Midnight Sun Marathon and 84K
1st Weekend in July, Arctic Bay, Baffin Island, Canada.
Event no longer held due to the closing of the mine.
This is the northern most marathon in the world - 480 miles North of the Arctic circle at the end of Baffin Island, Arctic Bay (pop. 500), Nunavut Province, Canada. Bill Dickey does this adventure every year and sucked Shar Anderson and myself into doing it in 1997.
You probably have visions of deep ice and snow, igloo's, getting there by dog sled, but actually this land is too far North and cold for significant evaporation which results in very little snow fall. The sight you see is mostly barren rocks and hills with a few wild flowers that come out for a few weeks in late June and early July when the temperature gets a little above freezing and the sun never goes down - it just makes a big circle in the sky. Depending on cloud cover and ocean currents, the bay during race week can be frozen over or spotted with icebergs. It is amazingly quiet, remote and you do feel like you are running in another world. And, yes, polar bears have been sighted on the course but have not eaten any runner.... so far.
A zinc mine in Nanisivik (about 10 miles east of Arctic Bay on the graded road used by the race) promotes the race for recreation and to keep workers from being bored out of their minds - I don't know what they do in the winter when the sun never comes out. A 727 flys up twice a week rotating workers and supplies. The time I went they hauled 120 of us runners. I didn't see a runway when we were letting down and could not believe it when we touched down on the top of a relatively flat rock mesa in the middle of nowhere. They put you up in a dorm or vacant houses for the 5 days you are there. The food is fantastic and it is amazing how hungry you get due to your body converting calories to heat than normal - I ate 3 to 4 good sized meals a day and still lost 3 lbs. The temperature stayed at 34 degrees while we were there, but when the wind came up you had better have every part of your body covered against the chill. In fact those that ran without leg coverings had to stop due to hypothermia and jump into heated vans along the course.
They advertise it is the toughest marathon in the world, but I would say the course is similar to and no tougher than Catalina. The only difference is the cold which is easily handled with tights, hat with ear warmers, long sleeve and short sleeve shirt, gloves and nylon pull over. The Inuit (PC for Eskimo) people are very friendly and enjoy having us there. There are side trips and other things planned to keep you busy during your stay in the village. The only thing I miss is beer which is not allowed among the native population. We did have some by special exception at the post race banquet and award ceremony.
Cost varies each year depending on how much the mine sponsors the event. When I did it in 1997, it was about $1000 and included Air from Toronto, lodging, meals and race. 2005 is $2300.
I can recommend this trip to those who want a really different running experience and be able to say they did the northern most marathon in the world.
The location of this page is Foothillflyers.org
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