced with enthusiasm and enjoyment by the Marathon Guru team. We are all passionate runners who revel in sharing our own personal knowledge from running experience, as well as finding out the best and latest information of all aspects of the sport to share with our readers. We are so happy to have you as a reader of Marathon Running. So please, sit back and enjoy the first edition.

The 9 Pillars Equipment

We will review and discuss different products available on the marathon market, everything from shoes, apparel, technology and more. In this issue we will be looking at the science behind compression garments and their influence on performance and recovery. Recovery

Your recovery plan is equally important as your race plan. We will regularly be featuring articles that wind you down from the finish line and help your muscles recover properly to get you back out running at your best.

2 Training

There is so much more to marathon training than time on legs. In our training articles we will be turning to industry professionals to find out the best training techniques available. In this issue Craig Mottram will be discussing core stability with Lee Troop. Nutrition

You can only get out of your body what you put into it. Nutrition plays a huge roll in marathon success. In this section we will look at various aspects of sports nutrition. We will review nutritional aids such as gels and sport drinks, consider scientific studies and how to interpret the results, and of course, the best way to carbohydrate load before a race. Mental Approach

Marathon running is as much a metal challenge as it is a physical challenge. Therefore in order to achieve your marathon goals as much mental preparation needs to go in as the physical. In this issue Boston Marathon medical team psychologist, Jeff Brown, shares his 8 can’t miss marathon brain strategies. The Race

There is so much variety in terms of marathon challenges. We aim to inspire you by profiling a variety of events, from the extreme to the popular. In this issue we look at the Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon as experienced by the engaging writer and marathoner Mike Sohaskey. Injury Prevention+recovery

Injury prevention is critical during training. Good shoes, good running form, good stretching, and adequate recovery after workouts will help to minimize the risk of injury. In subsequent issues we are going to look at common running injuries and bring you advice from podiatrists, physiotherapists and other professionals on how to prevent and treat them. Biomechanics

Having good running form is an equally important factor to running well. Many running injuries are caused by faulty biomechanics. Having knowledge of the biomechanics of distance running or proper running form, will help a runner complete a race more efficiently and lower the risk of injury. In future issues we will cover the important aspects of biomechanics.



n this video Lee Troop talks with Craig Mottram, a bronze medalist in the 5K at the 2005 world Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

Core stability

Craig shares with us the exercises that he incorporates into his training in terms of core work.

for marathon running

First of all, Craig suggests that you look at things that you can do at home, that doesn’t necessarily require gym equipment. You don’t need weights; you don’t need an exercise ball, or any other equipment. You can do core work in your hotel room, outdoors, or at home. The idea with core exerciese is to focus on your abs, both in the front and on your side and lower back. Core stability is extremely important for when you’re running middle distance, anywhere from 800m to a marathon, because if your hips become loose and unstable then your pelvis drops and you fatigue quicker. Craig learned the following exercises very early in his career and has done them throughout the last 10 years while he was competing; his practice hasn’t really changed that much over that time.

Lee Troop & Craig Mottram

Craig shares with us the exercises that he incorporates into his training in terms of core work


4 Here are a few of Craig’s examples of what you can do to increase core stability for running. The first one is a basic abdominal exercise done in a slow and controlled manner. Start by lying on your back with your legs up and 90° angles at the hips, knees and ankles. Place your thumbs under your lower back to make sure you have a natural arch. Lift your head and shoulders off the ground and then lower the legs one at a time until they are just above the ground. This should be felt in the lower abdominals. The important thing is that the movement is slow and controlled from the abdominals.

The second exercise is a standard plank on elbows and toes. Make sure that your back is flat and bottom is down. If you find it too hard with your legs together widening your legs can make it a bit easier by taking a bit of pressure off your abs. For the more experienced you can challenge yourself further with alternate leg raises, counting to three for each one. It is important to keep focused on keeping your back flat and your bottom level to the ground.


5 The next two exercises will focus on glutes.

Start by lying on your back with your arms directly above your head, then move yourself into a bridge by lifting your pelvis up off the floor, making sure you keep your hips straight. The idea is to keep your pelvis flat making sure you don’t tip to the side. Then extend one leg out making sure that it’s in line with the other leg, keeping the hips nice and straight. Repeat alternate legs. You should feel the burn in both glutes as you become fatigued. The idea with these exercises is to reach fatigue. The final exercise is a side bridge on one elbow and feet stacked, making sure your body is the nice and straight. For advanced people, raise one arm up in the air and one leg up in the air for a count of three. Repeating until fatigued. Try to swap sides in one movement, repeating on the other side. These core activities can be done in just a few minutes. In that time you will work up a sweat and your abs and glutes will be burning. It is imperative realise that when you’re running a half-marathon or marathon you going to fatigue in the last third of the race. What happens is, as you are fatiguing your hips will drop and you will start to become sloppy in your form. By doing a simple program like this, only two of three times a week, you are helping to strengthen those areas that will become sloppy and tired. By strengthening your core it will remain taught and you’ll find that you might be able to run an extra 2-3 miles longer before the fatigue kicks in. training


Compression garments Do they influence athletic performance and recovery?

