In March, I traveled to
Antarctica with Marathon Tours & Travel (MT&T) to run the Antarctica Marathon. There are multiple travel agencies that have
their own marathons in Antarctica. MT&T
is the only one that travels there by ship.
The others fly to Antarctica, camp overnight, and then fly out the next
day. It takes longer to get there by ship,
but for personal reasons, the other trips are problematic for me.
The MT&T itinerary
involves flying to Argentina and then taking a cruise ship that visits the Antarctic
Peninsula and several nearby islands.
Here’s the route of the cruise ship, as it was originally planned.
has been sponsoring a marathon in Antarctica since 1995. As soon as it was possible to run a marathon
there, running marathons on all seven continents became a common goal.
such a backlog of people wanting to go on this trip, that there used to be a
three year wait. Recently, MT&T has
started going to Antarctica twice a year, in order to clear that backlog. A year ago, Deb and I made a deposit to go in
2024, but we also got onto the waiting list for this year. I called MT&T in January to find out if
there was any realistic chance of getting in this year, and I was surprised to
find out we could.
started looking into more of the details of the flights, the itinerary, and the
clothing we would need, Deb decided the trip wasn’t for her. I was apprehensive about going by myself,
since I would need to share a cabin with another runner, but I really wanted to
see Antarctica, so I pushed myself to go out of my comfort zone.
provided us with details about the ship and gave us a recommended packing
list. Then they had a video-conference with
everyone who was confirmed for the trip to brief us on everything we needed to
know to be prepared.
Minneapolis to fly to Atlanta, where I had a four-hour layover before boarding
the 10-hour flight to Buenos Aires.
Delta has multiple flights from Minneapolis to Atlanta, but only one
flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. I
could’ve had a shorter layover, but I gave myself extra time as insurance
against travel delays. Missing a
connection would’ve been bad.
flight to Buenos Aires was an overnight flight.
After the dinner service, I reclined my seat, closed my eyes and tried
to sleep. I wasn’t able to fall asleep,
but I got some rest.
arrived in Buenos Aires at 9:30 AM. After
going through immigration, I met one of our tour guides in the airport. There were dozens of runners from our group
that arrived on the same flight from Atlanta.
Other runners arrived at about the same time on other flights. As soon as there were enough of us to fill a
motorcoach, we left for our hotel.
We stayed at Alvear Icon Hotel, which is in Puerto Madero neighborhood. We got
to the hotel around 11:00. The
advertised check-in time wasn’t until 3:00 PM, but most of us were able to get
into our rooms right away. After
unpacking and adjusting the thermostat in my room, I went to lunch with two
was my first time in Argentina, and whenever I visit a new country, I seek out
local pizza. I found a place called
Italica Pizza Bar about half a mile from my hotel. Argentina has its own style of pizza. It has a thick crust, little if any tomato
sauce, and loads of mozzarella. The most
common topping is green olives. I tried
a pizza that had bacon and eggs.
hotel had one of the nicest fitness rooms I’ve ever seen. After lunch, I did some strength training exercises.
in the afternoon, we had a group training run.
Some of us ran three miles and stopped, while others went farther on
their own. It was 88 degrees and humid, and
I felt a little dehydrated even before the run, so I opted to stop after three
dinner with the same two runners I ate lunch with. Most of the nearby restaurants were next to a
canal. We had lunch on one side of the
canal, but we went to the other side for dinner. This side was busier and had music. We arrived during daylight, but left after
dark. At night, the canal is lit up.
slept reasonably well that night. I felt
like I adjusted well to the three-hour time difference between Buenos Aires and
a large group, so the hotel set up our breakfast buffet in one of their banquet
halls. After breakfast, we had a
half-day city tour of Buenos Aires. As
we visited different neighborhoods, our tour guide told as about the history of
Buenos Aires. We stopped near some of
the major sights of the city.
Our last stop was the colorful La Boca neighborhood.
popular tourist attractions, you can pose for pictures with tango dancers.
didn’t get back to the hotel until 1:00.
I had a late lunch at another restaurant near the canal.
hotel was close to Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, where we could run on a
combination of dirt trails and paved sidewalks.
