Race report of the Antarctica Marathon 2017 by Luan Ke Huynh

For those that remember Luan from Denmark, he has kindly sent us a great race report on his marathon of a lifetime, that being the Antarctica Marathon that he ran in March of this year. Luan trained with Arena for the Spring/Summer of 2016 before he had to return to Denmark. A talented runner who had gained much respect from his peers during his time with us and was a great asset to the Arena team. This is an amazing read and we thank Luan for taking the time to share his story with us.

Antarctica marathon 2017
Dear members of Arena 80,
Thank you for taking the time to read my race report about my Antarctica trip. The landscape and wild life were amazing and I highly recommend it. For me it was definitely worth the money and the 4 years in the waiting. The total price was about £7500 (flight tickets from/to Europe, package deal: 2-3 nights in Buenos Aires, flight to/from Ushuaia and 10-11 days cruise), race number, kayaking and tips. But you can easily go cheaper with other companies and just do the cruise.

The physical and mental Preparation:
After my return to Denmark in November/December I have been focusing a lot on adding the long runs into my training. I was happy to see my running groups again and there was a lot of catching up to do. As my long runs started making progress, I began wondering if it was realistic to actually win the marathon. I tried not to set my expectations too high and just stayed focus on my 3:30 finish time, due to several warnings of unpredictable weather conditions. Because of that I bought thick winter tights, full face mask, waterproof socks and some “spikes” for my shoes. I didn’t tell my running mates back home, that I was thinking about winning but some of them could already tell that I was going for it and actually “expected” me to win. Even the chef on the ship told me the day before the marathon, that he is putting his money on me and a couple told me after the marathon that they already talked about me winning the race so no pressure then.

The trip itself:
The group met at a posh hotel in Buenos Aires and I was quite surprised, that were so many Americans. At the briefing I scanned the crowd looking for fast runners but we all know that these kinds of things are hard to tell. I quickly came across an American with a sub 2.40 PB. He was also running his last continent marathon. He told me that he had been injured recently and that he wasn’t used to the cold, because he lives in Florida and runs only on road. but I wasn’t sure if he was just playing mind games, but then who hasn’t made up an argument for not running a good race? Guess we all play mind game one way or another and I know I do. The thing was it worked, as I couldn’t see myself winning the race anymore. A PB on 2.40 and my PB (3:03) is a huge gap and I changed my mind-set to just completing the marathon instead, which was my original plan from the very first beginning.

The first two days on the ship were horrible. Basically everybody got sea sick and the crew even told us, that we were lucky with the weather. I wonder how it would be, if it was normal or bad weather. Many of us slept most of the days as there were no reason to be walking around anyway feeling sick. At that time I couldn’t believe that I had actually paid so much money for getting sea sick and even worse and I was afraid of how it would affect my race.

On the marathon morning I was tense as usual. The morning routines went well, as we got into the zodiacs transporting us to the King George Island for the race.  The weather was good – 0 Celsius +/- the wind chill = -10 Celsius. The organisers told me not to wear my spikes, as they would only slow me down. Also I decided to wear my normal long socks, instead of the water proofs one I had bought, due to the good weather plus my thick winter tights, 3 layers, a full mask, buff plus an extra hat. The course itself was 6 laps off-road in a hilly, muddy and rocky terrain. I started out at the back of the group but ended up at the front during the first mile as  I decided to ignore my planned 3:30 finish time pace. I guess I feared losing sight of the frontrunners, which was quite absurd, as we were running in laps and unconsciously, I took the chance to follow the American with the sub 2.40 PB even though I knew it was unrealistic to keep that kind of pace the entire way. We kept a solid and consist 3.09 finish time pace up until mile 15. He started to slow down while I kept the same pace up until mile 20. The worse part of the course was the rocky terrain. I twisted my ankle 3 times (luckily I’ve got strong ankles) and because I wasn’t wearing trail shoes, the rocks went through my lightweight shoes several times hurting my toes. My thighs and calf muscles were starting to get into cramp mode simultaneously and it was only a matter of time before I had to go into walk/run pace. Every time we crossed a U-turn, I started to count seconds, until I passed the guy in 2nd place this gave me an idea how far ahead I was. After a couple of times, I quickly lost count and the outcome due to fatigue and every time I got on top of a hill, I looked back to spot the guy in 2nd place. I began seeing two black big rings in my vision and I told myself that it just wasn’t worth it (I had an eye surgery in my twenties). I would now accept If the guy in 2nd place passed me then so be it as coming first was simply not worth it anymore. During half way of lap 6 I realised I still had a chance to win, as I hadn’t been passed yet. The feeling of disappointment of being passed hit me and I knew that I would be so gutted if I didn’t win this one, so I just had to win this. When I got to the last ½ mile, I knew I was the winner and asked, quite impolitely, for a chair as I really needed to sit down. Besides the fact that my legs were numb, I was desperate for something to eat. I just couldn’t focus on anything, taking my running shoes off and putting on my clothes and the boots for the zodiac took forever. A crew member and a half marathon finisher (who happened to live close to Brighton by the way) had to help me, I have never felt so helpless in my entire life.