A u t h o r s , Â L e e Walla c e , K at i e Slat t e r y a n d A a r o n C o u t t s , S c h o o l o f L e i s u r e , S p o r t a n d T o u r i s m , U n i v e r s i t y o f T e c h n o l o g y, S y d n e y


s coaches we are continually searching for training aids that can accelerate recovery from training and competition. One training aid that has recently been adopted by a variety of athletes is the compression garment. Manufacturers of these garments have reported that compression garments improve recovery, increase power and enhance

athletic performance in a variety of sports. Unfortunately, however, there have been relatively few research studies that have examined the efficacy of these garments as tools for improving athletic performance. This article focuses on the research that has described the development of compression garments and their influence on athletes during exercise and recovery.


7 Medical compression stockings have been used in the treatment of poor venous blood flow for more than 50 years. These medical compression stockings are usually worn over the leg and foot and are adapted to create a controlled, gradient compressive force on the leg. Typically, the compressive force is greatest at the ankle and diminishes over the length of the stocking to a minimum at the top. Medical applications are practitioner-recommended and usually start with compression ranges from 20 mm Hg to 40 mm Hg. The compressive effects of these garments are used to improve recovery in hospitals by promoting venous blood flow, decreasing venous stasis and preventing thrombosis in post-operative patients. In recent years, compression garments have become increasingly popular amongst athletes with suggested benefits including improvements in muscular power, strength, endurance, proprioception and injury management.

Recent research with athletes has shown that compression garments may provide ergogenic benefits for athletes during exercise by enhancing lactate removal, reducing muscle oscillation and positively influencing psychological factors. The early research on compression garments demonstrated a reduction in blood lactate concentration during maximal exercise on a bicycle ergometer. Later investigations have shown improved repeated jump power and increased vertical jump height. The suggested reasons for the improved jumping ability with compression garments include an improved warm-up via increased skin temperature, reduced muscle oscillation upon ground contact and increased torque generated about the hip joint. Combined, these results show that compression garments may provide both a performance enhancement and an injury reduction role during exercises provoking high blood lactate concentrations or explosive-based movements.


8 Research has also shown that compression garments may promote blood lactate removal and therefore enhance recovery during periods following strenuous exercise. For example, Berry and McMurray observed a significant reduction in blood lactate levels in highly fit males wearing compression stockings following a bicycle ergometer test at 110 per cent VO 2max. These results were recently confirmed by Chatard et al. who reported a significant reduction in blood lactate concentration and an increased plasma volume in 12 elderly trained cyclists wearing compression garments following five minutes of maximal cycling. Furthermore, wearing compression garments during an 80-minute rest period following the five minutes of maximal cycling, significantly increased (2.1 per cent) performance during a subsequent maximal cycling test. It was suggested that increased re-

compression garments have become increasingly popular amongst athletes with suggested benefits including improvements in muscular power, strength, endurance, proprioception and injury management moval of the metabolic by-products during intense exercise when wearing compression garments may help improve performance. These results suggest that wearing compression garments during recovery periods following high intensity exercise may enhance the recovery process both during and following intense exercise and therefore improve exercise performance. Other investigations have suggested that the use of compression garments during recovery periods may reduce the symptoms associated with delayed onset muscle soreness. For example, Kraemer et al. reported that subjects wearing compression garments for three days following severe eccentric exercise showed a decrease in perception of soreness, reduction in swelling and an improved recovery of force production. equipment


reasons for the improved jumping ability with compression garments include an improved warm-up via increased skin temperature, reduced muscle oscillation upon ground contact and increased torque generated about the hip joint Similarly, Chatard et al., measured a reduction in perceptions of leg pain in subjects wearing compressive elastic stockings during recovery periods following exhaustive exercise. Furthermore, 10 of the 12 subjects in this study reported that they thought the compressive stockings had positive effects on performance during subsequent exercise. Based on the previous research, it appears compression garments may reduce perceptions of muscle soreness during recovery periods following strenuous exercise. Although some studies have shown compression garments to provide ergogenic benefits for athletes during recovery, others have been unable to support these findings. For example, Berry et al. examined the effects of elastic compressive tights on eight healthy males following high-intensity exercise (110 per cent VO 2max) for up to three minutes on a treadmill. Results from this study showed that there were no significant differences in energy expenditure, heart rate and blood lactate concentration between athletes wearing elastic tights and a control group at rest and at five, 15 and 30 minutes post-exercise. However, since it has been shown that compression garments require a minimum pressure of 18 mm Hg at the ankle and 8 mm Hg at the mid thigh to mimic the hemodynamic effect of exercise and to increase

venous return, it is possible that the pressure of the elastic tights used in this study may not have been sufficient. Although there has been limited investigations linking the influence of compression garments on athletic performance, it appears the use of compression garments may have a positive effect on athletes during exercise and during recovery periods following exercise. As no studies have reported negative effects on exercise performance or perceptions of pain, the use of compression garments may provide a useful training tool for athletes across a wide variety of sports.




Suggested benefits of compression garments

Based on current research findings, listed below are potential areas where a competitive advantage may be gained through the use of compression garments: ÔÔEnhancing blood circulation to peripheral limbs ÔÔReducing blood lactate concentration during maximal exercise bouts ÔÔ Enhancing warm-up via increases in skin temperature ÔÔIncreasing vertical jump height ÔÔImproving repetitive jump power ÔÔReducing muscle oscillation upon ground contact ÔÔIncreasing torque generated about joints, improving performance and reducing the risk of injury, for example, assisting the eccentric action of the hamstring at the end of the swing phase in running ÔÔEnhancing recovery following strenuous exercise by aiding in the removal of blood lactate and improving subsequent exercise performance ÔÔReducing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness in the days following strenuous exercise ÔÔIncreasing feelings of positive leg sensations both during and following strenuous exercise In conclusion, according to the literature, compression garments may offer several ergogenic benefits for athletes across a multitude of sporting backgrounds. In particular, some studies have reported that compression garments can improve muscular power, strength, enhance recovery following intense exercise and improve proprioception. However, caution should be taken when choosing the correct compression garment for your sport and ensuring the garment provides enough pressure to promote venous return. equipment Click here for a list of references

8 11

Can’t Miss Marathon Brain Strategies

Is your brain the most important piece of running equipment?

b y J e f f B r o w n , P s y. D . , A BPP i n T h e W i n n e r’ s B r a i n

Shoes-check. Bib-check. Gel-check. Brain-check.

