One of the more unique ultra-marathon events in the world got underway this past weekend with the start of the Last Desert marathon in Antarctica. The event annually draws a group of very dedicated runners who travel to the bottom of the world to compete in an endurance event in one of the more extreme environments on the planet.
The seven-day, six-stage race if the fourth and final event in the 4 Deserts ultra-marathon series. In order to compete in the Last Desert, the 49 competitors, from 27 countries, first had to finish at least two of the other three events. Those races are held in the Sahara, Atacama and Gobi Deserts and are equally as grueling as this one.
The Last Desert course covers 250 km (155 miles) that are spread out over six days of racing. During that time, the athletes will visit such locations as the South Shetland Islands, Jougla Point, Petermann Island and Deception Island. Those locations will serve as the challenging and dramatic backdrops for one promises to be one of the most difficult endurance challenges that these competitors will ever encounter.
Simply getting to the starting line of this race is quite an endeavor. The competitors first had to fly to Ushuaia, Argentina where they then boarded a ship to sail across the infamous Drake Passage, a place that is well known for its rough seas and unpredictable weather. With that crossing complete, they were then free to begin their week-long test of endurance, during which they are running more than a marathon each day in conditions that include plenty of ice and snow that can be as much as a meter deep.
The Last Marathon will run through Sunday of this week and at its completion, the entire group will once again have to sail across the Southern Ocean to return to Ushuaia.
Pretty amazing event. I have a great deal of respect for these men and women and their obvious love for running long distances in somewhat less than ideal conditions.
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