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84-year-old Canadian becomes oldest Antarctic marathoner

Records were also set for the event itself, and for the oldest woman to complete a marathon on Antarctica

It took 11 hours, 41 minutes and 58 seconds, but Roy Svenningsen of Edmonton, at 84, became the oldest person ever to complete a marathon in Antarctica when he crossed the finish line of the Antarctic Ice Marathon on Friday. (Results unofficial.) Race director Richard Donovan praised Roy’s accomplishment and said “It’s a fantastic achievement and one to inspire generations of athletes.”

Svenningsen, a retired oil executive, has run more than 50 marathons on five continents. His first was the Calgary marathon, back in 1964, and he posted his fastest time (an impressive 2:38) in Helsinki, Finland.

“The most difficult aspect of this marathon was the fact that I was unable to keep up with the crowd,” Svenningsen told us by email. “This became obvious long before the 20K mark, but… I began to feel even weaker and at that time decided to take my time to be sure I would accomplish my goal. The doctor on duty suggested that I sit down and have a bowl of soup, which I did. My energy level was great for another two or three kilometres, but faded quickly after that and I really had to struggle to finish the race.”

Svenningsen has now raced on every continent except South America and Australia. “I hope to have these two races within the next two years,” he says.

The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the southernmost marathon in the world. It takes place at 80 degrees south latitude, at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, only a few hundred miles from the South Pole. It is one of two official running events that take place inside the Antarctic Circle on mainland Antarctica. (The other is the Antarctica International Marathon, which kicks off the World Marathon Challenge, in February.) Runners face very challenging conditions, with temperatures as low as -20 C.

In the same race this weekend, Susan Ragon of Cambridge, Mass. became the oldest woman to finish a marathon in Antarctica, at 69. Her time was 7:38:32. Ragon, who came to marathon running relatively late in life, has run the Boston Marathon 20 times, and set her personal best of 3:52 there in 2008, at age 58.

The race was won by William Hafferty of Boston, who set an event record in 3:34:12, and Lenka Frycova of the Czech Republic in 4:40:38.

Forty-one men and 15 women finished this year’s edition of the race, which flies competitors to the course on a private plane from Punta Arenas, Chile, and back again.


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