A few weeks ago I wrote an article describing an adventure being planned by my nephew Christopher Weir. An avid runner, including five 26.2 mile marathons, Chris, a longtime Flower Mound resident, was training for the toughest physical event of his life.
He challenged himself to run in the 14th Antarctic Ice Marathon, which takes place a couple of hundred miles from the South Pole at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, the highest mountain ranges in Antarctica. To prepare for the frigid experience, Chris trained inside the icy surroundings of a large produce warehouse in Dallas. In addition, he conditioned his legs by wading into his pool up to his thighs on several frosty evenings at his Flower Mound home.
For Chris, the journey began by flying to Punta Arenas, Chile on December 10. During the next 24 hours he, and the 54 other competitors from 14 countries around the world, participated in a briefing about the marathon and the conditions under which it would be run. The next day, the entire group was transported by private jet for the 4 ¼ hour flight to Union Glacier, Antarctica, the icy location of the marathon. Union Glacier Camp is only accessible by air and the wheeled IL-76 aircraft landed on a naturally-occurring ice runway on the Union Glacier, where competitors from around the world took their first steps in Antarctica. Then, they climbed aboard a specially adapted van for a 5 mile ride to camp, where final preparations were made for the epic event the following day.
A marked course of 26.2 miles was prepared in advance and snowmobile support, aid stations and medical personnel were on hand for the duration of the race. The challenges of the marathon were formidable, not merely because of the length of the race, but because of the underfoot conditions, comprising snow and ice throughout the trek and an average wind-chill temperature of -20 Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) and strong winds cascading down from the frigid mountains. In addition, the event took place at an altitude of 700 meters. There were 15 competitors from China, 9 from the United States, 7 from Australia, 4 from Belgium and Poland, 3 from India and Indonesia, 2 from Russia, Lithuania and Austria and one from Denmark, Italy, Ireland and Mexico.
Until this event, Chris had completed 4 marathons in Dallas and one in New Orleans; his fastest time being 4 hours. However, those events were run on solid ground during much more favorable conditions than can be found in the bitter-cold wasteland of Antarctica. Chris’s wife Kim, his 2 daughters, Courtney and Jessica, and his son Christopher Jr. were all cheering him on from home, along with the rest of the extended Weir family across the country. Chris, a successful businessman, currently owns and operates Lead Concepts, employing 30 people. In the accompanying video, Chris talks about some of the unforeseen events that added to his “adventure” in one of the coldest locations in the world.
The following facts have been taken from the website: www.icemarathon.com. “Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on the planet. The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was -94.7°C (-135.8°F) in eastern Antarctica in 2010. At this temperature steel will shatter and water will explode into ice crystals. The continent also experiences regular Katabatic winds, reaching 300 km per hour (185 miles/hour), that blow out of the continental interior and make the Antarctic coastal regions breezy.”