Of the many responsibilities I have as a psychologist, working with marathon runners is one of the most entertaining. Why? Well, there’s simply never a dull moment. mental


Photo credit

your body and brain are in partnership focused on a specific performance goal

Marathoners are quick thinkers who are resilient and seem to crave challenges more than the average person. Even if they smile and deny it, I can assure you that 8 out of 10 marathoners are a little obsessive, even more competitive, absorb all the information they can get their hands on, and are occasionally irrational about their sport. At my post as the Boston Marathon medical team psychologist for nearly a decade, I’ve been hearing the personal stories and strategies of runners who, for 26.2 miles, push their bodies and brains to the limit. For them, it’s personal-and it should be.

Once runners decide to throw down the gauntlet, they must quickly learn they have not only committed to running a marathon, they’ve committed to managing a demanding lifestyle that takes some risk. Many runners take a very scientific approach to running. And that’s not a bad idea. Ample research suggests the human brain is essential when it comes to facing all manner of challenges and situations in life, including running marathons. Your brain organizes your steps, regulates your temperature, monitors your heart, and the list goes on. Bottom of Form. Many mental techniques

In July this year Jeff’s 6-year-old son, Grant, tragically lost his life in a drowning accident. Grant loved to run and had already run his first 5K. A scholarship has been set up in Grant’s name. Please take the time to visit Grant’s memorial site LINK and consider donating to his scholarship fund LINK

used by runners today are derived from CognitiveBehavioral Psychology (CBP), which is frequently examined in both psychological and brain science research literature. With hard work over time, cognitive-behavioral approaches can actually lead to reshaping the landscape of your brain (a concept called neuroplasticity). In the short run, CBP offers a commonsense, logical approach for runners who want to think about themselves and their performance accurately---plus have a few tricks when the going gets rough. Really, your body and brain are in partnership, focused on a specific performance goal. So if you’re running a marathon here are 8 mental strategies that, in my experience (and the experience of thousands of marathon runners I’ve worked with) are good to keep in mind:



2 3


Eliminate the “what-if’s”, “yeah, but’s”, and “if-then’s” in your thinking. Running isn’t about making deals with fate. It’s about making a pact with yourself in the here and now. Try to keep positive self statements running through your head as your feet run along. I always say that negative thoughts make your shoes heavy. Put all distractions on the back burner before and during the race. Unless something is a life and death priority, it can wait. There will be plenty of time to address life commotion after you’ve run. Others will understand. If something unexpected happens, it’s OK. One way you can control something that you believe you can’t control is to simply-or not so simplyaccept it for what it is. So take it in stride if it starts to rain and gets windy, that old leg cramp flares up, or if you have a wardrobe malfunction. Perfection isn’t required to finish the race.

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6 7


Be sure to check out the new book I wrote with my colleague Mark Fenske called The Winner’s Brain. It’s packed with plenty of strategies to achieve success both on the road and off. (LINK link)

Talk yourself up Heartbreak Hill. Associate constructive, positive cue words like float, glide, lift, or up, up, up. Let those hills break someone else’s heart. This sort of mental cueing works at other points in the race too and can really keep you going if you start to feel fatigued. Be sure to listen to your body. Research tells us that those who use dissociation (deliberately taking your mind off of your body and performance) are more apt to hit the wall. So, listen closely to what your body tells you. Indulge your superstitions. Especially when your superstitions are helpful and they make things feel familiar. If you accidently left your lucky socks at home, don’t panic or start feeling bad vibes. There will be thousands of socks crossing the finish line, including your new ones. Look at it as a chance to embrace new types of luck. Choose 2 or 3 goals for your performance. Sometimes runners set only one goal-their total race time or their PR. It can be helpful and motivating to choose several goals for points throughout the race. This increases your possibilities of enjoying success and satisfaction with your performance. For instance, aim to hit the five mile mark within a certain timeframe and feeling a specific way, then the 15 mile mark and so on. You may want to set yourself some mini-goals for those last six miles too, when the running gets harder; this helps by giving you something to focus on other than how tired you are. Remember why you’re running. Use all of your senses and visualize the specific reason why you’re running a marathon: that special person or cause, your proud kids at the finish line, or because you just turned 70. Bill Rodgers told me once, “Know why you are there.” Oh, one last piece of advice... Once you cross the finish line, please don’t lie to yourself by saying “I’m never doing this again.” The pain and agony of running a marathon is the kind of pain you forget. You know you’ll be back. Good luck!

Now it’s your turn What mental strategies have gotten you through the worst miles or given you some of your best? What’s the reason YOU run? How have you used your brain to keep your body on track ? mental


Does eating help running?


o you love your chocolate but think it is having a negative effect on your running? Think again, as some evidence suggests that consuming moderate amounts of quality chocolate could actually boost your performance during exercise and may also help improve your recovery afterward. Some of the elements of cocoa actually build muscular structure that help produce cellular energy.


