Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Top of the world to you

When your first question about an upcoming marathon is this one, you know it's remote:

Where, exactly, is Spitsbergen, Svalbard?

Spitsberger is the largest of a set of Norwegian islands called Svalbard (that's between 74N10E and 81N35E latitudes, for you map freaks) and is the staging area for what has to be one of the world's most unusual marathons: the North Pole Marathon.

The marathon takes place Saturday, with runners competing on top of the Arctic Ocean. Fifty men and women from around the world will run on an ice sheet 6-12 feet thick that frosts the Arctic Ocean. According to the official Web site of the race, runners will wear three layers of clothing as well as balaclava, face mask and goggles, and hope for light winds. Temperatures are expected to be as low as -22 degrees F. The last North Pole Marathon, in 2004, was won by American Sean Burch, with a time of 3:43:17.

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