Showing tomorrow (Thursday) night at 8pm on Al Jazeera English is the fine looking running documentary, Why We Run. The film finds journalist Andy Richardson charting the growth and science of running over time, before preparing to run his maiden 42.2km event – at the Antarctic Ice Marathon.
We spoke to Andy about the inspiration for Why We Run, the worldwide running community and his essential tips for embarking on an endurance challenge…
220: What was the inspiration behind Why We Run?
Richardson: I work as a sports journalist, a job that has taken me on trips all over the world, but few could match the one I ended up on in 2008. We went to the Arctic to film the North Pole Marathon. It was an experience that inspired me to think this was o the sort of thing I’d want to do as opposed to standing around in a warm coat asking silly questions! Five years later I got fit enough to sign up for the Antarctic ice marathon.
What were your most memorable experiences of meeting the worldwide communities? How did their outlook on running differ?
Going to Iten in Kenya was a huge eye opener. In a country of running champions, Iten is the unofficial capital. Everyone, it seems, is a runner – people introduce themselves not with names but their best marathon times! The focus is on elite achievement and most see running as a means of escaping poverty. I met a young runner called Edwin after a training session. He said like many of his fellow runners he barely had enough money to buy food or water but that he had to keep on running as that was his one chance to escape his circumstances.
Talk us though your Antarctic adventures.
Highly recommended! The Antarctic Triathlon was 10km x of running, cycling and cross-country skiing. You fly into the camp on union glacier and land on an ice runway, which is an experience in itself. The Antarctic Marathon course is relatively flat but the cold is an obvious factor (-20c on average) but it was the underfoot conditions that I found hugely draining. The beauty of the setting was motivation enough to keep going and get the race done.
What are your three essential pieces of advice for triathletes wanting to do an endurance challenge in the Antarctic?
1. Keep your gloves on! It sounds obvious but can be tempting to rip them off when you start sweating. A runner from Brazil decided to take his gloves off for 15mins or so and got serious frostbite as a consequence.
2. Be flexible. Antarctic weather is hard to predict so the flights to and from Chile are impossible to second guess. Our return from union glacier was delayed for a week while we awaited a weather window that’d allow a plane in to come and get us. All this added to the experience but it’s something you need to factor in.
3. Do it! Don’t be intimidated by the Antarctic’s fierce reputation. If you have the right gear you will be fine. The triathlon was held alongside the marathon and it will be even bigger next year.