Background The Genghis Khan Ice Marathon took place in January 2016 in the mountains of the Terelj National Park, Mongolia at an altitude of 1800 metre. The route was a 26 mile marathon following the route of the frozen Tul Goll River. Conditions on race day were dry, sunny, light wind, with an air temperature of minus 35°C.
Aim To assess the experience, preparation and race strategy of a group of ultra-runners undertaking a marathon in extreme cold.
Method A multinational group of experienced ultra-runners (n = 9, male 5, female 4, age range 25–53 years) completed a pre-race questionnaire detailing experience, preparation, clothing, equipment and nutritional strategies. They were also given the opportunity to raise any fears or concerns about competing in an extreme cold environment.
Results All nine ultra-runners completed the questionnaire. The group was very experienced in running/ultra-running with most have completed other arduous events in mountain or desert environments. Three had competed previously at the North or South Pole. All athletes were concerned about safety in a remote environment, the physical effects of prolonged cold exposure and the ability to maintain adequate hydration and nutrition. With some individual variation in styles, consensus was present regarding several layers of clothing (upper and lower), full face cover, double gloving for hands and trainers a size to big (to allow for extra socks) with spikes or overlying chain links attached. Water would be provided by aid stations that would not be frozen to allow for adequate hydration. Most athletes opted for energy gels for nutrition stored inside their insulated gloves to prevent freezing.
Conclusion Despite a high level of experience all ultra-runners shared similar concerns regarding competing in a remote, extreme cold environment. With slight individual variations this experience level led to all the ultra-runners being adequately prepared pre-race in terms of clothing, equipment and race nutrition strategy.