We couldn’t run there Monday, because it was closed, but on Tuesday we
ran a five mile loop through the park. I
was well-hydrated this time, but I still found the heat and humidity to be
evening, we had a cocktail reception, followed by dinner, and a pre-race briefing. For the first time, I met the runner I would
be rooming with on the cruise. His name
last full day in Buenos Aires was a day to explore on our own. After breakfast, I went for a run. As I was leaving the hotel, I bumped into two
other runners who were also going out for a run. We ran the same loop through the Costanera Sur
Ecological Reserve, but it was more comfortable in the morning.
spent the rest of the morning at the hotel.
After cooling down from my run, I had a relaxing soak in the whirlpool. Then I went to the fitness room to do
the foods Argentina is know for is their empanadas. For lunch, I found a restaurant next to the
canal where I could get a sampler of three different empanadas.
to spend the afternoon exploring Puerto Madura on foot, but there was a limit
to how long I could stay outside in the afternoon heat. Every so often, I had to come back to the
hotel to cool off. I used that time to wash
my running clothes, recharge my devices, and start packing.
that are only open for dinner tend to open at 7:30 PM and local residents often
don’t eat dinner until 9:00. I wanted to
get to bed early, so I was noticing which restaurants opened early. Argentina is also known for its beef, so I
wanted to find a steakhouse. When I saw
this restaurant, I knew I found what I was looking for.
to get up early to check out from our hotel, so we could go to the airport to board
a charter flight to Ushuaia. Ushuaia is
located in the province of Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America.
we got to Ushuaia, several of the runners on our flight didn’t get their
luggage. About 45 of the checked bags
were never loaded onto the plane.
about two hours to explore Ushuaia and eat lunch before boarding the ship. Ushuaia is a small port city surrounded by
crab is a local specialty, so a group of us had that for lunch. After lunch, we boarded buses to go to the
home for the next 10 days was the Ocean Victory. This is a small cruise ship that’s designed for
Arctic and Antarctic conditions.
everyone had a chance to find their cabins and unpack, we met for a welcome reception. At the reception, Thom Gilligan of MT&T
announced that some of the missing bags were coming to Ushuaia later in the day
and the rest would arrive the next morning.
Our departure was delayed by about 16 hours, so everyone could get their
luggage before we left.
we had a mandatory safety drill, and an introduction to the ship and its staff. We remained in port overnight.
room on the ship had several machines for cardio workouts, but no free weights. After breakfast, I went to the fitness room
to do my strength training exercises. Most of my exercises don’t use weighs. For the ones that did, I had to modify my
exercises, so I could do them without weight, but still get a good workout.
the morning, we had another mandatory safety briefing. This one was for the zodiacs, which were the
rafts we would use every time we went ashore.
We were also briefed on the environment rules for going ashore in
the briefing, I changed clothes and rushed to the fitness room, in hopes of
getting onto the treadmill. The fitness
room had two stationary bikes, two elliptical machines, two rowing machines,
and two treadmills. One of the
treadmills was out of service, so that left only one working treadmill for
about 150 runners.
to wait my turn before I could get on the treadmill. Then I did a short but intense race-walking workout.
left Ushuaia around 11 AM. We spent the rest
of the day at sea, sailing through the Beagle Channel and entering the Drake Passage.
aren’t any official time zones in Antarctica.
The various research bases each stay on the same time zone as their home
countries. Our ship stayed on Argentina
time for the entire voyage.
both of my workouts in the morning, I had time to attend two lectures in the
afternoon. One was an introduction to
photography. The other was about seabirds
in the Drake Passage.
between lectures, I went out on deck to see the Beagle Channel. One of those times, I saw four dolphins jumping
in and out of the water. Once we entered
the Drake Passage, I wasn’t able to go on deck anymore. The crew locked all the doors leading
outside. They also locked the fitness
center. I was glad to have finished both
of my workouts earlier in the day.
we were still in the Beagle Channel, the ship would occasionally roll from side
to side. Most of the time, the deck was
stable. Later, when we were in the Drake
Passage, the roll was much more noticeable.
If you walked somewhere, you had to be ready to grab a railing.