15 Less effort on Chocolate. In a study published

in 1996 in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 16 male college-age students who ate a chocolate bar before a moderate-intensity run had higher blood sugar levels 15 minutes into their run and all the way through 30 minutes after their run than when they had a placebo supplement. In fact, subjects’ blood sugar levels dropped to below a normal range 30 minutes into their exercise when they had no chocolate. When subjects ate the chocolate bars, they also showed other indicators — such as a lower rate of perceived exertion and favourable blood lactate levels — which showed researchers that having a chocolate bar before exercise can help boost exercise stamina and improve recovery.

Chocolate Milk. Chocolate milk may help give

you more power and help you run longer if you drink it before your workout, according to a study published in 2006 in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. In the study, cyclists who had chocolate milk prior to their workout reduced their standard bike ride time by about six minutes. Drinking chocolate milk after a workout may also be helpful. In the study, participants taking an indoor cycling class for one week improved their maximal oxygen uptake twice as much as others if they had chocolate milk after each workout. This measure indicates that indoor cyclers had greater endurance and showed better aerobic performance when they had chocolate milk after their cycling activity. Although this study didn’t focus on runners, chocolate milk may offer you similar physical stamina benefits during longdistance runs.


Photo credit

Photo creditKatie Napper


Chocolate, Gods gift to runners. In a study published in a 2011 issue of Journal of Physiology, researchers split sedentary male lab mice into different groups to study the effects of cacao’s main nutritional ingredient — epicatechin — on their physical performance. When researchers gave all groups a treadmill test, they found that mice given epicatechin and a light 15-day training regimen in advance outperformed control groups and an epicatechin group that did not exercise. Researchers also discovered that the group of mice that got epicatechin and no exercise outperformed a group that got exercise but no epicatechin. After researchers biopsied the mice’s muscles, they found that the cells in the muscles of mice given epicatechin were making new structures that help produce cellular energy. The more of these structures a muscle has, the less susceptible it is to fatigue. Still, researchers would need to conduct more studies to determine whether this effect is identical in humans eating cacao-rich dark chocolate before a workout.

Something to remember. Not all chocolate is created equal, so before you go gorging on a Mars Bar before your long run consider the following. Processing of cocoa destroys the epicatechin so choose a good quality dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa. Also, you only need a very small amount, just half to one square to boost your physical performance, any more than this may have the opposite effect.


So in the words of Homer Simpson

M M M M M M M M h h “Hh Chocolate, my friend!”

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Antarctica The Last Marathon

. Roads? s d a o r d e e n ’t n o d Where we’re going, we - Emmett “Doc” Brown, “Back To The Future”


B y M i k e S ohask ey

ore so than any month in recent memory, this past March was a month of firsts. Or maybe more accurately, it was a month of lasts.

Cut to the morning of February 26, and the last place I expected to find myself a month later was exactly where I found myself a month later: joining upwards of 100 highly motivated runners aboard a Russian research vessel headed toward the South Pole to race The Last Marathon on the

Last Great Continent. All under the watchful eye of a leader named Gilligan. As absurd as a “spontaneous” trip to Antarctica sounds, that’s exactly what this would be.  Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction… and even less likely. That morning began like any other, with my spring racing plans gradually taking shape … until the following e-mail message hit my Inbox, and my bestlaid plans went out the porthole:


19 Dear Mike, The ship that we had chartered for the 2013 Antarctica Marathon to depart in a couple of days has been damaged by an iceberg. We have rescheduled the trip using the sister ship, the Akademik Vavilov which we have chartered many times in the past. You are currently waitlisted or confirmed in the future for the Antarctica Marathon. Are you interested in confirming space for these new dates in 2013? It always is an adventure. Please advise as soon as possible since most of the confirmed passengers have rescheduled for the later dates. We will have a few spots available. Please contact us immediately if you are interested. Thom Gilligan Marathon Tours & Travel My immediate reaction was probably similar to yours… 101 years after the Titanic kissed the bottom of the ocean, actual operating ships are still colliding with icebergs? My secondary response, though, was one of adrenalized bewilderment – Antarctica?  On such short notice?  Was this a legitimate option for us? In short – yes, it was.  Due to the large number of runners vying for a limited number of slots (roughly 100 per year), the Antarctica Marathon typically requires years of advance planning and a lengthy sojourn on the Marathon Tours waitlist.  As referenced in their e-mail, we’d entered the waitlist in mid-2012 and in doing so had confirmed our spot – for 2016.  So we figured to have three more years to plan for this trip.

Thing is, I hate procrastination, and putting off until tomorrow what I can do today. Paradoxically, I have a lot of patience – research science and delayed gratification go hand-in-hand.  But Antarctica promised to be the opportunity of a lifetime.  Cliché as it may sound, life really is too short, as we were starkly reminded by the tragic events in Boston.  Who knows where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing three years from now? And although I wouldn’t classify myself as a “bucket list” runner, I do have a short list of three marathons that I consider must-do events: Boston, New York City and Antarctica.  What did it matter that neither my wife Katie nor I owned a legitimate cold-weather jacket, or that I’d only run in tights once in my entire life?  At least we wouldn’t need any vaccinations or immunizations for this trip… I’m pretty sure penguin fever is both unpreventable and incurable.

