Big Five Marathon Polar Circle Marathon
25 & 26 October, 2014, Greenland – The coolest marathon on earth!

Route description

The marathon takes place on uneven gravel road and ice.

The run starts about 4 km from the inland ice and follows the gravel road on to the ice cap. While running on the ice cap one should be very attentive and careful, even with a thick layer of snow on top this part can still be very slippery. Due to the enormous powers of nature and the general retraction of the ice cap the exact distance on the ice will only be found a couple of days before the race, but a 3 km loop is the aim. Because of the danger of falling into a crevasse, it is strictly forbidden to leave the marked route on the inland ice.

Coming back up from the ice and passing the starting point you have approximately 32 km left to the finish line in Kangerlussuaq. Please bear in mind that although the road is gravel, it is likely to be covered by a layer of snow. Running these remaining kilometers you will pass enormous glacier tongues and moraine plains and go through tundra and arctic desert. If you are lucky you may also see reindeer and musk oxen grazing along the route. The terrain is hilly all the way with the steepest ascends being the climb coming off the ice cap and the approximately 75 meters high climb 5 kilometers before the finish line. From the ice cap to the finish line, however, the route has an overall descent of approximately 500 meters.

The marathon finish line is located in front of Polar Lodge in the northern part of Kangerlussuaq.

The half marathon finish line is located at Long Lake, just before the Sanddrift Valley.

Please note that the route description is subject to change according to the forces of nature.

Do not forget that this is first and foremost an adventure. We are far away from the homely comforts and this makes it impossible to offer services at the same high level as usually provided in city marathons.

Race information

Please note that all decisions made by the race officials and or medical team are final and not up for discussion.

By signing up for this event you agree to the Terms & Conditions.

Polar Bear Challenge
Are you as awesome in a pair of running shoes as the Arctic Circle’s biggest predator? In 2014, we're introducing the Polar Bear Challenge, for the very fit (or the very brave!). Take on the challenge and run both Saturday’s half marathon and Sunday’s marathon! Finish both races within the time limits and receive the Polar Bear medal in addition to the half marathon and marathon medals.

Pre-registration to the Polar Bear Challenge is required to receive the Polar Bear medal.

Age limit
To participate in the marathon runners must be minimum 18 years of age on race day.
To participate in the half marathon runners must be minimum 16 years of age on race day.
To participate in the Polar Bear Challenge runners must be minimum 18 years of age on race day.

The best advice is to dress in layers for this run and use functional sweat transporting running clothes. The use of cotton clothing is NOT recommended.

Running clothes made for winter/freezing temperatures are usually sufficient, but do bring an extra windproof layer for both legs and body in case of strong winds.

A winter hat and gloves made for freezing temperatures are essential. A warm scarf will cover your throat and neck from the cold air. Gaiters will help your feet stay dry in case of snow on the route.

Don’t be afraid of overdressing! You can always drop layers at the water stations if you get too warm. Remember: it is easy to cool off if too warm, but hard to get warm if too cold!

If you plan to drop clothes at the water stations, please mark it with your name and/or start number. Clothing left at the water stations will be handed out in the finish area or later on during the evening. The organizers cannot be held responsible for any lost or damaged items left along the route.

Cut-off time
The cut-off time for half marathon is 4 hours.
The marathon cut-off time is 7 hours.
Runners still on the route after the cut off time will be swept up by a race official or medical car and driven back to the finish area.

All runners who complete their distance within the time limit will receive a medal. A small, symbolic award will be presented to the top three finishers in each race (marathon, half marathon and Polar Bear Challenge) in the male and female categories.

A light meal is available for runners at the finish line.

Runners still on the route after the cut off time will be swept up by a race official or medical car and driven back to the finish area.

Runners who wish to drop out of the marathon should go to the nearest drink station where sleeping bags will be available to keep you warm. Transport to the finish area will be arranged for all runners who drop out, but please notice that there will be a waiting time.

The medical team is ready in case of injury or severe exhaustion. A doctor will be placed on the ice cap as long as runners are on it. A doctor will be patrolling the route and a doctor will stand by in the finish area. If the medical team finds it necessary they can stop a runner and take him/her out of the race. Decisions on taking runners out of the race will only be done if the medical team believes there is a serious health risk in continuing.

Do not forget to drink water before and during the race. Running in the cold will not make you feel as thirsty as in warmer climates, but the route is still 42,195/21,097 kilometres long!

All decisions made by the medical team are final and not up for discussion.

Route markings
Kilometer signs will be set up along the entire route. Owing to the conditions, however, they may be placed a few meters from the precise kilometre mark, so use signs for orientation only and don’t calculate your pace on them. On the ice cap poles and flags will show the route to follow. Because of the danger of falling into a crevasse, it is strictly forbidden to leave the marked route on the inland ice.

The Polar Circle Marathon can be run in a pair of normal running shoes or trail running shoes. We recommend that runners bring a pair of running spikes/anti slip soles with carbon steel points that can be fitted to your running shoes - a definite plus when running on the ice cap. There are many different types of anti slip soles, but some of the most used at this race are: Petzl Spiky, Kahtoola Microspikes, and City Track Crampon. Ask your local running gear or outdoor sports shop for more details.

Start number
The start number must be placed on the front of the body during the entire run. Start number belts are included with the number and we recommend all runners to use the belt.

Marathon numbers are black, half marathon numbers red, and Polar Bear Challenge numbers ice blue.

Start times
The Polar Circle Half Marathon is scheduled to start at 10:00am on 25 October 2014.
The Polar Circle Marathon is scheduled to start at 9:00am on 26 October 2014.
Last minute change to the start times may occur!

Supplies on the route
There will be water supplies approximately every 5 kilometers. All drink stations serve tempered water and at selected stations you will also receive warm lemonade (elder flower flavour), and energy drink and bars.

You are allowed to bring personal supplies and extra clothes for the race. Personal supply stations will be situated at the 10, 21 and 30 km mark (10km mark only for the half marathon). Personal supplies must be delivered at the starting area clearly marked with the runner’s number.

Be aware that any special supplies (gels, bars, drinks etc.) that you may need during the race should be brought from home. While sports and running shops in Copenhagen will have a variety of foods and drinks for running you will not find such items in Greenland. Be aware that gels are likely to freeze…

There are no toilets along the route meaning you will find a toilet everywhere… Toilet paper is available at all water stations.

Remember that we run in wild and unspoiled nature and cups, empty bottles and other trash should be put in the litter bags at the water stations – please do not litter in nature!

You will be running on gravel and ice (and snow depending on weather conditions). Please be aware, that even when covered by a thick layer of snow, the ice can be very slippery.

Time-taking and Results
The races will be timed by Ultimate Sport Service using AMB timing chips. The AMB chip is attached to the ankle and will record each runners net finishing time. The chip will be re-collected at the finish line.

In the evening of each race a complete result list is expected to be ready. There are no age categories.

Weather conditions
The weather in Greenland is always unpredictable!

On average we expect the temperature to be minus 15-10 degrees Celsius when the marathon is started. As the sun rises the temperature will typically rise to minus 10-5 degrees Celsius. Snow may occur, but Kangerlussuaq is known for its stabile and relatively comfortable climate with little precipitation on an annual basis.

Once again we stress that the weather in Greenland is in a category of its own and unpredictable, so be prepared for even colder weather, strong winds and snow.

Please note that these are guideline maps and subject to change!

Route map - click to enlarge
Polar circle marathon route

Elevation profile - click to enlarge
Polar Circle Marathon elevation profile

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