Winners Dress Warmly For 'Coolest Marathon On Earth'

On Saturday, marathon runners from around the world undertook what's billed as "the coolest marathon on earth." The Polar Circle Marathon is held in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, this time each year. Marianne Delcomyn won the women's category last year, setting a new record. She talks with host Liane Hansen.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News.

Runners in the Polar Circle Marathon who want to calculate their endurance may have to tweak the math because of one important factor: the cold. The event, which took place yesterday, is held each year in Greenland, just north of the Polar Circle. It's billed as the coolest marathon on earth, and runners pass through 26 miles of ice, snow and exceptionally brisk temperatures. Yesterday's high was 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

Last year's top female competitor in the Polar Circle Marathon was Marianne Delcomyn, and she joins us from her home outside Copenhagen, Denmark.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. MARIANNE DELCOMYN (Marathon Runner): Thanks a lot.

HANSEN: Some of the guidelines on the race website include bringing spiky boots to put over your running shoes, keep an eye out for reindeer and avoid falling through the crevasses that often line the route. What is it like to run a race in that environment?

Ms. DELCOMYN: It was a huge, huge challenge. You just have to be there to experience this huge, wide landscape covered in snow and ice and beautiful mountains. And it's just stunning.

HANSEN: Wow. What do you wear in a marathon like this?

Ms. DELCOMYN: Well, on our race day last year, it was only about minus 10, and it wasn't windy at all. So it wasn't too bad. So I was wearing just normal winter running gear, tights and then a few tops and then a jacket, gloves and a beanie. And that was actually about it. During the race, you get warm soup and you can change gear during the race and adjust if you're too cold or too warm.

HANSEN: So what is it that motivates a marathoner to actually do this kind of race in a cold, remote location? I mean, are city marathons a lot less interesting or something?

Ms. DELCOMYN: No. But I did New York once, which was amazing. But it's just like after doing 10 city marathons, I was just thinking, well, the next challenge would be running in the cold. And then living in Greenland for a year, it was just obvious for me to go down there and take that challenge.

HANSEN: You took a year off, but will you return next year?

Ms. DELCOMYN: Yes, I hope so. I really hope so. I would have loved to go this year, but I couldn't. And even though I won the race last year and I made a race record, I'm a very competitive person, and I'm sure I can do better than I did last year, so just to do it again, because it's so beautiful. It's the best race ever.

HANSEN: Marianne Delcomyn is the 2009 female champion of The Polar Circle Marathon, which was run yesterday. She joined us from her home near Copenhagen, Denmark.

Thank you very much.

Ms. DELCOMYN: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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