You don't choose this race, it chooses you.
May 13, 2013 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Blisters, Cramps & Heaves documents his experience running "The Last Marathon" in Antarctica with two detailed blog posts incorporating elevation maps, photography, video, cartoons, and final stats. First post covers pre-race experience, second post the race itself. Act 1 | Act 2

"When the dust settled, 60 of the 72 runners who started the marathon, finished. This may sound harsh or arrogant, though that’s not my intent – but the truth is, there’s a lot to be said for a race that not everyone finishes. Inextricably wrapped up in its unsurpassed beauty is the harsh reality that Antarctica is a brutal, unforgiving backdrop for any activity, much less a marathon. You can admire and respect it from afar, you can agree to its singular demands, you can formulate the best-laid plan to overcome it. But at the end of the day you don’t choose this race, it chooses you."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (4 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I dunnnnnooooo man. There's something.. extremely narcissistic about this, to me. I'm torn.

On the one hand , it's like, yeah, people should be able to have jaw-droppingly expensive holidays wherever they want, and do whatever they want on them.

On the other, it's like - such staggering decadence. Antarctica - a continent that is basically a national park and reserved for scientific research only. Who picks up all their rubbish? What happens to their toilet paper? Should having lots of money basically give you the right to go to Antarctica?

But at the end of the day you don’t choose this race, it chooses you

I dunno, I feel like attempts to paint this as some kind of personal, transcendent challenge are quite myopic. I mean, you are reducing Antarctica to a stage for your own personal drama - a self-imposed drama/challenge at that.

I hate that cliche of "wouldn't it be better to donate that money to charity" or whatever - and fully recognise these things occur on a continuum - but it just seems a little too much to me. I mean what are these people doing this for at the end of the day? I feel the same way about Everest climbers etc. I dunno; I think there are better ways to be challenged.

The ice sheets of western Antarctica are like to be severely weakened if not gone completely this century. If you care about Antarctica, then aiding this decline and the blind capitalism that caused it doesn't seem ideal. If you care about marathons and challenging yourself, then run one of the other million bloody marathons out there.
posted by smoke at 9:47 PM on May 13, 2013

smoke: Who picks up all their rubbish? What happens to their toilet paper?

This seems to be an argument against Antarctic tourism in general, and the removal of which would be a shame, I think, as it seems a really beautiful place. As a general proposition I think eco-tourism can help people really appreciate why the environment needs our protection (although I doubt anyone wouldn't go all the way to Antarctica who didn't already hold that belief.)

As to your question, I can't be sure, but I think they'd be quite good about litter. Some of the participants were members of local research teams, and as you would have noticed in part 2:
All race-day nutrients – energy bars, gels, etc. – had to be removed from their original packaging and all paper wrappers left on the ship, in accordance with the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
The proprietor's webpage also mentions that:
The course on King George Island located off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula has marked gravel roads that connect the scientific research bases of Uruguay, Chile, China and Russia. Great care is taken to leave behind zero impact on the environment in this sensitive ecosystem. We are now restricted to having a maximum of 100 passengers ashore for the event at any one time.
I can't even get the people at my local two mile track to bag out their gel wrappers. :(
posted by at 1:13 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great, now I have the Cher song stuck in my head.
posted by The otter lady at 9:19 AM on May 14, 2013

You don't choose this race, it chooses you.

My reply: I would prefer not to.
posted by Splunge at 11:37 AM on May 14, 2013

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