The Polar Bear Challenge combines both the Polar Circle Marathon and Half Marathon, run on consecutive days.
The events take place on uneven gravel road and ice.
They start about 4km from the ice sheet and follows the gravel road onto the ice cap.
Coming back up from the ice and passing the starting point you have approximately 32km left to the finish line in Kangerlussuaq to complete the Marathon. It must be noted that although the road is gravel, it is likely to be covered in a layer of snow.
With endless ice and snow as your backdrop, your 42.2 kilometres will never seem so short especially when passing glacier tongues, moraine landscapes and echoes of the arctic desert.. If you are lucky you may also see reindeer and musk oxen grazing along the route. The terrain is hilly all the way with the steepest ascents being the climb coming off the ice sheet and the approximately 75m-high climb 5km before the finish line. From the ice sheet to the finish line, however, the route has an overall descent of approximately 500m.
The marathon finish line is located in front of Polar Lodge in the northern part of Kangerlussuaq.
The half marathon finish line is located at Long Lake, just before Sanddrift Valley.
The entry fee for the Polar Circle Polar Bear Challenge is included in the cost of your package.
There are no qualifying times required for the Polar Bear Challenge
Please note, however, that to participate in the Polar Bear Challenge, runners must be minimum 18 years of age on race day.
The Polar Circle Marathon and Half Marathon are both scheduled to start at 8:30am
There is a 7 hour cut-off for the Marathon and a 4 hour cut-off for the Half Marathon
Runners still on the route after the cut-off times will be picked up by a race official or medical car and driven back to the finish area.
The races will be timed by Ultimate Sport Service using BIB-chip.
The BIB-chip is attached on the back of the bib number and will record each runners net finishing time.
All international participants will receive their race bags at the airport in Copenhagen before we depart to Greenland. Your bag will contain your race t-shirt, start bibs, and race belt, as well as information on the route, schedule, and itinerary.
There are no official pace setters for this event.
There will be water supplies approximately every 5 kilometres.
All drink stations serve water (warm) and at selected stations you will also receive warm elder flower cordial.
There are no toilets along the route – meaning you will find a toilet … toilet paper is available at all water stations.
Remember that we run in wild and unspoiled nature and cups, empty bottles and other rubbish should be put in the litter bags at the water stations – please do not litter!
Personal Refreshments and Clothing
You can bring personal supplies and extra clothes for the race. Personal supply stations will be situated at the 10km, 21km and 30km mark for the Marathon and at the 10km in the Half Marathon
Personal supplies must be delivered at the starting area clearly marked with the runner’s bib number and name.
Be aware that any special supplies (gels, bars, drinks etc.) that you may need during the race should be brought from home.
While sports and running shops in Copenhagen will have a variety of foods and drinks for running you will not find such items in Greenland. Be aware that gels are likely to freeze…
Please note: Shoe spikes are mandatory for running on the ice.
In terms of clothing, there are no specific requirements, but the medical team and race officials do have the right to stop and take out a runner who is not dressed properly for the weather. We strongly advise that all participants follow the below recommendations and make sure it’s possible to cover all skin. The items we emphasize the most are: shoe spikes (mandatory), all-around wind protection, and no cotton!
Transport is included in the price of the package for all competitors on race day.
There will not be an expo.
Finishers T-shirts, Medals and Certificates
All runners who complete their distance within the time limit will receive a medal and finishers t-shirt.
A small, symbolic award will be presented to the top three finishers in each race (marathon, half marathon and Polar Bear Challenge) in the male and female categories.
Finisher photos and other race images will be available after the race. Some race images will also be available in the gallery.
A finisher’s certificate will be available for free download after the event.
The weather in Greenland is always unpredictable!
On average we expect the temperature to be minus 15-10 degrees Celsius when the marathon is started. As the sun rises the temperature will typically rise to minus 10-5 degrees Celsius.
Snow may occur, but Kangerlussuaq is known for its stable and relatively comfortable climate with little precipitation.
Once again we stress that the weather in Greenland is unpredictable, so be prepared for even colder weather, strong winds and snow.
Polar Circle Marathon – Rachael MasonTHE COOLEST MARATHON ON EARTH When we triumphed with our half marathon adventure at the Great Wall Half Marathon, we thought nothing could compare, or be as hard as that run. What could ...
THE COOLEST MARATHON ON EARTH
When we triumphed with our half marathon adventure at the Great Wall Half Marathon, we thought nothing could compare, or be as hard as that run. What could possible beat that? Well, Greenland, and The Polar Circle Marathon.