Photo creditJ B Birch

With little time for pre-trip research and little idea of what to expect (other than the obligatory requests to “Bring back a penguin!”), our ignorance was bliss



Photo creditJ Exodus Travels

Antarctica was simply “indescribable”. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case one would have to suffice

And so it was that on March 21, after a highly successful raid on the winter clearance racks at our local REI, The North Face and assorted outlets, Katie and I found ourselves on a flight bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina, where our 17-day adventure would begin. With little time for pre-trip research and little idea of what to expect (other than the obligatory requests to “Bring back a penguin!”), our ignorance was bliss. So, just sit right back and you’ll read a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…. Argentina. Overall, we had a lively five-day visit

to Argentina’s capital city – which wasn’t a foregone conclusion, given that I have virtually no interest in soccer, tango dancing or huge slabs of beef. Our third evening featured the Antarctica Welcome Banquet Dinner.  Here we met Thom Gilligan, the founder and leader of Boston-based Marathon Tours, as well as the four members of his race crew who would be joining us in Antarctica. Musical accompaniment for Thom’s slideshow included Dido’s “White Flag,” with its (so we all hoped) tongue-in-cheek chorus of “I will go down with this ship.”  After the slideshow, Thom asked for a show of hands as to who had run a sub-3 hour marathon in the past two years.  Three hands went up.  He

then asked for a show of hands from runners in the 3:00 to 3:30 range – three or four more hands went up, including mine. I was shocked to find myself immediately seeded so highly. But for me the most striking realization of the evening, which I hadn’t fully appreciated to that point, was the dedication and commitment of every person in that room.  True we were all headed for Antarctica, and that in itself set this room apart.  But whereas running for most people is a hobby, a way to alleviate stress and stay fit, for this group it was a lifestyle, an obsession in the healthiest sense of the word.As nonchalantly as most people would discuss their kids’ soccer game, conversations centered around questions like “How many continents is this for you?” and “Have you run Kilimanjaro yet?”  The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, the Arctic Circle, even Antarctica already in a few cases – my travel companions had left their footprints, literally, on nearly every conceivable destination on the planet. I had to admit… these were my kind of people. Destination: Antarctica. Fast-forward

36 hours, and we found ourselves on a flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and the capital of Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. As the plane touched down in Ushuaia, the cheers from the locals onboard and the sight


21 of the woman seated next to me crossing herself suggested our adventure had begun earlier than planned. After a brief layover and stroll around this sleepy port town we boarded the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, the Russian ship (and one-time research vessel) that would – barring an unforeseen iceberg encounter – carry 105 passengers, 41 crew members and 13 One Ocean Expeditions staff members to our destination across 600 nautical miles and a particularly gnarly stretch of open ocean that we’d soon come to know all too well. With rainbows and mist-shrouded peaks dominating the landscape, we “threw ropes” (set sail) at around 6:00pm local time on Tuesday and slowly made our way out of the Beagle Channel.The next two days belonged to the Drake Passage, the necessary evil of open water between the Beagle Channel and Antarctica that would test every passenger’s sea legs, not to mention their seasickness meds. Katie and I both chose to use the Transderm Scopolamine patch, a nickel-sized prescription patch applied behind the ear that prevents motion sickness for up to three days.  Which it did admirably well, the main drawback being the side effect of dilated pupils that messed up our vision something fierce.  By Thursday evening we’d more or less cleared the Drake Passage, crossing the Antarctic Convergence and the 60th parallel south to enter the Southern Ocean. Soon after that we approached the South Shetland Islands and specifically King George Island, site of Saturday’s upcoming race.  At that point even our first whale sighting of the trip couldn’t disguise the fact that the natives were getting restless. With the planet’s southernmost continent within sight at last, the harsh reality of where we were and what we were about to do finally hit home.  Stepping out on the sixth floor deck to gaze upon King George Island

– so close and yet so far – I was greeted by the stinging sensation of a million frozen, finely honed razors slicing right through me. My skin and two lightweight layers were defenceless against the Antarctic wind.  And to think that tomorrow at this time, I’d be running 26.2 miles in this.  Let the mind games begin… Despite the initial cold shock, the consensus adjective of the day to describe our first encounter with Antarctica was simply “indescribable.”  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case one would have to suffice. The plan for the day called for Thom and his crew to make their way across Maxwell Bay to King George Island early that morning to set up the race course.  Meanwhile, the rest of us would finally make an excursion off the boat and potentially even stretch our legs on land at some point.  Ah, perchance to dream….  Instead, the Antarctic winds did what the Antarctic winds do, churning up the water and making conditions unsafe to launch the zodiacs.  It wasn’t until 1:00pm that the wind died down enough to launch the boats and send Thom’s crew (plus ATVs) on their way to King George Island.  Many of us watched as the zodiacs made their not-so-long but slow voyage across the bay and toward the Russian base at Bellingshausen Station. This in itself was uplifting news, because again this was Antarctica, where even the seemingly straightforward process of getting off the boat couldn’t be taken for granted.  Still fresh on everyone’s mind was Thom’s unsettling tale of his 2001 Antarctica Marathon expedition, when uncooperative weather had seized the day(s), only to have the passengers seize it right back.  After several days of thwarted attempts to launch the zodiacs in rough waters, a consensus decision had finally been reached that the show must go on, and that the marathon would be run ON. THE. DECK. OF. THE. SHIP.  Apparently one of the passengers that year had been a qualified race distance