Passage has a reputation for rough waters, and there was a big storm moving
through. The ship took a route that
avoided the storm, but that added to our transit time.
evening, we had the Captain’s reception, followed by dinner. Most of our meals were buffets. But this one
was a la carte.
slept OK, but I woke up a few times during the night. Each time, I noticed that the ship was
rolling much more that it was during the day.
showering, I went to one of the windows to see how big the waves were. There were whitecaps and large swells. By now, we were about halfway through the
Drake Passage. It takes a long time to cross,
so we were at sea all day.
breakfast, we started the biosecurity process.
Everything we were going to wear when we went ashore had to be
thoroughly cleaned. The concern was
accidentally introducing non-native plant life to Antarctica. They were particularly concerned about
accidentally exposing the birds to avian flu.
all our race and expedition clothes were cleaned, we were given our parkas and boots,
and we were each assigned a locker in the mud room. That’s the room where we prepared to go
ashore on the zodiacs.
center was still closed, presumably for safety, since the ship was rolling so much. I didn’t do a workout, but I got a lot of
exercise moving about the ship. To go
anywhere, you usually had to go up or down stairs to get to a different deck.
afternoon, I attended two more lectures.
The first one was about the history of the Antarctic Marathon. The other was about penguins, seals, and
starting to get my sea legs. The ship was
rolling just as much as before. If
anything, the waves were getting bigger.
In spite of that, I found it easier to walk about the ship without
needing to hold onto railings.
dinner, we met in the lecture hall for an update on our schedule. We learned that we wouldn’t be able to go
ashore on King George Island for at least two more days, because of strong
winds. The original plan was to go to
King George Island first. The new plan
was to visit some of the other islands first, and put off running the marathon
until the winds died down. The soonest
we could possibly run the marathon was Wednesday.
we did the biosecurity process for our running shoes. I cleaned my shoes pretty good before leaving
home. After inspecting them, the crew
concluded they didn’t need any more cleaning.
I just needed to dip the soles of each shoe into a disinfecting solution.
late morning, we got our first views of the South Shetland Islands. After two days of seeing nothing but waves, we were all excited to see land.
south side of islands, we started to see glaciers.
moved past the South Shetland Islands and into the Bransfield Strait, the sea
wasn’t as rough. The crew unlocked the fitness
center, which had been closed for safety.
After resting all day Saturday, I was anxious to do a race-walking
workout in the treadmill.
too windy go ashore on any of the islands, so we continued through the
Bransfield Strait toward the Antarctic peninsula.
to two lectures in the afternoon. The
first one was about the geology of Antarctica.
The second one was about penguins.
in the afternoon, we saw several humpback whales that were swimming near the
ship. A few came partially out of the water,
and one brought its tail out of the water.
daily recap, we found out our itinerary for Monday. We were finally going to have an opportunity
to go ashore.
woke up, the ship was in a bay near Damoy Point. In every direction, I could see mountains and
point is the site of an old Argentine research base that’s no longer in use. This is where we went ashore.
started early, so we could be ready to go ashore at 7:00 AM. Whenever we went ashore, we had to follow
protocols established by the International Association of Antarctic Tour
Operators (IAATO). One rule limited us to
having no more than 100 people ashore in the same landing area at any one time. Our group was larger than that, so we always
went ashore in two groups.
wasn’t any limit to how many people could be on the water, so while the first
group went ashore, the second group could cruise around the bay in zodiacs.
group cruised around for an hour before going ashore. We saw several colonies of penguins. The first one was on this small rocky island.
At another penguin colony, there were whale bones.
were several small icebergs in this bay.
We got close enough to this one that we could reach out and touch it.
the Argentine base, there’s also a British base. Most of the bases in Antarctica are for
scientific research. This one was put
here for the benefit of tourists like us.
It’s only staffed during the summer months. When we got there, the base was overrun by
penguins, we saw other Antarctic birds.
cruising around the bay for about an hour, we went ashore at Damoy Point. This is the farthest south I’ve ever been.
spent about an hour here. We hiked over
the glacier along a path that took us past several penguin colonies.
back to the ship just in time for lunch.
