Trevor Rackley took on the daunting task of running a marathon in sub zero temperatures and across a frozen lake, here is his account of the Baikal Ice Marathon 2012.
After a long day of travelling from London I finally get to Listvyanka in Siberia. This has included 2 flights, a nine hour time difference from the UK, and a 4 hour stopover in Moscow airport, so if you think about doing this marathon then be prepared for a significant amount of travelling.
However when you arrive at your hotel, which is opposite Lake Baikal, it all becomes worthwhile, as you look out across the lake, you are suddenly struck with the enormity of the run ahead of you. This is no ordinary marathon, you will be combating the elements, running on ice and snow and also running across the lake, where you can see no end.
Lake Baikal is one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes, it accounts for 20% of the World’s fresh water supplies and 90% of Russia’s drinking water. It stretches north to south 395 miles (636 kilometres) and its widest part in 50 miles (80 kilometres) and at its deepest, is 1 mile deep (1637 kilometres)
So as I was standing there on the edge I had an overwhelming feeling of dread, in the fact as much as it is beautiful, thinking I will be running across this lake.
Race day morning, the course has been checked to make sure it is safe and that no cracks have suddenly appeared (reassuring that they check on race day), 80 people compete in the marathon, with another 50 in the half marathon, we are herded out of the warmth of the hotel lobby at 9.30am, where we are invited to partake in a local ritual of offering milk to the 4 corners of the lake to pacify the ice gods (occasionally this has been Vodka).
A track has been created through the ice and snow, the route has been marked with red flags, so unless you come off the track, then you are not going to get lost…. It is a beautiful sunny day, -7, clear blue sky and no wind (how lucky), you could get lost in your thoughts of how beautiful is this, then suddenly you are off running, watching every step. After a mile or so the field starts to spread out and you are soon running alone, this can play games on you mind as the landscape does not change, you see the feed station as a dot on the horizon which gradually gets closer, here you are greeted by 2 Russian Marshal’s, who smile, offer you a warm drink and talk to you in Russian, they may be laughing at you (thinking you crazy fool), but are extremely friendly, considering they have to wait out in the cold for the next runner to turn up. They then send you on your way.
Reaching the halfway is always a great feeling as then the mileage is counting down and you are nearing the finish with every step, the 2nd half seems even more bleak with less people around, some very indifferent surfaces to run on, although now the mountains are seemingly getting larger (admittedly very slowly), but they are……
Finally you can see the finish line, although that is still several miles out, but it’s there and getting closer, you try to push on, but there’s not a lot left in the tank, you drive on and eventually to get to the finish line and overwhelming feeling of relief and satisfaction spreads across your body and you collapse into the warmth of the tent to try and recover before being transported back to the start and to your hotel.
To sum this race up, it’s got to be one of the most inspiring and toughest races in the world. Where else do you get the opportunity to run across Lake Baikal, in sub-zero temperatures
Would I go back? YES
If you want an extreme challenge that will be different every year then enter this race It is organised extremelly well and the marshals are very friendly with feed stations located frequently. For tips on how to recover after a marathon like this or any marathon for that matter then check out this article. Alternatively, if the cold really isn't your thing then check out how Jane Trumper became the first woman to ever run accross the Australian Desert.