Outside my bedroom window are palm trees, white sand, and miles of ocean. No, this isn’t the North Pole; this is Florida, The Sunshine State. The sun is mighty and warm and blinding. Florida is my home for the next few days, a villa in Siesta Key with stunning views. The weather isn’t much different from Georgia right now – my actual home. But I do anticipate the return of seasonal temperatures on January 2nd when I return. Actual winter weather like snow. Oddly enough, The Weather Channel website is predicting snow on the seventh of January. Snow is a foreboding word in the South, but I simply marvel at these ice crystals quietly descending from the sky with a delightful elegance. In the words of Andy Goldsworthy, “Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.” Snow stirs wonder and curiosity and the desire to run.
Into the midst of my prospective winter wonderland is Brooks, maker of running shoes. The company recently sent the store a sign to promote the “North Pole Run Club.” This towering sign features Carl, a Yeti (Abominable Snowman) who “loves running ultra-marathons through epic mountain landscapes.” Carl seems friendly at first glance, but I find myself thinking about the menacing wampa in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Dragged to a cave after being attacked by the ferocious carnivore, Luke Skywalker managed to lift his lightsaber from the snow by way of the Force and free his suspended body. The wampa subsequently pounced again, but Skywalker sliced an arm off before retreating with great haste. I wonder if Carl knows of that wampa’s fate.
Other members of the North Pole Run Club include Virginia (a gingerbread cookie), Dash (a reindeer), Penelope (a penguin), and Colonel Walnuts (a nutcracker). The Brooks website has a running buddy quiz, and I wondered if Carl might be my buddy based on current running preferences (on the streets; a “bold and bouncy” style; durable running gear; runs in the morning; and my gender). Based on my responses, the honor goes to the Colonel. This nutcracker, direct from the Tchaikovsky ballet no doubt, “insists on high-visibility gear to keep his runs serious and safe.”
With winter unfolding, I wonder if Georgia will be on the receiving end of snow, snow like the North Pole. Unlikely, but I am intrigued with this frigid locale. According to a Live Science article, “The Geographic North Pole is the northernmost point on the planet, where earth’s axis intersects with its surface.” Migratory birds are part of this ecosystem, along with polar bears, ring seals, and fish. The article goes on to state that no country currently owns the North Pole, though Russia, Denmark, and Canada have “staked claims to the mountainous Lomonosov Ridge that runs under the pole.”
People know the most famous resident of the North Pole though. The man in red. St. Nick. Kris Kringle. Santa Claus. Incidentally, Santa has an actual mailing address, which is part of the “official network of Finland’s post office, Posti.” As a portly fellow, overweight perhaps, I’m inclined to think that Santa doesn’t run much at the North Pole, but I can still believe in this possibility. Furthermore, should he wish to drop a few pounds from all of the milk and cookies that he consumes on Christmas morning, Santa can take part in the North Pole Marathon.
A marathon in the North Pole? Indeed. Organized by Global Running Adventures (GRA), runners are treated to 26.2 miles of a course entirely “on” water, i.e. the Arctic Ocean. The GRA website outlines a few factoids of note concerning this frigid race too. First, the North Pole Marathon started on April 5, 2002; Richard Donovan, the current Race Director, completed the course alone. Second, 426 people have finished the race since inception. Finally, the records: 3:36:10 (2007) by Thomas Maguire and 4:52:45 (2014) by Anne-Marie Flammersfeld. And what would a race at the North Pole be without jarring temperatures? In 2003, Martin Tighe finished first with a temperature of -29 Celsius, and plenty of snow for good measure.
Though I’m up for it, I don’t anticipate being part of the North Pole Marathon field of competitors based on the steep price tag: € 16,000 (or $16,879, based on the current exchange rate). I suppose that a viable alternative would be to stay local, to look for races in Georgia or across the United States that mimic the frosty conditions of Santa’s frosty residence. A February 2015 article in USA Today lists the fifty coldest cities in the USA, and the top five aren’t surprising in the least: Fairbanks, Alaska; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; Williston, North Dakota; and Duluth, Minnesota. I can take part in some races in these states and start a real North Pole Run Club with like-minded cold aficionados. Brooks can be the footwear partner, and Carl can be the official mascot – unless Skywalker already got to him.