It was only as our Air Greenland flight approached Kangerlussuaq that we took a proper pause, looked at each other, and almost simultaneously said “what have we done”. We could see glaciers, the Ice Cap, vast white snow and precious little else. As born and bred Kiwis (Aucklanders to boot!), we had no real comprehension of what the cold in Greenland was actually like. We were about to find out, and we were scared. Hint: it’s not at all like our experience of Queenstown. Not even close. As we landed, the pilot’s usual briefing came over the PA: Welcome to Kangerlussuaq, currently slightly cloudy and -7 degrees.
Jeff Meltzer, Karen Mason and I completed and survived a half marathon race on October 22, 2011 known as “The Coolest Marathon on Earth”. It is run in the Arctic Circle on the edge of the ice sheet where enormous tongues of ice dominate the landscape. The race passes over endless snow and ice, over glacier tongues, frozen lakes, and the soundless arctic desert where musk oxen and reindeer live on the barren slopes. Part of the race takes place on the Ice Cap itself, but the main part of the course is run on the road that connects the inland ice with the small town of Kangerlussuaq, just north of the Polar Circle and three hours from the North Pole. Just 500 people (Inuit Indians) live in this airport town.
The day before the race we headed off to survey the course, and in particular, the Ice Cap so we could familiarise ourselves with this difficult and most challenging part of the run. The day was gloriously sunny, blue skies and a mild -8 degrees, with soft snow underfoot. We were shown the course flags and advised (several times) to keep to the right side of the flags “because you may fall into a crevasse if you venture to the left”. The warning registered cold fear and yet again we were given to “what have we done”! We were told that snow mobiles would go through on the morning of the run to hard pack the snow. It was a great opportunity to get an understanding of the clothing and footwear we would need for the run the next day. We were also told that this run is considered to be extreme, given the hilly terrain, underfoot surfaces and fluctuating temperatures, and to monitor our water intake as Greenland has very little moisture in the air. As a result, it could take 50% longer to run the course.
Race day dawned to reveal huge snow dumps overnight, no sun, no blue sky and a bracing temperature of -15 degrees. Not one thing similar to the preparation day! More thought was given to our clothing (because no, Queenstown never did get to -15), and we thank the brilliant Kiwi inventors of Icebreaker. We layered up with two of everything – tops, pants, socks and gloves, topped off with a woollen beanie, scarf and a windbreaker. We also put warming cream on our feet as we had experienced “ice rocks for toes” the day before.
There really are no words to describe the intense cold we experienced when we set off on the run at -15 degrees. But this was nothing compared to what awaited us on the Ice Cap. To get there, we traversed a ravine and were hit with a freezing polar blast that literally knocked me off my feet. We were knee deep in loose snow (too deep for snowmobiles!) with swirling snow flung at us from every direction. By the time we reached the Ice Cap it was -30 degrees, and mind numbing.
At the same time our sunglasses were icing over and had to be scraped clear. Of course there was the constant thought – keep to the right of the flags or disappear into oblivion! Sounds like a nightmare, or something from I Shouldn’t Be Alive?
It was, but at the same time the sight of the Ice Cap was absolutely beautiful and awe inspiring. Just the knowledge we were doing this incredible thing in Greenland was enough to keep us motivated. Once off the Ice Cap, into the protected hills (balmy at -15) was the mightily welcome van with hot drinks – almost impossible to drink with frozen lips! Our water bottles had frozen up, as had our energy gels, all no use whatsoever. Our finger tips were numb, I had frost bite on my cheek bones, but overall we were in pretty good shape to finish the last 15kms. We stopped periodically to just take in the magnificent scenery and deafening silence and to watch the chunky reindeer and musk oxen. I think we possibly had a grin under that frozen scarf for the entire run which we describe as “horrifically awesome”.
The 2011 run was the coldest in the event’s 10 year history, as well as the most extreme of conditions. With only 80 participants allowed each year, we count ourselves as the luckiest, craziest and hardiest of adventurers!
This is quite probably the hardest, most amazing thing we have ever done or are likely to do again. As we say, there is nothing like a bit of adventure before dementia, and who knows, maybe we will be tempted again, but probably not until this experience fades a bit.
Polar Circle Polar Bear Challenge – Cherie HughesThe Polar Circle Polar Bear Challenge (1/2 & full marathon) in Greenland was the most difficult and challenging adventure runs I have ever undertaken. While scrolling through various ½ ...
The Polar Circle Polar Bear Challenge (1/2 & full marathon) in Greenland was the most difficult and challenging adventure runs I have ever undertaken. While scrolling through various ½ marathon travelling tours on the Travelling Fit website I came across trip information on the Polar Circle ½ Marathon. At the time (while living in sunny Cooktown, Far North Queensland) I thought this would be great fun, a real adventure. Little did I know!!!
I did my usual training preparation for a ½ marathon. While certainly not a top runner (in fact very average) I have always completed the ½ marathons I have entered in the past. Therefore, I had a confident attitude towards my training. I had yet to compete in a full marathon and I had no intention of entering one, however Greenland changed everything.
