Andrew Morris had a half-mile to go in the muddy, hilly marathon he was running, and he was in the lead. The runner in second was a couple minutes back, but suddenly the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped so quickly, he had no choice but to stop and add an additional fleece layer.
Such is the challenge you face when running a marathon in Antarctica.
“I was freaking out a little bit, kept looking over my shoulder,” said Morris.
He prevailed, took home the first place in the 16th annual Antarctica Marathon, and then spent the next several days touring a continent very few humans get to visit.
He ran the race on March 10, taking three hours, 27 minutes and two seconds, and got back to his home in West Deptford, N.J. a few days ago.
“It was almost like being on a different planet, you’re looking around and nothing is familiar,” Morris said. “You could just sit on the boat and watch for hours, everything was beautiful.”
After his first marathon five years ago, Morris started thinking about running one on each continent as an excuse to see the world.
“I like traveling, but I didn’t really start traveling like this until I started running while I was doing it,” he said.
For this trip, he spent a couple of days in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then boarded a boat at the southern tip of South America for a two-day voyage to the frozen land.
He said about 130 people on two different boats made the journey. Once there, the marathon was one of the first activities; the rest of the time was spent hiking or sightseeing. The boat functioned as a hotel, and day excursions like hiking involved motoring a small Zodiac boat ashore.
“None of the animals have any real reason to fear humans so they’re coming right up to you,” said Morris. “We did our best to keep a distance; didn’t want to disturb anything.”
He said the temperature wasn’t terrible. It’s the beginning of the fall season there so the climate was in the 20s or low 30s most days — nothing different than Philadelphia experienced this past winter.
Still, he grew a pretty hefty beard and shoulder length hair just to safe and warm.
“It might have had more than a little to do with it,” said Morris. “That’s certainly been my excuse at work when they ask why I look like I’m homeless. I think I’m ready to get rid of it now that I’m done, people can stop calling me a hipster.”
He’s certainly heard his share of Forrest Gump references, and even the occasional Unabomber Ted Kaczynski joke.
Antarctica makes the fifth continent on which the 27-year-old has completed a marathon; only South America and Africa are left. Asked whether he’s got races on the last two continents planned, he’s quick to respond.
“Absolutely not,” said Morris. “I’m tired, I’m gonna go home and have a beer, sit down for a sec…no big travel plans yet.”