After lunch, we saw a large school of orcas swimming past the port side
of the ship. When a sighting like this
happens, there isn’t much time to grab your camera, so I wasn’t able to get any
continued toward our next destination, we had constant views of glaciers and
icebergs. On one iceberg, we saw a pair
next stop was Paradise Bay. We cruised
around the bay in zodiacs, in hopes of seeing penguins and seals. It started snowing heavily before we boarded the
zodiacs. By the time we were done
loading, there was already an inch of snow in the boat.
surface of the water was beginning to freeze, forming “grease ice.” This is the first stage in the formation of
out across the bay, there was already plenty of sea ice.
some icebergs that were a deep blue color, but they were getting covered with
penguins swimming through the bay, and we saw a few Antarctic birds, but we
didn’t see any seals. The visibility was
snow let up shortly after we launched, but it started snowing heavily again
when we were already far from the ship.
That forced us to turn around and go back, while we could still find our
way back to the ship. Where we previously
saw a paper-thin layer of grease ice, we started seeing a slushy layer that was
two inches thick.
daily recap, we learned a little bit more about the schedule for the race. The winds had calmed down, and we were on our
way to King George Island, where we would race on Wednesday.
never did a workout on Monday, so I was anxious to do some type of workout on
Tuesday. I ate breakfast quickly, and
then I went to the fitness center while everyone else was still eating. I wanted to race-walk two or three miles on
the treadmill, but the ship was moving, and I found it difficult to stay centered
on the treadmill. I had to stop after just
amusing happened when we arrived at King George Island. Some of the research bases have cell phone towers, and those
of us with international phone plans got messages from our mobile carriers
saying, “Welcome to China,” as we came into range of the Chinese research base. That unfortunately also caused our phones to get
set to Chinese Standard Time. I had to
show a few of the other passengers how to manually reset their phones to
the morning, we received our race bibs and timing chips. Then we had our pre-race briefing.
menus for our meals on the ship changed each day. They could prepare a variety of foods, and
they were willing to accommodate special requests. Earlier in the cruise, I put in a request to
have pizza with one of the meals once we reached Antarctica. They served pizza as part of the lunch buffet
on Tuesday, which happened to me the day before the marathon. Now I’ve had pizza on all seven continents.
lunch, the MT&T staff went ashore to set up the course. The rest of us had an opportunity to cruise
around King George Island in the zodiacs.
through the bays around the island, we saw different types of birds.
also saw penguins swimming and diving.
countries have research bases on the island.
This is the Russian base, where we would come ashore for the marathon on
the Russian base, there’s a Russian orthodox church.
base is right next to the Russian base.
couple miles from the Russian base, there’s a Uruguayan base.
around for a little over an hour and then returned to the ship.
race was originally going to be on Sunday. Because of our late departure from Ushuaia, we
didn’t arrive in the South Shetland Islands until Sunday. Then the race was postponed two more days
because it was too windy in this area to go ashore in zodiacs. On Wednesday, we were finally ready to race.
of the IAATO rules, we couldn’t all go ashore at the same time. We had to race in waves. The first wave included everyone in the half marathon,
and a few dozen of the slowest runners in the marathon. Once enough runners returned to the ship, a
second wave of about 20 runners could go ashore and start running. I was in the third wave, which included the fastest
34 marathon runners.
our phones got set to the wrong time zone, some people were concerned that they
couldn’t rely on their phones to wake them up at the right time. To make sure nobody overslept, the crew gave
us all a 5:00 AM wake-up call over the PA system. I wasn’t in the first wave, so I woke up earlier
than I wanted
wave was originally schedule to start at 7:00 AM, but it was delayed because of
strong winds. The MT&T staff went
ashore to set up, but the wave one runners didn’t leave the ship until the winds
died down. That caused a delay of about
an hour and a half.
up early and couldn’t get back to sleep.