The big question for me at the time was (and I know it sounds girly) “what do I wear?” This question became vital! Gaiters, water proof woollen socks, snow glasses and heavy duty gloves are essential.
In Oct 2014 I packed up my running gear and began my very long journey (with many stop-overs) to Greenland. Stepping off the plane the -11c temperature was stingingly cold (although if you listened to the locals at the time, they would have told you it was warm, darn right tropical even!) It hurt to breath and any exposed skin was instantly painfully cold. Upon arrival in Greenland the 170 or so runners were divided up into groups. I was part of the Old Camp group. This international group of people were/are amazing, supportive and inspirational. I was so humbled and pleased to be a part of this team.
On the day after we arrived the Old Camp team had the opportunity to inspect the race route. We travelled in a nice warm bus along the route to the start. The ice cap, which was the first 6ks of both races. We were all like excited kids allowed out to play in the snow. I had a great time as we trudged through the snow, slipping and sliding on the ice. It was a lovely day.
The day of the ½ marathon dawned with the participants from Old Camp already up and eagerly pacing, ready to get started! The bus to take us to the start line arrived and we all piled in. A couple of navy seals bought loud speakers along and we all sang classic rock. Nothing like a little Queen (we will rock you) to help motivate!
As we get closer to the start line it becomes apparent that there was a heavy fall of snow overnight. It was almost a complete whiteout.
As the race participants of the ½ marathon climbed out of the bus and crowded together at the start line it began to snow in earnest. I was beginning to wish I had a pair of snow googles instead of sunglasses. As we all began to run the extra snow on the ground and the falling snow combined affected my depth perception, I felt off balance. Running through knee deep snow, slipping and sliding on the ice cap was no longer fun.
It was the hardest and longest 6k start I have ever undertaken in a ½ marathon. The cold air (-15c) hurt as my throat as I tried to regulate my breathing. The falling snow felt like needles spearing into my eyes. Once off the ice cap I tried to make up for lost time, however the “road” was an icy snow covered dirt and rocky track. I found that I could not run at my normal pace due to the icy and uneven path.
I finally crossed the finish line for the ½ marathon (sadly well below my personal best time). I had never been so physically and mentally exhausted. I struggled to breathe and I was cold to my bones.
However, after a very hot shower I was speaking with my fellow Old Camp mates who had done the most amazing and inspirational runs all around the world and their enthusiasm was contagious. I thought to myself “why not do the full marathon the next day as well?” So I signed up for my first ever full marathon. I honestly never expected to even finish, but it I did (I was the last female to finish the full marathon). However I was also the first Australian female to complete both races.
The full marathon seemed to be (dare I say) easier than the day before. The weather conditions seemed more tolerable and I knew what pace I could set to once I hit the “road”. I was really happy with my first ever marathon.
The Polar Circle half & full marathon was the most amazing experience I have ever embarked on and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the ‘Coolest Marathon on the Planet’.
Welcome to Greenland
Ice as far as the eye beholds. Impossibly beautiful, blue skies. Incredibly fresh air. Musk oxen and arctic foxes on the stark landscape of the arctic tundra.
Yes, Greenland is one of the most remote corners of the world. Feel the soft crunch of snow beneath your shoes while running through the arctic desert and Greenland ice cap. Immerse yourself in this rare and exceptional natural beauty.
The Polar Circle Marathon is the perfect way to combine a special running event with exploring one of the most remote and beautiful corners of the world. This will undoubtedly be the coolest experience of your life!
Travelling Fit is delighted to offer you a 5 Day / 4 Night Package plus an extension 4 Day / 3 Night Ilulissat Tour to experience the beautiful wilderness of Greenland.
Included in the package is a pre-event gathering in Copenhagen on Wednesday. Dinner and drinks will be served and race packets will be handed out to all participants. You will also have the opportunity to purchase some running gear. In order to go to this event you will be required to purchase an additional night in Copenhagen for the Wednesday, staying at Hotel Hebron.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to early/late flight times in and out of Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, we strongly recommend that you purchase pre and post nights in Copenhagen. Please speak to our sales team for best flight connections and pre/post nights.
- Guaranteed Race Entry (Runners Only)
- Return flights from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq including airport taxes
- 4 Nights Accommodation:
Check in: Thu 27 Oct - Check out: Mon 31 Oct 2022
- Meals as per the itinerary
- Welcome gathering in Copenhagen (26 October 2022)
- 3 hour Guided hike to Mt Hassel
- Route Inspection to the ice cap
- Transfer to the race start (runners only)
- English Speaking Tour Leader
- Celebration Dinner and Awards Ceremony
- Personalised Travelling Fit Running Top
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients
- Invite to Travelling Fit's Polar Circle Marathon Closed Facebook Group
exclusive to Travelling Fit clients