The Sea Spirit glides south through relatively calm waters at 14 knots (nautical miles per hour - 16 statute miles per hour). While the boat has tossed and turned a bit on the water, Drake's Passage (the area of open water between South America and Antarctica) has been more like Drake's Lake - super calm. This is very fortunate because we clearly have a boatload of runners and not sailors.
For example, Alexis from Boston was amazed how few people knew that the port side was on the left and the starboard side was on the right. (And to complete the picture, fore is the front and aft is the back of a ship.) This is, after all, a trip to primarily run a marathon race in Antarctica. For 10 of the 83 marathon runners, this race will complete their journey to run a marathon on all 7 continents. (As mentioned earlier, this will take me to six continents with only South America to go.) Looking around the dining room this morning, I saw any number of shirts from other races. Alexis sported a Walt Disney World 2011 shirt from earlier this year. I saw someone wearing a Jackson Hole WY top. A gentleman wore a bright yellow Honolulu Marathon shirt on the plane yesterday (I found it odd that the key sponsor of that is JAL, Japan Airlines, but apparently Hawaii is very popular for Japanese runners.) NYC Marathon shirts are too numerous to count.
If running a race in Antarctica binds this band of 120 passengers (a number like my wife are here as supporters), running a race here is both unusual and not so unusual. Antarctica has hosted marathons on and off since 1995, when this tour began and they have been held yearly since about 2005. But 100 years ago, a race to the South Pole was being run in much less posh conditions than the lounge I found myself sitting in now. A gentleman who I haven't met yet is taking his coffee and iPad back to his room. Tim, a dentist from Seattle is playing cards with Scott who is on the tour staff. Tim's wife Loree sits by the window on a couch reading her iPad. I myself am on a similar couch, one leg up looking at the Southern Ocean drift by. Mike and Vicky and their two kids Gavin and Sarah slip in for cookies and then disappear onto the deck.
I guess we are all competitors in the race itself, but the original race run here was for the South Pole, a competition between Robert Falcon Scott of England and Roald Amundsen of Norway. Both made dash attempts starting in 1911, with Amundsen winning in December and Scott achieving the pole in January 1912 only to lose his life on the return journey to his ship. Both men knew that fate was almost more likely than success. In fact, in an earlier journey's attempt by Ernest Shackleton in 1907, the advertisement he put in papers to recruit participants noted "safe return doubtful; honor and recognition in case of success."
We runners, 100 years afterward, are much more likely of neither fate - demise is happily doubtful, and the fame is much more in our own minds than those of others.