Thursday, March 2, 2017


As I and my traveling companions, Lindi Rosner and Debra Kaufman, prepare to board the flight tonight that will begin our trip to Antarctica, I am fixated on what a novel experience it is to visit the southern continent. The first confirmed sighting of the Antarctic landmass happened only in the 1820s—less than 200 years ago—and it wasn’t until 1895 that  Norwegian explorers Henrik Bull and Carsten Borchgrevink became the first humans (so far as can be proved) to set foot there. The first Trans-Antarctic crossing  was completed a mere blink-of-an-eye ago in 1958. Yet scant decades later, it’s possible for an average schmo lunkhead like me to travel there in near complete safety and comfort—and run a marathon to boot.

It’s, of course, a sad irony that the very elements of “progress” that make it possible for me to travel to Antarctica—jet aircraft, steel framed ships, carbon fuel burning engines, sophisticated electronics, et cetera, et cetera—are the very things threatening to destroy its delicate environment. To the charge of abetting that catastrophe, I can only plead guilty.

I’ve participated in other long-distance running events in cold regions of the world, and, like this time, I’ve approached each one with sunny self-confidence. It’s not that I expected each race to be a gay caprice, but rather something manageable, if not routine. And in each case, my presumptuous nonchalance was blasted to smithereens almost immediately upon leaving the starting gate. Each time it was something I hadn’t reckoned on. In Greenland, I was met by a near white-out blizzard and wind chill of -22F. In Whitehorse, Canada, conversely, unseasonably warm temperatures left me stumbling through soft snow that became knee deep near the end. Last year, at Lake Baikal in Siberia, a marathon course that is perhaps the flattest on earth nearly reduced me to tears when 25 mile per hour winds obliterated the plowed path we were meant to follow. I wonder what Antarctica will conjure to wipe the silly smirk from my face.

Shackleton, Admundsen, Gayhart
I hope to post a tourist dispatch during our stopover in Buenos Aires, but after that My Polar Adventure will go dark for ten days or so. Antarctica is almost entirely and blissfully off the grid. No Blogspot, no Facebook, no Uber, no Grubhub. As a result, I won’t be able to immediately post my usual hyperbolic, self-aggrandizing, mostly fabricated post-race report until after we make landfall in South America, March 17. Regular readers of this blog will no doubt appreciate the break.

The 2017 Antarctic Marathon kicks off at 9:00 UTC, Saturday, March 7. 
See you on the other side.

1 comment:

  1. Keith,
    I will be following all details with intense interest. Maybe I'll cut and paste your pithy posts for use in two years! ;-) Good luck and may the surprises be minor.