ICE MARATHON Clean Water Preservation Run

Ahotu Marathons: Interview with Baikal Ice Marathon organizer

Baikal Ice Marathon

 November 18, 2010 14:00   Focus on a race

Alexei Nikiforov is 50 years old Russian, who loves making long trips on horseback for ethnographic purposes and loves living near Lake Baikal.

Besides being Baikal Ice Marathon Director , he is also Managing director of Siberia Events & Expeditions Bureau, which introduced a few regional events that became popular in Lake Baikal area and Northern Mongolia. Next year he is planning to launch another project which is “Great Water Run” – Baikal-Mongolia Ultra-Marathon ( 240 km, 3 stage trans-national race from Lake Baikal to Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia).


Hello, on March 6th 2011, you’ll be organizing the Baikal Ice Marathon. Can you tell us where it is located?

Baikal Ice Marathon takes place on Lake Baikal – the world’s deepest, oldest and also largest freshwater lake, located amidst Asiatic continent, in East-Siberian Russia, over 60 km away from the major regional city of Irkutsk.

Baikal Ice Marathon starts on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal in a small town of Tankhoy and takes a course laid on the ice frozen surface of Lake Baikal to the finish line on the western shore in the town of Listvyanka. 
See the satellite map at this link.

This will be the 7th edition of the race. Why was it created in the first place?

To run on the ice frozen Lake Baikal 1400 meters above the ground or the deepest and largest lake of the world and crossing the lake from shore to shore in a distance approaching that of a marathon – sounded , at first, very appealing. And also we had in mind already that this Marathon should be held as “Clean Waters Conservation Run” to draw attention to the need to protect holy waters from pollution.

by the start - hivus
Credit : Baikal Ice Marathon

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The route of the Marathon can slightly vary from year to year depending on the ice movements on Lake Baikal which lies in a highly seismic belt (2000 earthquakes and rumblings of the earth crust a year). As it happened 3 times already and even until the very last day before the race begins, we may have to lay a new course on the ice and mark it with red flags, due to the appearance of cracks in the ice.

While the start line can be either near Tankhoy or at nearest to it village of Pereyomnaya (eastern shore) , the finish line will always be in Listvyanka ( western shore).

The surface of the frozen Baikal in some places can be covered in fields of “hummocks”, small hills of ice rubble. Also we have to consider geothermic springs and seismic activity that cause localized melting that sometimes may weaken the ice to form. So, we need to plot a safe course which then has to be approved by the Emergency and Rescue Commeettee experts as safe for running and driving support 4-WD vehicles on Baikal ice.

The finally prepared course is flat, ¾ of the ice course can be covered with a mostly thin layer of snow which can be up to 25 cm thick if it has snowed the night before. The other ¼ of the course can be open ice – wind polished as a skating rink. So, running footwear must have studs.

The course of Baikal Ice Marathon is regarded as Russia’s most exotic one.

Stephan at flag
Credit : Baikal Ice Marathon

How many runners do you expect on Sunday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

We expect over 70 runners coming from various countries. However, for the next Baikal Ice Marathon we will restrict the number of participants to a 100.

We attract both amateur and professional runners, those sportsmen who have done at least one marathon, are 18+ years old and physically fit for the foot race in possible harsh conditions.

Do you organize other races during the Week-End? If so, on what distances?

Same day and time, and location the half-marathon will be held within Baikal Ice Marathon framework. The half-marathon runners will also start at Tanhoy and finish in the middle of lake Baikal at 21 km mark. From there they will be picked up by vehicles or hovercraft for a transfer to Listvyanka. 

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

Average temperature in the beginning of March in the southern part of Lake Baikal is -8 to -10°C. Some winters during the marathon dates and due to micro climate on Lake Baikal it can reach 0°C, or even +1°C, so people even can get sun burn after running couple of hours on the ice.

There’s usually more sun shine than cloudy skies at this time of the year. But it can be windy –then one should consider seriously chill factor on Lake Baikal, especially when you’re in the middle of the icy desert of Baikal, where prevailing north-west wind can quickly change.

21km Feed car
Credit : Baikal Ice Marathon

Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

In 2011 the city of Irkutsk – so called “Paris of Siberia” – will officially celebrate its 350-th anniversary year since its foundation. Also, next year it will be 350 years since the Buryat Republic united with the former Russian Empire.

We plan to connect these two great dates and do some celebration event on the ice. Also, at the finish line in Listvyanka there will be a “Baikal Seal” Ice sculpture and design contest – and a kind of Outpost built of Ice shall be erected of Baikal ice.

The marathon finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Irkoutsk before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

If you return to Irkoutsk – this is a great place to visit, famous for the Orthodox churches and their beautiful iconostasis, a number of interesting museums, including that of the Decembrists’ revolutionaries, Fine Arts Gallery, local studies museum. There are also many restaurants ( Russian and Sibwerian cuisine as well as French, Italian, Mexican, Mongolian, German cuisine and drinks).

105 Meridian
Credit : Baikal Ice Marathon

If you decide to stay on the lake’s shore in Listvyanka – then you can take a dog-sled or snow mobile trip in the premises of Baikal National Park or on the ice ( from a short 2-3 hour trip to 3-4 days one), or go on a special type of trip like “Pole of Baikal” ( located above the deepest point of the lake – 5435 feet ). There are a number of extension tours developed by the Absolute Siberia Events & Expeditions Bureau for the participants of Baikal Ice Marathon.

There are more than 10 good local restaurants in Listvyanka and its vicinity – barbeque bars etc. that serve delicious food, both local and Russia/European. One can visit local Baikal Ecology Museum, and Baikal fresh water seal aquarium.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Baikal Ice Marathon?

Come and run above Holy Baikal – Siberia’s Gem and the world’s most energetic place!

Thank you Alexei.

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