22 certifier, and he mapped out a 26.2-mile course that comprised 422 laps around the upper deck. The race was run over a 24-hour time period, and don’t ask me how each runner kept track of his/her number of laps completed.  Most strategically, the ship had been moored such that the anchor just touched the continent of Antarctica, thereby validating the venue.  Thus went the story of how the 2001 Antarctica Marathon was staged under the most challenging conditions to date, a testament to human fortitude and resolve that exactly nobody on our ship had any interest in repeating. The day turned out to be a rough one for Thom and his crew – John “The Penguin” Bingham predicted that if we’d had to run the race that day in those conditions, nobody would have finished.  John concluded by injecting a shot of humor, warning the room that “Bandits will be pulled off the course.” Back in my cabin I systematically organized my apparel, bottles of Cytomax/GU, Garmin (don’t be silly, of course GPS works in Antarctica!) and thoughts for

THE start line Several steps stood between us and the starting gun – the donning of the tomato-red Wet Skins that would keep us warm and dry, the loading of the zodiacs, the short ride to King George Island, the process of funnelling everyone from zodiac to start line – and with 4+ hours of running ahead of me, I wanted to maximize the nutritional payback of my carefully choreographed breakfast. RACE REVIEW

the day ahead. And I realized that realistically, I had no idea what to expect.  Cold to be sure, but beyond that I had zero expectations: could I run a sub-4:00 marathon in these conditions?  Probably not, though “probably not” wouldn’t stop me from trying.  Runners are notorious for downplaying expectations – case in point, those ultra-competitive types who qualify for the Boston Marathon and then vow to treat it as a “victory lap”.  But this time, I realized as sleep engulfed my upper bunk – this time I really was out in the cold. The 14th Antarctica Marathon (Saturday, March 30). Race morning arrived in the usual

manner, with Expedition Leader Andrew’s comforting voice reminding us over the Vavilov‘s PA that it was time to run a marathon on the coldest, highest, driest, darkest and windiest continent on Earth.  Hooray!  Fortunately the day promised to be optimal (in the Antarctica sense of the word), with temperatures hovering around a balmy -5°C (23°F).  More importantly though, wind speed was a near-negligible 12 knots (14 mph), assuaging my concerns that I’d be stumbling 13.1 miles through an unforgiving headwind (and the other 13.1 with a brisk tailwind).

I inventoried my gear one last time. All race-day nutrients – energy bars, gels, etc. – had to be removed from their original packaging and all paper wrappers left on the ship, in accordance with the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.  This wasn’t a problem, since for convenience sake I always liquefy my race-day nutrition in my water bottle. In a dining hall alive with the clatter of breakfast dishes and the buzz of pre-race jitters, I waited as long as possible to eat my usual stomach-sanctioned meal of granola and peanut butter, which I’d brought with me from California.  Several steps stood between us and the starting gun – the donning of the tomato-red Wet Skins that would keep us warm and dry, the loading of the zodiacs, the short ride to King George Island, the process of funnelling everyone from zodiac to start line – and with 4+ hours of running ahead of me, I wanted to maximize the nutritional payback of my carefully choreographed breakfast. The first zodiacs launched at 7:15am.  After a short 5-minute ride under gray skies and across smooth water, we beached near Bellingshausen Station and stepped ashore for the first time in 3½ days.  Stepping out of my Wet Suit, I could still feel the ground swaying underfoot as I tried to coax out my land legs.  RACE REVIEW

Photo creditJBodegraafs Nieuwsblad


Photo credit Joel Estay / AFP


Discomforting as my still-dilated pupils were, I was confident they wouldn’t upset my ability to run in a straight line for several hours. How does a warm-weather Californian train for a marathon in Antarctica? Much as I hate to divulge trade secrets, here it is: I bought stuff.  More specifically, windproof stuff.  Compared to my typical all-season California running attire, I felt like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in my three upper-body layers (REI wool base layer, synthetic Under Armour mid-layer, Columbia wind- and waterproof outer jacket) and two lower-body layers (REI fleece-lined tights, Pearl Izumi lightweight running pants), plus balaclava that I was hoping to shed early in the race. As Thom announced two minutes to start, the One Ocean crew hurriedly set up plastic buckets lined with green trash bags to serve as makeshift latrines.  Fortunately I’d been able to attend to my most pressing needs on the ship, and after a lightning-quick stop at the latrine I jogged to the start line.  For many of the bundled-up runners gathered beneath it, the unassuming white canvas banner represented the culmination of a lifetime of marathon-inspired blood, sweat and tears (with more to come).  For others of us, this would be continent #2.  And for two runners, this would be their first marathon on any continent.

