BAIKAL
ICE MARATHON Clean Water Preservation Run

Extreme Running by Kim McConnell and Dave Horsley

 

                          LAKE  BAIKAL

                          INTERNATIONAL 

                        ICE  MARATHON

 THE LAKE BAIKAL International Ice Marathon offers competitors the unique opportunity to race across the frozen ice surface of the largest and deepest fresh water lake in the world. The event takes place in an extraordinary  isolated part of Russia. It is based ina small town of Listvyanka, 65 km south of Irkutsk ( a stopover on the Trans-Siberian route).

BELOW: Competitors are monitored with the aid of a hovercarf

          The Marathon is just a small part of a larger winter  games festival, the “Winteriada”, which includes a  swimming race in the frozen lake.

            Lake Baikal is vast – at 636 km by 70km-and      extraordinary deep at 1,637 m. It is repository of a fifth of  the world’s unfrozen fresh water. It is estimated that th  lake   holds sufficient water to supply drinking water for  every    human for a period of 50 years.

            The surface of the frozen lake is covered in fileds of  ‘hummocks’, small hills of ice rubble. Beneath the ice  surface, geothrmic sprinhs and seismic activity cause    localized melting that weakens the ice to form holes. The 

      KEY  DATA 
 RACE: Lake Baikal International Ive Marathon
 LOCATION: Lake Baikal ( Listvyanka, Russia)
 DISTANCE: 42.2km ( 26 miles), single stage
 DATE: March
 TOTAL ASCENT: Negligible 
 TOTAL  DESCENT: Negligible
 KEY  CHARACTERISTICS: Marathon on frozen surface of world's largest and deepest fresh-water lake
RACE RECORDS: Male 3:08, Female:3:54
FIELD ( APPROX): 30 
CLIMATE:- 5ºC to 2ºC ( 23ºF to 35ºF)
FINISHERS: 75-80 % of starters
WEB: www.baikal-marathon.org 

   race ‘Ice Captain’ and his team of volunteers have the      task   of plotting a safe course. They do so the day immediately preceding the race, otherwise movements in the ice would render their effort redundant.

          On race day itself, competitors are ferried by  van  from Listvyanka to Tankhoy train station, located on  the  opposite shore of Lake Baikal. Prior to the start of the  race,  competitors are required to partake in the  precautionary  ritual of ‘vodka sprinkling’, in order to pacify  the spirits of  the Lake ( introducing the novel element of  starting a  marathon with a shot of vodka).of plotting a safe  course. They do so the day immediately  preceeing the  race, otherwise movements in the ice would  render their  efforts redundant.

            The course is predominantly flat, but the surface is    hard and uneven. Although it is mostly covered in a soft    layer of snow, there are areas of highly polished ice that  create conditions similar to an ice-rink. Strong winds add  to the already bitingly cold temperature and provide  serious resistance to progress across the Lake.

            The utterly featureless landscape gives little or no sense of perspective to competitors.  The finish line at the port of    Listvyanka can be seen alsmost from the start line. It is a long, cold, lonely 42.2 km trail across the barren white landscape,  where progress is marked only by checkpoints positioned at 5 km intervals ( with hot drinks, food, and, for the brave, more   vodka).

            The far reaches of Siberia may not be a first choice destination for many endurance athletes, who may prefer instead  the warmer, and more glamorous, climes. But for those that brave the Russian winter. The reward is a fantastic race, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, on a one-off running surface.

 ‘There are only a few places in the world where you can run a  marathon on ice. On Lake Baikal it was harder than on  Yukon  in Canada.’ - Udo Mueller (6th place finisher,2005)

 

 EXTREME  RUNNING . The  book   takes the reader on an  amazing world  tour of ultra  foot races, profiling 24 of the most  challenging,  exciting and  notorious long distance running  events in the face of our Planet  Earth ( 3 to 4 races per  continent including Baikal Ice Marathon  in Asia chapter  of the  book ). 

 Extreme Running by Kym McConnell and Dave Horsley  (Pavilion, 2007, $26.60 at Amazon) is probably the first coffee-  table book specifically for ultrarunners. 

 The book covers a remarkable variety of events, and there is  something here for every ultrarunner. There are road ultras ,  including Badwater, Comrades and Spartathlon, trail ultras such  as the Ultra-Trail Tour du Mont-Blanc, Kepler Challenge and  Wasatch Front 100 Mile, trail and mountain marathons – Pikes  Peak, Inca Trail, Lake Baikal, Antarctica, and multi-day stage races – the Marathon des Sables, Transalpine-Run, and more.  Detailed descriptions give a good sense of the total experience  of each race, often including pre- and post-race activities. Key  data for each race is listed, such as race distance, altitude gain  and loss, climate, course records, approximate field size and

 finishing rate, and web site and contact information. Coverage of  the races ranges from two pages (Pikes Peak, Comrades), up to  an in-depth description of the Marathon des Sables in sixteen  pages. Each description is loaded with valuable information,  maps and eye-popping photos. 

 The book includes four multi-day, self-sufficiency races which  are all very similar in format to the Marathon des Sables. In  these events competitors must carry all their own gear, usually  excluding only water, and live in spartan conditions during the  race. They are uniformly six-day runs of 200-250 km total  distance, with one especially long stage of 80 km for which two  days are allotted, so that the stage may be completed in a single  push or with an overnight sleep break. All are held in extreme  environments, such as deserts or the Amazon jungle. The  events described here (Marathon des Sables, Gobi March,  Jungle Marathon, Atacama Crossing) are not the only ones of  this format, and the proliferation of these events is perhaps  surprising, especially given entry fees in the range of $3000 to  over $5000. But, it surely reflects the desire many of us feel for a  truly unique adventure that challenges the body and spirit on many levels. Completing such a trial gives one a sense of confidence that the challenges of daily life can be met and surmounted with grace.

Extreme Running is a great gift for any ultrarunner or serious outdoor adventure junkie, though a spouse or parent may want to think twice before giving their endurance-addicted loved one any more crazy ideas.