A new record was set for running a mile in Antarctica. It took place on Union Glacier, which is located in the Ellsworth Mountains to the southwest of the Antarctic Peninsula in a region known as Marie Byrd Land. This feat was accomplished by Paul Robinson, a 26-year-old runner from Kilcock, Ireland. On 25 November 2017, Robinson ran the mile in 4 minutes and 17.9 seconds. On that day, the temperature was -13 degrees Fahrenheit.
In an interview, Robinson described his surroundings by saying “you just cannot get warm.” For his race, he wore only a single pair of running tights, one body warmer, a racing vest and a pair of socks inside his racing shoes with spikes.
Under normal conditions, Robinson can do a mile under 4 minutes. When asked whether he was satisfied with his time in the glacier race, Robinson recounted, “The snow wasn’t deep, but it was energy-sapping, like running on sand. Your foot is going two or three inches into the snow on every step.” And at the end of the race, “your lungs feel like they’re going to explode. But I gave it my best effort, and I’m proud of getting anywhere close to four minutes, especially as I was slipping and sliding and even thought I was going to fall over at one stage,” he added.
Paul Robinson after historic Antarctica Mile . pic.twitter.com/pQovlwyRAy
— Richard Donovan (@RichardDonovan7) November 27, 2017
Robinson’s record breaking attempt was suggested and planned by Richard Donovan, who emailed him just three weeks before the race. Donovan is the organizer of some of the world’s most unusual marathons including the Antarctic Ice Marathon and promotes extreme sports in Antarctica such as cross-country skiing.
The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the only official marathon held inside the Antarctic Circle on Union Glacier, making it the southernmost marathon in the world. For €15,000, adventure marathoners and ultra-athletes travel to Antarctica to run in the most extreme of environments. Held in the second week of December every year, which is the height of the summer season in the southern hemisphere, the marathon has been in action since 2005, drawing about 10 participants. The event has since grown in popularity, attracting around 45 participants in the 26.2 miles category. A separate 100 km event held in January 2017 attracted 10 athletes, out of which 2 were from sub-tropical climates such as Hong Kong.
GlacierHub spoke with avid runner Clara Lim from the University College London’s Running, Athletics and Cross-Country Club (UCL RAX) about Robinson’s feat. “I definitely can’t imagine running in Antarctica under such freezing conditions although I have more or less adapted to running in London. The British and probably Irish winter can never beat the Antarctic chills,” Lim told GlacierHub. Throughout her three years in the running club, she has participated in numerous marathons ranging from temperate European climates to tropical Singaporean weather. “At first when I moved to London from Singapore, I had to adapt to the chillier weather when going for my runs. I did feel that running in the cold is more energy consuming,” she added.
Unlike Lim, Robinson described that he “didn’t feel like the cold was having much of an impact on the run. But, then again, I was wearing extra layers I wouldn’t be wearing on a track or in a warm climate.” Nonetheless, when asked whether he would be returning to Antarctica anytime soon for another run, his response echoed Lim’s in a straight “nah.”