For the benefit of runners in wave one, the breakfast buffet started at
5:00. I went to breakfast at 6:00, and
nobody was there. The wave one runners
had all eaten, and were getting ready to go ashore. The other wave two and three runners were
sleeping in. It felt really weird to eat
breakfast by myself.
normally eat much for breakfast on the morning of a race. Since I wasn’t going to start running until
the early afternoon, I ate a full breakfast.
wave was originally expected to start somewhere between 12:30 and 1:00 PM. With wave one starting so late, I was worried
we wouldn’t start until about 2:00. The
sun sets around 7:30, so I was concerned about the late start.
breakfast, I still had to wait several hours before it would be time to leave
the ship. When I left my cabin, I
sometimes saw a couple of other runners who were also waiting. Most of the time, however, the ship seemed
almost empty. Most of the runners were
in wave one, and everyone else was waiting, not knowing when our time would
tricky knowing what to wear. The
temperature stayed in the low 30s all day, but the wildcard was the wind. In the morning, it was windy, but we expected
the wind to die down in the afternoon. I
had to have warm enough clothes to stay warm for five hours, but I didn’t want
to be overdressed and get sweaty.
first half marathon finishers got back to the ship, I had a chance to talk to a
few of them. Most of them were
overdressed for the conditions. With
that in mind, I wore clothing similar to what I’ve been wearing at home for training
runs. In addition to my running clothes,
I also had to wear waterproof outer gear while going ashore in the zodiac.
PM, there was an announcement that it was time for wave three runners to go to
the mud room. That’s about when I expected
to get called, so I was already in my running clothes. When we got ashore, I had to take off my
waterproof layers, change from boots to running shoes, and stuff the clothes I
wasn’t wearing into my dry bag. They had
tarps near the starting line where we could leave our boots and our dry bags.
set up portable latrines, but they had limited capacity. We were asked to void our bladders before
leaving the ship.
we brought ashore had to come back to the ship with us. We couldn’t use paper cups, plastic bags, or
anything else that might get blown away by a strong gust of wind. We couldn’t have gel packets or anything with
a wrapper that might blow away.
starting line was at the Russian research base.
Our course was an out-and-back route on a dirt road that connects the
Russian base to the Uruguayan base. One circuit
of this route was about 4.37 miles. To complete
a marathon, I had to run six laps.
started at 1:30 PM. That’s later than
the time that was originally planned, but I was relieved that we weren’t
starting later. When I heard how late
the first wave started, I was afraid our wave wouldn’t start until 2:00. With a 1:30 start, I was reasonably confident
I could finish and get back to the ship before sunset.
late summer in the southern hemisphere. This
road can get really muddy in the summer, when the temperature gets above
freezing. To keep the road from eroding too
much, the researchers have dumped lots of rocks on the road. I always had to watch my footing carefully,
especially going down a steep hill.
from the Russian base to the Uruguayan base, we had to cross two or three high
ridges. Between these ridges there were
lots of undulations. We were constantly
going up and down hills. At first, I
tried to run the hills, but take them at a slow pace. On the steepest sections, I had to walk.
of the other runners were using the downhills to recover. I’m getting pretty good at downhill running,
so I used them to make up some of the time I was losing on the uphill sections. I switched to a short rapid stride, so I
could pick up speed without beating up my quads.
had to provide our own fluids. I brought
three bottles with a sports drink that I mixed aboard the ship. I left two bottles in the start/finish
area. There were two spots along our
route where we could leave a bottle. On
my first lap, I carried a bottle with me and left it where I saw other bottles.
jacket I was wearing was a little too warm for the conditions. I started the race wearing a hat and gloves,
but I had to take the gloves off as I warmed up.
were signs for every mile, but each sign was only relevant if you were on the
right lap. There were also a few extra
signs for our amusement.
the far end of the course, I came over a ridge and saw the Uruguayan base. The day before, I had seen this same base
from the water.
of running down to the base, we turned a corner and followed the ridge. There was a large sign painted like the
reached the turnaround, I was greeted with, “Welcome to Uruguay.”
started back, I found I was still getting hot.
I had to take my hat off and put it in my pocket.
without a hat for about a mile, but then my ears got cold. Then I put it on again. My hat became my release valve. I took it off when I got too hot and put it
back on when I started to get cold.
were puddles and muddy patches in the low-lying areas. It wasn’t too hard to avoid them, but you sometimes
had to go all the way the side of the road.
