On October 22, I’ll be running The Polar Circle Marathon, which occurs in the environs of Kangerlussuaq, a town on the western shore of Greenland a short distance north of the Arctic Circle. I learned about this event last fall, when NPR interviewed the female winner of the 2010 edition, Marianne Delcomyn, who called it “the best race ever.”
The race begins 26.2 miles north of Kangerlussuaq with the first 5k, a slippery traverse on the Greenland ice cap. That’s followed by a 23-mile romp down a slowly descending gravel road originally built to test cars in extreme weather conditions. At the end of the course, runners can look forward to a tepid shower in the Hotel Kangerlussuaq, a warm beer and a cold saucer of borscht.
In fairness, there are downsides to this run. It’s remote and the logistics are a bit daunting (you have to fly to Copenhagen before boarding a plane to Greenland), some might find the landscape stark (think Siberia without the Gulag), and of course it’s likely to be cold (typical race day temperatures are in the teens). A perusal of last year’s participants list suggests most are Danes and Brits with alcohol issues.
My wife, who is not a runner and for whom San Francisco is equivalent to the North Pole, will not be joining me in Greenland. For companionship, I turned instead to my cadre of runner friends. They are among the hardiest souls on earth and include people who have conquered the Western States 100 and the Badwater Ultramarathon, as well as grueling events in China, the Andes and Katmandu. Their response was uniform, unequivocal and swift.
I’ll be going alone.