Travel to special destinations claims pride of place on bucket lists everywhere. Many people set their sights on visiting all 10 provinces or all 50 states – or both. Some even include the three northern territories of Canada in their list. And the truly ambitious travellers have their eye on visiting all 7 continents. Physical challenges are also popular bucket list items, like sky-diving, bungee jumping, or completing a marathon or triathlon. But until I noticed a small ad at the back of the October issue of Runner’s World, I had not considered that some people might aspire to complete a marathon on all 7 continents – or that there would be entrepreneurs only too happy to facilitate such a dream.
As I wrote about previously (Picking your destination runs – or walks, Marathon of Médoc for running and wine, lots of wine!), there are an abundance of opportunities to combine a race and a trip to an exotic place. You can run by geysers in Iceland, run in complete darkness (in January) north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, or run at Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of a safari trip. On it goes. Where there is opportunity – runners who love to travel – there are people ready to provide the service, for a healthy fee, of course.
But even knowing this, the existence of commercial tours to run a marathon in Antarctica still took me by surprise. It turns out that you can book a trip that flies you to Antarctica from Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile in order to run a marathon, and then fly back again later that day (all weather-depending). As the Kathy Loper Events tour literature points out, you can cover 2 of the continents in one trip by running in Chile while you’re there.
The details fascinate me. The staff sets up the race course as soon as the plane lands in Antarctica, after which time the course is open for 6 hours. Let the marathon begin. If you finish early, you can take the time to look around for penguins. The plane leaves to return to Chile as soon as the last person finishes the course! Three days later, the group has the chance to tick off a South American marathon by running back in Punta Arenas. This time the course stays open for 8 hours.
For me this opportunity has several intriguing aspects. For one thing, this trip is not cheap. Travelling to Antarctica never is. We are talking something in the range of $7000 for this trip, including air fare from home to Punta Arenas. Right away, you’re ruling out lots of people. Then this trip is targeting people who can contemplate running a marathon (or a half marathon) twice in 4 days!!! Furthermore, it’s very cold by most people’s standards. Yet, these trips fill up.
For those of you who remain doubtful, I googled “Antarctica marathon” and more than one tour company came up. The tour offered by Marathon Tours and Travel, which travels to the Antarctic by ship from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina, is booked through 2015 for this chance of a lifetime, despite an even more impressive price tag.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit both Punta Arenas and Ushuaia, and I have to admit that I don’t feel hard done by that I didn’t get a chance to run a marathon while I was there (although we did emjoy a leisurely run in Santiago). And I certainly didn’t miss doing 2 marathons in one week! I do love the idea of choosing a special destination for a run. It’s a great combination of visiting someplace new, participating in an event that has brought people together from all over, and sharing the excitement of the race with fellow participants and spectators. The whole visit feels like a celebration. But if I do ever get the chance to visit Antarctica, I think I’ll skip the running. Sorry, but that’s not on my bucket list.
I’ll have to give a bit more thought to the possibility of other continents!