26-year old Paul Robinson, a world-class athlete ran the toughest mile of his life on November 25th. He became the first runner to clock the fastest mile ever on the Union Glacier in Antarctica, where he completed his run in 4:17:9.
The idea was the brainchild of Richard Donovan, an Irish ultrarunner who organizes the Antarctic Ice Marathon every year. Robinson, who finished fourth in the European 1500 m final in 2014 Championships, was in the middle of his training when he was urged by Donovan. It was an offer too good to be turned down. He then traveled for three days from his home in Kilcock, Ireland before he touched down on the remote glacier.
“Though it’s still my ultimate goal to go to the Olympics, it’s good not to boxed into elite athletics,” Robinson said in an interview with Runner’s World. “The general public is always able to associate with a mile and no one has ever run a fast one down there. This was a great way to show how cool it is to run a four-minute mile.”
The distance for this race was measured four times using a GPS satellite before Robinson took up this challenge. The night before the race he had to hunker down in a thick sleeping bag and get some sleep despite the continuous daylight. Unlike the actual Antarctic Ice Marathon, Robinson’s mile was run in a straight line across a plateau between two mountains. “It was like a snow desert,” he said. “You can’t even see a mile in front. You’re literally just running into white.”
For his warm up, Robinson had to wear three pairs of running tights, several layers of clothing on his upper body, followed by a thick jacket to ward off the cold. But for the race, he had to strip down to a single pair of running tights, one body warmer, a vest, and single pair of socks inside his running spikes.
Though the snow wasn’t that deep, Robinson found it similar to running on sand. He describes how every stance felt like he was digging two-three inches into the snow- sapping him of any energy. When he did cross the finish, he felt like his lungs were on fire and were going to explode.
Robinson and Donovan both left the very next morning as they managed to get off the glacier on an early flight just in time before it an arriving blizzard. It took Robinson another three days to reach his hometown in Ireland. When asked if he would consider returning to Antarctica someday to take on the marathon? Robinson was quick to reply, “Nah. No chance.” Though he does think a race like this can be more than just a novelty for the sport and would make for great viewing, he is still chasing his Olympic dream.
Image Courtesy – Runner’s World