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'The beauty of Siberia took me by surprise'

Siberian man runs coldest marathon in the world in minus 38C

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13 January 2014


'My idea was to run this marathon on New Year's night, as the world was celebrating'. Picture: Boris Fyodorov 

The jeweller from Russian diamond capital Yakutsk completed his epic ice run from Oymyakon, the coldest settlement on the planet. 

As the rest of his native Sakha Republic were ringing in the New Year, he began running on the road towards Tomtor minutes after midnight on 1 January. 

His route then brought him back to Oymyakon where locals warmly greeted the solo runner who completed his 42.195 kilometres (26 miles, 385 yards) in 5 hours and 8 minutes. Before he set off, he received support from Chyskhaan - Lord of the Cold, preserver of the frost and ice here in Russia's own kingdom of cold.

'I really enjoyed the marathon,' Boris told The Siberian Times after returning home following his triumph. 'I do love running at extreme temperatures,  hot or cold, and I would love to organise a future marathon at even lower temperatures of -50C or -60C. 

'My idea was to run this marathon on New Year's night, as the world was celebrating. It worked fine - seconds after the clock struck midnight and the fireworks went off, I began running from the Pole of Cold, otherwise known as village of Oymyakon, towards the village of Tomtor. 

'I had about other marathons around the globe, naming themselves 'the coldest', like the most recent North Pole marathon with runners going at -28C.

'I thought surely this cannot be right. Our Oymyakon is the coldest inhabited place in northern hemisphere. Why don't we arrange a marathon here?'

Boris Fyodorov on the finish of marathon

'As the snow stopped, the air started to get colder and colder. From about third hour I was running at minus 38C, and it was quite hard. Boris pictured at 5 am on January, 1, 2014 as he finished the marathon. Picture: Boris Fyodorov

It's fair to say his friends and family did not overwhelm him with enthusiasm for his adventure.  

'Many people took my idea somewhat skeptically, but never mind, I decided to get into training and go ahead with it, even if I had to run on my own. So I was in training for two and a half months at -35C and -40C. But this winter we have unusually mild weather, about ten degrees warmer than it should be.'

It is perhaps only people from Sakha - also known as Yakutia - who would see minus 40C as warm!

'I came to Oymyakon several days ahead of the start and was lucky to catch a nice steady minus 45C. I did my last pre-marathon run at this temperature and felt great and ready to go. There were issues with getting the right kind of clothes. When you run in extreme heat there is a way to find  shade and stop. When you are running at minus 40C, sweating, there is a certain danger in stopping. 

'In Yakutia we have special mountain climbing equipment, but it is said to endure a maximum of minus 30C, and also it was not so comfortable for running. 

'So I had to spend a lot of time selecting and experimenting with varieties of trousers and coats to find the right one, as well as some good thermals to have underneath. I took both a face mask and and a balaclava  to see what would be the best to protect the face. The balaclava proved easily the best. 

'I fixed a head torch on it to make sure I saw the road in the darkness since the area is rather wild one - this is not where you find street lights. There were amazing people in Oymyakon who helped me, like the owner of the local guest house, Tamara Vasilyeva, and I am immensely grateful to her. 

'I didn't manage to hire proper cameras and attract more publicity beforehand, because I was too busy concentrating on essentials, like asking for an escort car and  people to watch me to record the time.

'This was quite a task given this is the only night of the year when people really don't want to leave their houses.'

Siberian man runs coldest marathon in the world in minus 38C

Siberian man runs coldest marathon in the world in minus 38C

'I thought, our Oymyakon is the coldest inhabited place in northern hemisphere, why don't we arrange a marathon here?'. Picture: Boris Fyodorov

For most Russians, New Year's night is like Western Christmas and New Year rolled into one: at midnight families exchange presents and then begin a feast in the early hours.

'But I was lucky, and managed to get a very supportive team of people in Oimyakon, and even my support car wasn't too late - they joined me on the third hour of the marathon,' said Boris. 'They had their Champagne at midnight at home, shared the meal with their families, put kids to bed and rushed to see how I was doing. The marathon began at minus 31C which was a pity. I really hoped for a steady minus 40C, or minus 45C, and in about 20 minutes it started snowing, which was a real hassle in terms of visibility and the running. 

'The road from Oymyakon to Tomtor is not the busiest in the world, specially in the middle of the night on 1 January - so it was really dark. 

'Luckily in about two hours, the snow stopped and the sky got clear, which was fantastic as I was running with my own light, the stars, and the flashes of car lights behind me at a distance. I knew there was a certain risk of encountering animals. Here, you can never rule out a meeting with a pack of wolves.

'But wolves do not usually attack healthy people, and tend to keep close by the reindeer herds, so the chances as I estimated them were minimal. Bears were even a smaller risk since they should be hibernating, so I was pretty confident of the risk being low. 

'Since I was running on my own, and was not 100% sure that I will get the car to follow me, had  done my route so that I ran 21+km one way, and then ran back. I got a picture of me at 21.97 km (his furthest point) on the way out, and another  as I reached the finish back in Oymyakon.

Siberian man runs coldest marathon in the world in minus 38C

Siberian man runs coldest marathon in the world in minus 38C

Half way through - and the finish. Boris Fyodorov pictured in the early hours of January, 1, 2014. Picture: Boris Fyodorov

'As the snow stopped, the air started to get colder and colder. From about third hour I was running at minus 38C, and it was quite hard. 

'My legs were hurting, and my body was quite tired. By the end of it, I was getting really cold. But I kept saying to myself, that must go all the way, I've got to finish, I must not give up. And there was the finish! 

'I was so happy and so proud for making it happen, I didn't even shout screams of joy, or something like this, I just wanted to get inside quick and make sure that I was all right. And yes, we did have several sips of champagne to celebrate. It tasted really good. 

'It was my first marathon, but I am sure it will not be the last one. This year I will spend more time building a bigger team and making sure the word about our marathon reaches everyone who would like to come and run here. I really want to organise next Oymyakon marathon in January when the air goes down to minus 50C or minus 60C. 

'I think to anyone who will take part it be a lifetime experience, and I'll make sure we welcome each and every runner from around the world to try THE coldest marathon!' 

Reports show that the North Pole marathon was run in minus 28C in 2013.

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