This isn’t a course where you can run the tangents. To keep your feet dry, you sometimes had to go
a little out of your way.
neared the end of a lap, I came over a ridge and saw the Chilean base, which is
just past the Russian base.
to come around a bend before I saw the buildings of the Russian base. Then I could see the finish area.
my bottles were next to the course, just before the turnaround. Each time I finished a lap, I drank about a
third of a bottle. Then I went around
the turn and crossed the chip mat.
I was curious
to know how long the first lap took. On
such a difficult course, I expected to take five hours or more. To be on pace for five hours, I would need to
finish a lap in 50 minutes. I was surprised
to see that my first lap was 45 minutes and change. I was almost on pace to finish in 4:30. I knew that pace would be unsustainable.
done lots of races that were multiple laps.
Usually, it gets easier after the first lap, because you’ve seen the
whole course, and you know what to expect.
This course had so many hills, that I couldn’t remember them all after
just one lap. From one end of the course
to the other wasn’t much more than two miles, but it felt more like four. It was a long and exhausting trek. Each lap had about 500 feet of elevation
the runners was dressed as a rhinoceros.
He’s an activist raising awareness about rhino poaching. There was a camera crew recording his race as
part of a “Save the Rhino” documentary.
were also two runners dressed as penguins.
of my second lap, the wind started to pick up.
I had to keep my hat on for the rest of the race. My hands got cold, and I had to put my gloves
on again. I was expecting the wind to
pick up in the evening, but it wasn’t even 3:00 yet.
second lap was a minute or two slower than my first lap. I was still running all but the steepest
parts of the hills, but I wasn’t racing the downhills as aggressively.
third lap, I had to do more walking on the hills. Going out, the hills were steeper. Coming back, they were more gradual, but much
longer. I had to take walking breaks
near the end of the long gradual hills.
like a slug compared to the faster runners.
I wasn’t even halfway through my third lap when the two fastest runners
lapped me. Eventually, a few more
runners would lap me.
third lap was much slower than the first two.
It took 51 minutes. Overall, I
was still on pace to break five hours, but my most recent lap was slower than
that pace. If I continued to slow down,
I wouldn’t break five hours.
each remaining lap, I found the hills to be more tiring. I did my best, but each lap was about two
minutes slower than the previous lap. After
four laps, it was obvious that I wouldn’t break five hours.
wind kept getting stronger. In my fourth
lap, my hands got so cold that I had to stop and put on a pair of shell mittens
over my gloves. It was hard to believe
that I was running without gloves earlier in the race.
that last two laps would be brutally cold.
The hills were no longer my biggest concern. The rest of the race was more about enduring
another concern. The time limit was six
and a half hours, but only if conditions remained safe. If the wind got too strong, the captain might
order everyone to return to the ship. If
the wind started whipping up big waves, conditions could get unsafe for returning
to the ship in the zodiacs.
fifth lap, I was fighting a headwind on the way out. Going up the big hills with a headwind was
too tiring. I had to do more walking.
anxious to finish that lap and start my last one. I was pretty sure if I started the last lap,
I would have a chance to finish it. If
they decided to pull runners from the course, they would do it as we finished a
lap. As I got closer to the end of that
lap, I still saw other runners going out to start another lap. That reassured me. I eventually finished that lap, and started
my final lap. It was going to be brutal,
but I was pretty sure I would get to finish now.
usually took a small drink from the bottle I had stashed when I passed it on
the way out. On this lap, I waited until
I was on the way back. I knew I’d have
to stop on the way back anyway to pick it up and bring it back. I didn’t want to stop twice.
out, I had to walk about half of each hill.
I did my best to make up time on the downhills, but I was getting tired. On my way back, I couldn’t run uphill very far
without taking a walking break. I tried
to limit my walking breaks to only 10 seconds each, but I had to take multiple
walking breaks on each hill.
picked up my bottle, I drank enough to empty it. I had to carry it for more than a mile, so I
wanted it to be as light as possible.
runner commented that it was starting to snow.
At first it was only a few stray snowflakes.
time I finished, my hands were starting to get numb. I knew getting ready to return to the ship
would be difficult.
crossed the finish line, I wasn’t able to stop my watch, but I later learned that
I finished in 5:09:04. On most courses,
I would be disappointed with that time.