Clearly a different class of spectator compared to that of Brighton.

The days after the race:
Even though I’m very happy winning the Antarctica Marathon, I’m equally as happy, if not happier with my projected finish time. For me this is actually the first time I have run a marathon faster than expected. Going from overcoming injuries, to get back in to shape, when I lived in Brighton, to even completing 26.2 miles, to chase parkrun and 10 PBs and to actually win the Antarctica Marathon, is more than I could ever ask for. It’s also a matter of luck, such as your fellow runner’s levels on race day. But luck is an invisible thing, you only get it if you chase it. Nevertheless I was there and I won. The day after I arrived in Aalborg I went to the track for a quick hello. They were very surprised to see me already and likewise most people on Facebook; hadn’t realised that the marathon was on March 11th. I celebrated the entire week with beautiful landscapes and wildlife but for them it just happened yesterday (no Wi-Fi on the ship). My marathon victory buzz is all coming back to me now from the attention via the social media and my surroundings. My coach and running mates were very proud and happy that we finally have a marathon winner in our group. A Danish run blogger (named as the best Danish runner blog 2016) wrote a short article about my trip. One of Denmark’s most popular, if not the most popular running gear web shop offered me to be one of their brand ambassadors and the local newspaper is writing 2,5 pages about me in their “Life style/travel” section. They even put me on the front page. One thing I’ll remember mostly from this trip is the conscious selfish commitments I put into it throughout the years such as how I want to do it, where I want to go and when I want to go etc. First of all, I knew that I wanted to do this on my own, because I couldn’t bear the thought of not being present with my loved ones when I’m out training, out travelling in sudden periods and out spending all my savings on flight tickets and tourist activities etc. And because of that I’m very fascinated by the parents of young children whom I met along the trip, who went on their own and did their thing. For me, it was very inspirational because I’m not simply in that stage of my life and they showed me, that it’s emotionally possible to do what they did.

If any of you have questions or whatsoever, my email is lyngster@hotmail.com. I’m also available on Facebook.

To put things in a better perspective I have attached the article of me in a PDF for you to google translate if interested. Also I listed some links from the trip:

Full M results: http://files.marathontours.com/file/2017-Antarctica-Marathon-Results-20E5.pdf

Half M results: http://files.marathontours.com/file/2017-Antarctica-Half-Marathon-Results-600F.pdf

Media files from the others runner:                                                                                               
Videos:                                                                                                                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DJdd4GpKN4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=iKOJvmB6kyU&app=desktop https://www.facebook.com/carolyn.newkirk/videos/10155076193415270/ https://www.facebook.com/brannon.c.smith/videos/10105414179577583/

Radio:                                     http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/201837917/woman’s-antarctic-marathon http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/le_reveil_nouveau-brunswick/2015-2016/chronique.asp?idChronique=432230 (Canadian French – go to 8:40) – works only in Internet Explorer

Articles/blogs:                                                                 http://www.acadienouvelle.com/sports/2017/03/20/marathon-sept-continents-suzanne-savoie/ (Canadian French)                                                                                                         http://thegreatnessofrunning.dk/?p=3784 (Danish)
http://www.lakeforestleader.com/lake-forest-resident-runs-marathon-antarctica                 http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/89385176/Antarctica-last-continent-on-the-list-for-50-year-old-marathon-runner (in fact she is from the UK and lived close to Brighton)         https://staplesrodway.co.nz/news/good-governance-skills/ (in fact she is from the UK and lived close to Brighton)                                                                             
http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/91012109/kiwi-runner-ticks-off-antarctica-marathon-to-claim-rare-medal (in fact she is from the UK and lived close to Brighton)  

If you have a race report that you would like to feature on the Arena website and let the other members know it went then we would love to hear about it.
Send it to marc.bonaldi@googlemail.com.