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At this Russian lake, winter is the best time for a marathon

March 13, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT
In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, Siberia's Lake Baikal is the perfect spot for a midwinter marathon. Runners take a 26.2 mile dash from one side of a lake to another in sub-freezing temperatures over nothing but ice.

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

While many of us can’t wait for temperatures to thaw, one Russian community thinks this is the best time of year for a run, and a chilly one.

The NewsHour’s Julia Griffin explains.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Siberia’s Lake Baikal, it’s the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. It’s also the perfect spot for a midwinter marathon.

ANATOLY GEREVNIN, Marathon Runner (through interpreter): It is a tradition. I do not want to miss it. So as long as I have energy, I will take part in this race.

JULIA GRIFFIN: If a foot race could ever be considered an extreme sport, it is the annual Baikal Ice Marathon, a 26.2-mile dash from one side of a lake to another, in subfreezing temperatures, over nothing but ice.

This year, 200 participants from 32 countries enthusiastically signed up.

MAN: This is a great race, and we hope everybody enjoys it.

JULIA GRIFFIN: At the starting line this year, temperatures hovered around an unexpectedly balmy 12 degrees. Runners strapped on their snow cleats and stuck athletic tape to exposed skin. There was also the odd pair of butterfly wings.

MARINA ANDERSEN, Marathon Runner: I love this place. I think The temperature is pretty warm today. I expected it to be colder. But I think it’s a good start for me to start ice-running.

JULIA GRIFFIN: With a shout of a megaphone, they’re off.

As minutes and hours pass, the clusters of runners disperse. One by one, they brave the slick ice, blistering winds, burning sun, with only ambition to cheer them on.

But the psychological challenges don’t end there. The flat, featureless landscape makes it difficult for runners to gauge their progress. Only periodic refreshment stands, with tea, water and a variety of snacks, mark the miles.

Yet, Bartosh Maserski of Poland crossed the finish line with a record-setting time of two hours, 53 minutes and 26 seconds. He had to miss last year’s marathon, so this was a redeeming victory.

BARTOSH MASERSKI, Marathon Winner: I broke my leg two days before marathon. I come back here. I do it, and I am very, very happy.

JULIA GRIFFIN: For a frigid foot race, a heartwarming end.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Julia Griffin.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You have got to give them credit.