An Ice Marathon Across a Frozen Russian Lake: ‘I Ran Twice as Fast’

  • 2019-03-26
  • The New York Times

Lake Baikal, Russia — The ice rumbled and then shook underfoot. No one had warned Véronique Messina about that.

Ms. Messina, a French speech therapist working in Cambodia, came to Lake Baikal in distant Siberia to run a marathon across its frozen surface. She ventured onto the ice for her first trial run just a day before the race.

Marathon runners often use races to explore the world, and every March the Baikal Ice Marathon attracts a small group to the lake, a Unesco World Heritage Site, both for its exotic, ethereal beauty and the unpredictable, grueling conditions.

Many runners said testing their limits drew them to Baikal, the Earth’s largest, deepest body of fresh water, some 2,700 miles east of Moscow.

The Baikalsky Nature Reserve on the eastern shore is 23.2 miles from Listvyanka, the main tourist village on the western side, three miles short of a marathon’s official 26.2 miles. To add them, the headache is identifying a smooth, meandering path devoid of cracks or impassable berms of broken ice.