On this course, I was happy with it.
to retrieve my bottles, open my dry bag, put on my parka and waterproof pants, change
from running shows to boots, pack things back in my dry bag, and seal it. Most of those things were impossible, because
my hands were useless. The volunteers
were great. They helped me every step of
it was snowing hard, and I was getting wet.
I had fortunate timing. Several
other runners were ready to leave at the same time. I was able to board a zodiac right away, and
we were on our way to the ship within minutes.
also fortunate to start my last lap before the captain told us to return to the
ship. I know at least one runner who was
pulled from the course after finishing his fifth lap. It may seem unfair that we don’t all get six
and a half hours to finish, but that’s the reality of running in Antarctica. Weather can change quickly, and everything we
do is subject to having safe weather conditions.
ride back was cold, and it was snowing hard.
When I got back to the mud room, I didn’t even try to put my shoes
on. My cabin was close to the mud room,
so I walked back in my socks.
took time to get out of all the layers of clothes I was wearing. I didn’t take the time to hang them up. I piled everything on the floor and hurried
into the bathroom to run warm water on my hands. It took several minutes of warming up my
hands before I restored the blood flow.
Then I took a long hot shower and changed into dry clothes.
A lot of runners pose for a picture at the finish line with
their medal. I couldn’t afford to take
any time for that. I had to settle for
taking a picture of it after I returned to the ship.
time I was dressed, most people were already at dinner. After dinner, everyone went to the bar. I partied until I needed to go to sleep. I crashed hard that night.
up at 6:20. That gave me just enough
time to shower and get dressed in time to go up to the observation deck. We were scheduled to arrive at Deception
Island at 7:00, and I wanted to be there when we arrived.
Island is a caldera, so the island is shaped like a ring. On one side, there’s an opening that’s just
500 meters wide.
roommate was still sleeping, so after breakfast, I went to the lounge to work
on my computer. I knew there was going to
be a morning outing, but I didn’t know what time it would be. I was caught off guard when I heard my group
getting called to go to the mud room.
Rather than pack up my computer and rush to my cabin at the other end of
the ship, I decided to keep working on my computer.
this outing included going ashore at Whalers’ Bay to do the “polar plunge,” but
I had no interest in plunging into ice cold water in a swim suit. I didn’t realize this outing would also including
cruising in zodiacs to a place where we could see seals. When I saw the photos my roommate Andrei took,
I regretted missing out on that.
everyone got back, we bad a BBQ lunch out on the deck. I wore as many layers for lunch as I normally
did for going out in a zodiac.
afternoon, we went ashore on Half Moon Island.
They dropped us off at a beach, where we saw penguins and seals.
hiked up to a trail, where we could see a large colony of penguins at the top
of a ridge.
end of the trail, a chinstrap penguin walked out to meet us.
we hiked to a different beach where we were picked up and brought back to the
ship. While we were hiking, we saw more
seals. After seeing seals on these two
beaches, I didn’t feel as bad about missing the morning excursion.
was the last time we left the ship. That
evening, the ship left the South Shetland Islands to begin the voyage across
the Drake Passage to get back to Ushuaia.
the day at sea, crossing the Drake Passage.
The swells weren’t quite as big as they were the first time we crossed,
but they were still big enough to make the ship roll noticeably.
safety, the fitness center was closed. I
wasn’t able to do any workouts for the rest of the trip. I had to settle for the exercise I got
walking around the ship and up and down stairs.
of separate breakfast and lunch buffets, we had a brunch. For people who were up early and didn’t want
to wait until 10:30 to eat, they had a small early bird breakfast in the
lecture room. I spent most of the
morning in the lecture room, visiting with other runners. Everyone on the ship was a runner or the
spouse of a runner. I got to know a lot
the expedition guides was a Geologist who has spent years doing research in
Antarctica. After our brunch, he gave a
lecture on what it’s like to be a field scientist in Antarctica. In the afternoon, another researcher gave us
a lecture about life on an Antarctic base.
in the afternoon, we had the awards ceremony for the marathon. They give awards for the top three men &
women overall and the top two in each age group. I wasn’t expecting to be competitive, but I
took first place in my age group. My
award will be a plaque, and they’ll mail it to me after everyone gets home.
