The Spitsbergen Marathon is probably the only marathon in the world
where outrunning a polar bear is more important than outrunning your opponents.
Every year, in the first week of June, around 200 adventurous athletes
from around the world flock to the arctic archipelago Svalbard to participate in the exotic Spitsbergen Marathon.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of one of the world’s most extraordinary experiences in competitive running.
“We have had participants from 22 coutries. Many of them travel the world to compete in marathons, while gathering stamps for their passports.
They are a different kind of breed, and the Spitsbergen Marathon is an important part of the journey for them,” Competitive running
says Helle M. Jakobsen, organiser at Svalbard Turn.
Starting and ending in Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost town, Competitive running
the course sends the participants through a harsh but beautiful arctic landscape.
Despite the incomparable nature of the marathon itself,
one aspect that stands out for most is undoubtedly the legitimate risk of running into a polar bear along the course.
“That is something you definitely will not get anywhere else, and in itself a reason to participate for many of our runners,” says Jakobsen.
She points out that while some of the runners are more worried than others,
there has not yet been an incident where polar bears have wandered onto the course.
But the organisers take no risks. “We have polar bear guards on ATVs,
armed with rifles, spread out along the course,” Jakobsen asserts.
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