Regardless of what road you’d taken to get there, Thom’s starting-gun cry of “GO!” triggered a collective release of whole-body tension, as the slow-moving stampede of runners – including members of the Russian and Uruguayan bases – followed the leaders along the dirt and up the initial ascent. And almost immediately, I dismissed all thoughts of a sub-4:00 finish.  The first mile (which, given the course layout, we would be running six times) was an absolute mess.  This was trail running at its damnedest.  The deep, hardened ruts carved by the Bellingshausen ATVs, combined with the sporadic patches of ice, brought to mind the frozen-over ribcage of a recently excavated T. Rex. Footing in places was unpredictable at best.  Trail running typically demands that your eyes constantly scan the ground two steps ahead for your next foothold.  But on King George Island, it also became necessary to anticipate several steps beyond that, as the course at several points became an exercise in “Choose Your Own Adventure”: foot-deep powdered snow to your left, slushy ice straight ahead or a seemingly frozen-over stretch to your right.  The demand for constant vigilance gradually took a mental and physical toll and led to lapses in attention, resulting in either (best-case scenario) choosing the more difficult and treacherous route, or (worst-case scenario) a hard and jarring fall on slick rocky terrain. And fall people did: this edition of the Antarctica Marathon might appropriately have been subtitled “There Will Be Blood”.  Many runners fell multiple times,


Race Profile Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon

Marathon Tours and Travel is the creator and organiser of the Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon



Marathon and Half-marathon


Number of entries Maximum 100 (including runners and spectators)


13-day packages range from $7000 to $9500 excluding flights to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Due to the incredible popularity of this event, it is sold out for 2014, 2015, and 2016. Marathon Tours and Travel are accepting deposits for the waiting list for 2014, 2015, 2016 and confirming space for 2017. A completed booking form and a deposit of $300 per person must be mailed to request reservations


3 meals daily are provided aboard the ship, including vegetarian options and a pre-race pasta (i.e. carbo-loading) dinner. However, if you have a preferred pre-race meal, it’s best to bring it with you



sustaining scrapes and bruises of varying severity. Two women broke their falls with their faces, yet soldiered on with impressive battle wounds that testified to their toughness.  I was among the fortunate few to speak of “fall” rather than “falls” – I got too aggressive and lost my footing during my second loop of that first out-and-back, landing on my backside and bouncing right back up again.  No blood, no foul.  From there I adopted a mantra of “survive and advance” that served me well at all remaining icy stretches. Although the prevailing concern had been shoe-sucking stretches of gooey mud, as it turned out postponing the trip until late March (i.e. closer to winter) meant most of the would-be muddy bits were now iced over.  Every once in a while I’d hit a slushy patch and submerge my foot, though fortunately wet feet never became a concern.  I think by mile 4, most runners – myself included – gladly would have swapped the ice we had for the mud we didn’t. Whether it was due to the half-week spent on the ship, or my racing in lower-body layers for the first time, I could quickly tell that on this day my legs wouldn’t be their trail-running best.  Fortunately I wouldn’t need them to be – this wasn’t the Chicago Marathon, and the only PR to come out of this day would be Thom’s post-race press release.  I’d run (and specifically trained) on tired legs many times before… the question wasn’t whether I’d finish, it was whether I’d do so before the other 40-somethingyear-old males on the course.

Temperatures range from -10 to +2 degrees Celsius minus the wind chill, which can lower the temperature by about 12 degrees Celsius. Snow is rare but light flurries are common

Whereas the first 4+-mile stretch out to the Uruguayan base and back was fairly brutal (though with a striking glacier view for distraction), the second outand-back was much more manageable. After a mile or so of smooth footing on dirt, a series of undulating hills led past the Chilean base and out to the second turnaround near the Chinese base, where Liz of One Ocean Expeditions sat waiting to cheer us on.  Her enthusiasm was a welcome pick-me-up.

For more information visit the Marathon Tours and Travel website

With one iteration of the course under my belt, I shed my balaclava and passed through the start/finish area to a chorus of cheers from the most amazing volunteer contingent on the continent. And as soon as I began my second ascent of that first nasty hill, the assorted aches and pains that had nagged me throughout the first nine miles faded – the lifelessness in my legs, the tightness in my left adductor,



Dirt roads, often muddy, icy and slippery, and with deep, hardened ruts in places


26 the overstretching of my arch that comes and goes in my Merrell Mix Masters. Even the Patch-induced fog around my head lifted… maybe I’d succeeded in sweating out the residual scopolamine.  In any case, it all vanished.  And finally I was back to doing what I do – I was running.  On rugged trails, and up and down hills.  In one of the most mythical and breathtaking places on the planet.  Life was good. Regardless of continent, no trail race would feel official without my taking a wrong turn.  Despite Thom’s clear warnings to stay watchful for arrow signs and not blindly follow the person ahead of us, I unwittingly slipped into auto-pilot mode during mile 14 and blindly followed the person ahead of me.  Ginger, who had recently passed me and was running a strong race, blew by the Chilean airstrip and had almost reached the base itself before realizing that neither the Chilean airstrip nor that large red building on her left was part of the course.  As she turned around and I reversed course, I saw yet another runner on auto-pilot heading our way.  Retracing my steps to the suspect turn, I continued on my way and within minutes was passed by Ginger again, this time for good. And that’s how I turned this into my own personal 26.5-mile Antarctica Ultramarathon.  And yes, there was a runner named Ginger on Gilligan’s ship, as well as at least one (assistant) professor. By my third time around the course the temperature had begun to drop, and the icy uphill stretches along miles 18 and 19 had refrozen and become even trickier to negotiate.  This third out-and-back to the Uruguayan base was the low point of my race, as reflected by the uninspired 13:07 it took me to complete mile 19.  Did you run in Crocs?, I could hear the peanut gallery back home asking. Once I passed through the start/finish area for the final time and approached mile 22, I could see – check that, feel – the light at the end of this tunnel.  As the course approached its final uphill at mile 24.5, I was able to push the pace enough to pass two runners (was he in my age group?) who looked – as I had felt 5 miles earlier – to be running out of gas.  Surging down the final stretch past the Russian base, I felt that unmistakable sensation of “this is why I run” wash over me as Katie and her fantastic fellow supporters cheered me across the finish line in a time of 4:29:50.

