Interview Focus on a race

8 questions to discover a race : Northwest Passage Marathon

28 Jan 2010 10:32
Jean-Loup Fenaux

Richard Weber is a former cross country ski racer and a polar explorer. He has certainly trekked to the North Pole more than anyone in history. Thus not beeing a marathon runner himself, he is the race director for the Northwest Passage Marathon.

Hello, on August 1st 2010, you’ll be organizing the Northwest Passage Marathon . Can you tell us where it is located?

The Northwest Passage Marathon is held at Arctic Watch Lodge on the northern side of Somerset Island in Nunavut. Somerset Island is 9,570 square miles and completely uninhabited (except for us in the summer).


How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

The the first race was held in 2005. We created it because we thought it would be fun to have a running event with the Northwest Passage as a backdrop.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The route can be described as follows: The Northwest Passage Marathon is North America’s most northerly marathon. This is a true wilderness route as it consists of a rough trail run with no roads. The trail is marked with Inukshuks and flags.

The surface is generally smooth and covered with pebble-sized rocks with some mud. There are some shallow creek crossings. The 55 kilometer course leaves Arctic Watch, goes north along the shore of the Cunningham Inlet for 10 kilometer to Polar Bear point. The runners turn west and go beside the famed Northwest Passage for the next 18 kilometers. The trail follows a series of old raised beaches of sandstone pebbles. There are icebergs on the water and ancient encampments on the shore. In 2005, runners saw dozens of beluga whales, and many seals.

Northwest Passage Marathon : AW Lodge
Credit : Northwest Passage Marathon

2007, was marked by many polar bear sightings. At Cape Marie, all runners wade the Marie River (maximum knee deep), then turn south and inland along the Red Valley (so named for the red stone and soil). Muskox sightings in this area are common. The trail then swings back east, climbs gently over a height of land before dropping back down towards the Cunningham River. The final couple of kilometers are along the Cunningham back to Arctic Watch.

How many runners do you expect on Sunday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

The runners are people who want to experience a run though a remote part of the arctic. It is an event for the experience not really for a great person best time. We offer half marathon, marathon and ultra marathon distances

Do you organize other races during the Week-End? If so, on what distances?

Due to the remoteness of the location, we can only accept about 32 runners each year. We fly all runners 1500 km (900 miles) from Yellowknife (NWT) to Arctic Watch for the race.

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

The weather is normally cool, some runner wear shorts, some wear long tights.

The marathon finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Somerset Island before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

The Northwest Passage Marathon is as exotic as it is remote. The sun never sets (24 hour sun), there are no trees, the biggest plants are a couple of inches high. The chances of seeing a large mammal (whale, polar bear, muskox) are very high. The shore of the Northwest Passage is normally strewn with is blocks of ice and beluga whales swim in the ocean.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Northwest Passage Marathon?

Come and run North America’s most northerly marathon in the true wilderness of the Northwest Passage.

Thank you Richard