Meet the First Filipina to Run the North Pole Marathon
Unlike other races staged around the world where runners are clad in short shorts and tank tops, in the North Pole Marathon, there’s absolutely no sight of flesh and skin. The race participants are bundled in coats and windbreakers, their hands are fat with gloves and even their eyes are protected with goggles, which cover their faces completely.
When watching the video, it is apparent how frigidly cold it is, as the racers' mouths release vapor as they speak. “Yes, the strategy is to survive,” one runner says. “I do it to just enjoy,” another one adds. “I’m here to make the most out of the experience of just being out here.”
Triathlete champion Joyette Jopson was recently announced as the country’s sole participant to the once-in-a-lifetime race this April, by the marathon’s main sponsor, FWD. If ever, Jopson will be the first female Filipino to finish the North Pole Marathon—yet another feat to the seasoned athlete’s long list of achievements.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. How many people do you know have gone to New York, Berlin [marathons]? And how many people do you know have gone to the North Pole? It’s an experience of a lifetime. I’m really just excited, to make history, to really just go,” Jopson shared with Esquire Philippines.
The North Pole marathon, which launched in 2002, demands participants run 42.195 kilometers in frigid temperature (at times even reaching -20 degrees Celsius) on uneven snowy slopes at one of the most isolated environments in the planet. In some parts of the race, participants can see nothing but icy snow and hear nothing but their heartbeats. And the runners aren’t just in a battle against the cold or time, too.
Racers are kept at a maximum of 30 to ensure their safety, as the area is also known as the home of polar bears. Guards and organizers, equipped with pistols, regularly do rounds, while the runners keep an eye on the North Pole’s most famous creatures as they finish the race. According to organizers though, no polar bear has tried to harm anyone or has been hurt ever since the race was staged in 2002.
With all these extreme elements to prepare for, an unforgiving training routine is expected for Jopson, but the seasoned long-distance athlete isn’t worried.
“Since we really cannot simulate how it’s going to be like there, I really have to run on sand. Your feet would sink, so I would imagine, it’s similar to ice. I’ve been running on trails, too. So, really different terrains,” she said. “I’m just scared of the elements, the cold especially. So I just try to be healthy as much as possible.”
The 39-year-old long-distance athlete started training for the marathon only in December, but in the past year she has finished two half Ironman Triathlon races, which consist of a 1.9-km swim, a 90-km bicycle ride, and a 21-km run, and one full marathon. The past year was a comeback season of sorts for the athlete as she was on hiatus from any arduous sport for quite some time. Still, she did all these races not knowing she’d be running the North Pole marathon in April.
“I have an unofficial goal finish time for myself for the race, but I’d rather not share it for now,” Jopson said. “I just really want to enjoy it, to fly, and just be there.”