The raw, electric thrill of accomplishment overwhelmed me as I embraced Katie and then my fellow Mike from California, with whom I’d trained in Buenos Aires and who had run an inspired race, finishing fifth overall in a time of 4:20:26. One of the younger volunteers handed me a medal still folded up in its plastic bag, which was perfectly fine with me – by that point he could have handed me a lump of frozen penguin guano and I would have thanked him giddily. When the dust settled, 60 of the 72 runners who started the marathon, finished.  This may sound harsh or arrogant, though that’s not my intent – but the truth is, there’s a lot to be said for a race that not everyone finishes.  Inextricably wrapped up in its unsurpassed beauty is the harsh reality that Antarctica is a brutal, unforgiving backdrop for any activity, much less a marathon.  You can admire and respect it from afar, you can agree to its singular demands, you can formulate the best-laid plan to overcome it.  But at the end of the day you don’t choose this race, it chooses you. Alan Nawoj (33) from Boston was the overall marathon winner in an astonishing time of 3:29:56.  Billy Nel (27) from Australia finished second with his own crazy-fast time of 3:37:48.  And Inez Haagen

you can agree to its singular demands, you can formulate the bestlaid plan to overcome it. But at the end of the day you don’t choose this race, it chooses you


Photo credit Malin and Espen


(49) from the Netherlands, the first women’s finisher who has now won five marathons on five continents, rounded out the sub-4:00 finishers with an impressive 3:41:52. Amazingly, Inez accomplished this mind-boggling feat at age 49, a number I had to read three or four times on the overall results page and which I still don’t actually believe.Despite finishing a solid hour (actually 00:59:54) behind Alan, I managed to win the men’s 40-49 age group in 4:29:50.  For the remainder of our trip, we’d have the opportunity to stash our running shoes and immerse ourselves in Antarctica.  And for those who have yet to visit, the best description I can manage is “nature porn.” Every stark, pristine landscape looks as though it were professionally airbrushed for maximal effect – visual features, textures and lighting coalesce in seemingly unreal ways. No static, no background noise, only nature as it has been for thousands of years.  What you see is what you get, and if you don’t like what you see… well, Antarctica doesn’t care.  And it’s not changing for anyone. When I say “Antarctica,” chances are you think “cold.”  And yes, admittedly it’s cold down here.  But if you’re willing to close your mouth, open your mind and embrace your insignificance, then air temperature won’t be your lasting memory of this place.  Because that’s what this continent asks of its guests: feel free to keep your muddy

boots on, but leave your first-world problems at the door. In subtle, sublime ways that extend beyond the forced reality of the Drake Passage, Antarctica is a land of shifting perspectives. Clearly Antarctica was a life-changing whirlwind of firsts and lasts.  And add one more to that list: it was the first time we’d travelled with a group of highly motivated, like-minded athletes… though hopefully it won’t be the last.  Opportunities like this one don’t knock – or in this case email – very often.  My thanks to Thom Gilligan and an anonymous iceberg with paint streaks on it floating somewhere in the Southern Ocean. Eventually, 38 hours after last waking up on the Vavilov – and following a 3-hour delay in Ushuaia, 3½hour flight to Buenos Aires, 4½-hour layover in Buenos Aires, 11-hour flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, 3½-hour layover in DFW (1½ hours once we cleared customs and security), 4-hour flight to San Francisco, onehour train ride to downtown Berkeley and one-mile walk with our bags slung over our shoulders or trailing behind us – we found ourselves standing, exhausted but triumphant, on the doorstep where we’d started Mike and Katie’s excellent adventure 17 days earlier.  Climbing the short flight of stairs inside our front door, I dropped my bags on the top step and exhaled for what felt like the first time since Argentina.  Then I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do next. I went for a run.


28 BOTTOM LINE.  Assuming I’m talking to running

enthusiasts here, my summary statement is simple: run the Antarctica Marathon at least once in your life. Unless of course you’re a compulsive type-A personality (and running attracts them like no other sport) who hates surprises, then you might want to skip this race. It’s not an inexpensive outing, but that’s hardly surprising… you get what you pay for.  Preparation-wise, it’s important to bear in mind that the Antarctica Marathon is a bona fide trail race, which places it outside many runners’ comfort zone.  Unfortunately, if you want to race on this continent it’s not as though you have a slew of choices – you can’t just opt for the road version of the marathon.  Sensible expectations will go a long way toward optimizing your Antarctica Marathon experience. PRODUCTION.  Thom and his Marathon Tours

crew did a commendable job of orchestrating all aspects of the Antarctica Marathon – from regrouping on the fly after the Great Iceberg Attack of ’13 to their near-flawless race day execution. I certainly didn’t envy them their pre-race field trip over to King George Island to set up the course, with subfreezing gale-force winds blasting them in the face while they struggled to pound each marker stake through several inches of surface ice.  But set it up they did, and come race day the course was well marked (my own personal detour notwithstanding) and pretty much dead-on accurate at 26.2 ± 0.1 miles.

No other company can boast Thom’s breadth of experience and connections in Antarctica. At least two companies offer a one-day Antarctica experience in which they fly into King George Island, immediately organize a marathon and then fly out the same day.  To me that would feel like scoring tickets to the Super Bowl, showing up at the stadium and then watching the game on the TVs in the concourse.  Sure you could say you were there… but were you really there? RACE REVIEW

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