also had medals for everyone who finished running marathons or half marathons on
all seven continents. There were about 30
finishers of seven continents.
daily recap, we learned the schedule for the next day, and we also learned the
history of women in Antarctica.
was another “at sea” day as we continued across the Drake Passage. In the morning, I took a tour of the ship’s
bridge. Then I attended a lecture on the
history of Tierra del Fuego.
were two lectures in the early afternoon, but neither of them interested
me. Instead, I used that time to do some
exercises in my cabin and start packing.
the afternoon, several items from the races were auctioned. The auction included mile markers, the finish
line banner, the finish line tape, the ship’s chart of our voyage, and a
Canadian down parka that was used by Antarctic researchers. Proceeds from the auction went to Oceanites,
which is a non-profit organization that does Antarctic research.
afternoon, we started encountering bigger swells. For the first time, the ship was rolling more
than it did on our first crossing of the Drake Passage. I never got seasick, but several other
dinner, we saw a slideshow of pictures taken by the professional photographer,
and we learned the schedule for our disembarkation in the morning.
to get up early to disembark in Ushuaia, so they started the breakfast buffet
early. The staff brought our bags out to
the pier, but we had to put them outside our cabins by 5:00 AM. We had to be out of our cabins by 7:00 and
settle our accounts in time to disembark by 7:30.
it was time to disembark, they took all the baggage directly to the airport,
but dropped us off in town and picked us up two hours later. It was raining, and none of the stores are
open on a Sunday morning, so I would have preferred to just to straight to the
of us went to a café that was open. We
spent the next hour and a half drinking coffee or hot cocoa, but mostly we just
wanted a place to sit down indoors until it was time to board our bus to the
a charter flight to Buenos Aires that got us there in the late afternoon. My flight to Atlanta was out of the same
airport, so I stayed in the airport until it was time to board that flight. Several other runners were on the same flight.
for almost six hours on my overnight flight to Atlanta. That’s the most sleep I’ve ever had on a
flight. Usually, I can’t sleep at all.
arrived in Atlanta, I had to go through passport control and customs. Those things are both fairly quick, but I had
to pick up my checked bags before I could through customs. That can take awhile of other international
flights are arriving at the same time.
originally booked a layover of about two hours, but that was before Delta changed
the flight schedule. When the dust
settled, I only had an hour and a half to make my connection. The international arrival process.in Atlanta
requires you to retrieve your luggage before getting into the customs
line. Then you have to go through security
again. Those two things can consume most
of your connection time.
concerned when the flight was delayed 20 minutes because of a cargo loading
issue, but we made up time in the air and actually arrived in Atlanta ahead of
schedule. The slowest part of the
arrival process is usually waiting for your bags, but mine were among the first
off the plane. It was the quickest
international arrival process I’ve ever had in Atlanta, and I got to my gate
before boarding even started.
There were a few things on this
trip that didn’t go according to plan, but there were also some things that
went amazingly well.
Just a few days prior to this
trip, my sciatica was so bad that I couldn’t run without having pain in my right
leg. When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I expected
my leg to hurt after sitting so long on the flight. It didn’t.
I barely noticed it all that day, and I don’t recall having much discomfort
during the three days in Buenos Aires.
I felt even better on the
ship. Until race day, I was completely
pain-free. The first time I noticed any
discomfort was during the second half of the marathon. Even then, I had a little soreness in my
lower back, but I didn’t have any pain in my right leg. If my leg hurt, I wouldn’t have been able to run
the downhills as fast.
We also dodged a bullet on
COVID-19. Last year, one person on this
trip tested positive in Buenos Aires and wasn’t able to travel to Ushuaia and
board the ship. Nine other people tested
positive after boarding the ship and had to quarantine for the rest of the
For most of the trip, it seemed
like we were going to get through the entire trip unscathed. Some people got seasick, but I wasn’t aware
of any other illnesses. It wasn’t until I
was talking with other runners after flying back to Buenos Aires that I learned
that two passengers had symptoms toward the end of the cruise and were
isolating in their cabin.
Distance: 26.2 miles
Average Pace: 11:37
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras: 477