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Marathon on the ice of Lake Baikal at -29°C

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Marathon on the ice of Lake Baikal at -29°C


Photo credit: 8moments /

In 2021, the Baikal Ice Marathon was held on Baikal for the 17th time. The reporter of the Dutch newspaper de Volksrant decided to test himself and overcome 42 kilometers at -29 degrees Celsius and in a scorching wind. He was joined by other 60 athletes.

"If you start to freeze, just run faster" - this advice was given to Tom Vennink by the experienced participants of the Ice Marathon. Although the participants are accompanied by an EMERCOM truck, hovercraft and several snowmobiles, everyone understands that no one is completely safe. And the main thing is the unpredictable north wind with a blizzard, which is called "Khius" in Siberia. In 2018, its sudden gust in the middle of Lake Baikal disoriented many of the race participants. Visibility became so bad that one of the runners - a Chinese man - was found two kilometers from the other side of the lake. Frostbitten, he was taken to the hospital.

One of the marathon participants turned 73 years old, and he did not miss a single race. Six women also took part in the marathon. For example, Gulshat, a 31-year-old management teacher from Bashkiria, took part in the Baikal Marathon for the first time. As she told Tom, after participating in two regular marathons, she decided to try something new as she had always dreamed of seeing Baikal.

The marathon began with a shamanic ritual - the spirits of Lake Baikal were asked permission to enter their territory. And none of the participants neglected this custom: the lake Baikal is not to be trifled with.

Finally, the race begins. The route runs along the small red flags for orientation. In case of problems, the participants can pull the flag and send a distress call.

The ice on Lake Baikal is far from even - pits, bulges, protruding ice fragments, hummocks. Unsurprisingly, runners occasionally fall. After a while, the land is no longer visible - it is like an ocean of ice around, on which the wind sweeps up snow.

Suddenly, a crackling sound is heard, almost like a cannon shot. This is the result of the pressure drop across the ice. Sometimes because of it, faults are formed - it is very important to notice them in time and jump over. At the 30th kilometre, a new obstacle appeared: a snowy desert, where feet fall into ankle-deep snow. Someone falls, unable to withstand the stress, one Japanese is already being taken on a sled - he has a fractured knee.

But here is the long-awaited and almost incredible finish for many participants. “Flushed people are kneeling on the ice. People with icy eyebrows cry. I feel that I also want to cry,”- this is how Tom Vennink describes his feelings. "How empty my life was before the Baikal Ice Marathon," he added.

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