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Russian runners tackle marathon on frozen lake

In its 17th year of running, the Baikal Ice Marathon saw 70 athletes race in late February

Photo by: Twitter/AnsonMackay

Running in the winter can be tough on its own, but Russian runners have taken cold-weather racing to the next level with an event called the Baikal Ice Marathon. This race, which has been running for 17 years, is held on Lake Baikal in Siberia, and although COVID-19 has forced many events to cancel around the world in the past year, the founder of the Baikal Ice Marathon refused to let his run suffer that fate. 

CBC has a team based in Moscow, and they were able to make the trip to Siberia (which is more than 4,000 kilometres across the country) to see the race in person on February 28. The race featured 70 participants, all of whom had to navigate the lake’s bare and slippery surface, hike through snow and endure Siberia’s bitter cold. 

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Lake Baikal is a famous body of water, and not just because Russian runners choose to race a marathon on it every winter. It is a whopping 1,600m deep, which makes it the deepest lake in the world, and it contains more water than all five of the Great Lakes combined. Since it’s such a massive lake, it’s the ideal place for someone looking to run a marathon on ice. 

The route, CBC reports, is designed so runners only have to run on the lake’s surface, but heavy winds covered a lot of the course in snow. This resulted in knee-deep snow for the last 10K of the race, as if the final quarter of a marathon needed to be any harder. A former professional Russian soccer player won this year’s edition of the race, crossing the line in 3:25. 

This event is similar to a solo run that a Quebec resident named Karim El Hayani recently completed. Running on Lake Beauport near Quebec City, Hayani ran 21.1K. Running on ice for that long is impressive, but to make it even more noteworthy, Hayani did it barefoot, setting the world record for the fastest barefoot half-marathon on snow or ice with his final time of 1:36 (although his time was beaten shortly after, and the record now stands at 1:12:38).