Paradise Valley resident Melissa Kullander recently returned from the geographic North Pole where she completed the North Pole Marathon Aug. 16, as the first-place woman and first American to do so.
Embarking from Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the runners journeyed on an icebreaker for six days before reaching the geographic North Pole. Upon arrival, they put on their running gear and life vests, undertaking the 17th edition of the North Pole Marathon.
Eleven participants from six nations etched their place in history as they conquered the first-ever marathon held at the North Pole during the summer season. Among them were six marathon competitors, four half-marathon entrants and one runner completing the “North Pole 10-Miler.”
Competitors navigated laps beside the icebreaker, marked by snow and ice indicators, finding solace in an aid station tent for hot drinks to keep hydrated and snacks for energy levels.
Runners had to protect their skin against the harsh conditions but wore one layer of thermal clothing to make sure they could regulate their body temperature. Negotiating energy-sapping soft snow and slushy ice posed a unique challenge. Despite the location at the geographic North Pole, temperatures hovered at a relatively balmy 2°C, with a wind chill of -2°C. In the interest of safety, life vests were mandatory and polar bear guards stood watch during the event.
The women's division saw Kullander finish in 5 hours, 24 minutes, and 39 seconds.
In the men's marathon, Patrick Charlebois from Canada clinched victory with a time of 3 hours, 48 minutes, and 41 seconds. Xiaobin Qiu from China secured second place in 4 hours, 54 minutes, and 30 seconds. Fourteen-year-old Nolan Wang from the United States completed the 10-mile race in 2 hours and 35 minutes; he is set to commence his freshman year of high school.
Amid the polar expanse, all runners conquered their challenges. Kullander, Charlebois and Qiu also earned a spot in history having completed a marathon on every continent and the North Pole.
For detailed results, visit npmarathon.com/years/2023.
The next North Pole Marathon is scheduled to take place in April, 2024 via a flight to the floating ice camp at the North Pole, followed by the summer edition of the North Pole Marathon via an icebreaker in July, 2024.