By Chloe Zou: I still remember the first time when I saw a picture of a vast Greenland Ice Sheet with endless snow. I was actually looking to sign up for ‘The Great Wall Marathon’, but I was so curious to find out where this place was. It was Kangerlussuaq in Greenland!

This non-traditional Polar Circle Marathon is a running event in its own category: it is within the polar circle where the temperature is below 20 degrees Celsius. Who could give up a chance to run on the ice cap and pass by glaciers?

I had to do this!

This non-traditional Polar Circle Marathon is a running event in its own category: it is within the polar circle where the temperature is below 20 degrees Celsius.

“Are you nuts?!” They asked. The only support I got was from my Swedish colleague who showed me the proper gear to run on ice and snow: shoes with spikes!

Getting prepped for the Marathon

Like the girls who worry about a Jimmy Choo sale ending soon, I registered immediately (only around 100 spots in total are reserved for people all over the world every year).

But could a regular Chinese girl from Shanghai do this? My friends didn’t think so.

“Are you nuts?!” They asked. The only support I got was from my Swedish colleague who showed me the proper gear to run on ice and snow: shoes with spikes!

You don’t go to a party undressed. Instead of choosing the perfect dress, I did running, muscle and endurance training (I couldn’t find a place to do a test run in Shanghai with ice and snow, so instead I ran the local mountain to get used to uphill and downhill). After 5 months, I was as mentally and physically ready as I could (hope to) be.

Kangerlussuaq home base

Kangerlussuaq (pronounced as “ganger’slu-suark”) is a small town located in the northwest of Greenland with around 500 residents. Most people living there service the country’s main airport, but the settlement has everything from a church, school, museum, congress center, post office and a supermarket. All within walking distance of each other and surrounded by nothing else but wilderness.

Normally when I run, I will put on music. This time I purposely didn’t, so that I could remember every moment of this hard but once-in-your-life experience.

Race day

On the race day, it was as cold as one could expect when the start line is located at the ice cap. After everyone gathered at the line, a Greenlander dressed in furs fired the gun and we all climbed towards the ice cap!

Normally when I run, I will put on music. This time I purposely didn’t, so that I could remember every moment of this hard but once-in-your-life experience.

I remember these things: The heavily padded snow on the ice was thick, making it difficult to run. The whiteness of the snow on the ice cap almost blinded my eyes. I gasped for air, feeling short of breath in the cold climate, and my throat felt as dry as paper.  It was dreadfully difficult to drag my feet, heavily laden with those metal spikes.

An international race

Luckily, we ran as a team, and people of all races encouraged each other along. I ran the latter end of the marathon with my new Italian friend Luigi, who helped me when I thought I could run no more. We pushed each other to the finish line.

If you do it, don’t expect a huge crowd to cheer you on like at every other marathon. Here you will pretty much run by yourself with only amazing nature as your witness. The first onlookers I saw in 5 hours 40 minutes were the locals who gathered near the finish line to encourage us the last few legs!

That night we had a big celebration party. Everybody was happy and everyone was a winner! And after the party, we all stood outside and saw the dancing northern lights. I enjoyed my time in Greenland, and loved that I met new friends connected by the coolest marathon on Earth!

  • The marathon begins on the ice cap and passes the Russell Glacier.
  • Every 5 kilometres, an energy stop serving hot elderflower tea is served.
  • You will end the race at the settlement of Kangerlussuaq

Chloe’s Tips

Tip 1: If possible, do choose the window seat on flight to Greenland for the best view!

Tip 2: Dress warm, dress in preferably dry-fit layers. Bring a beanie, gloves and waterproof shoes or boots with grip.

Tip 3: For people who loves northern lights and photography, the sunrise  in November is as late as 9am and sunset is as early as 4pm. Bring a tripod!