A total of 259 signed up and 242 showed up at the start line. That's a new record for the annual Spitsbergen Marathon, which on June 6 stage full- and partial-length races for the 21st time.
The sun occasionally peeked out behind the clouds, the winds were gentle and the winner
– Mattias Wahlstedt, 45, of Stockholm – said it was his finest running experience ever.
"It feels great," he said between inhalations and exhalations after struggling his way through 42 kilometers and crossing the finish line at Svalbardhallen.
These are the official results.
The first thing Wahlstedt did upon placing his foot on the finish line was check his watch.
It showed 2:59:50.
The Swede was hoping for a new personal best, but the course leading out toward the airport, into Advantdalen and back was too difficult.
Knee problems flared up during the last mile and put the brakes on his pace. But he said he felt he was doing well and victory was within reach no matter what.
"My personal best is 2:52 and I thought I could do this in 2:50," he said. "But I had to take it easy the last mile. It went slowly."
Better than New York
Wahlstedt said he has run "a half dozen" marathons, but he has never before finished first.
"This was one of the toughest I have participated in. There were so many different surfaces, from gravel to asphalt. But my, how beautiful it was," said Wahlstedt, whose previous races include the world's largest marathon: the one in New York.
"Manhattan is fine, but Spitsbergen is finer," he said. "Even though I had pain in my knee, I thoroughly enjoyed myself here."
No bear safari
Audun Domås Pedersen of Tromsø finished first in the half-marathon with a time of 1:26:00.
"It was beautiful out in Adventdalen, with the sun and little wind at your back. The only thing missing was a polar bear," he said at the finish line while refueling with high-calorie food and liquids.
Might he have finished faster if he'd seen a bear?
"Yes, or maybe I would have stopped to take pictures," he said with a laugh.
All accounted for at the finish
Pål Klevan of Longyearbyen was the top men's finisher in the Spitsbergen 10K with a time of 45:20, while Stephanie Oehmig of German won the women's division with a time of 50:36.
According to Svalbard Turn, all participants returned to the starting area by a slightly adjusted deadline.
"We postponed our cut-off time of 4 p.m.," said Silje M. Hagen, Svalbard Turn's events manager. "The last came in at about 4:03 p.m., and therefore all participants were in at the end."
"It has been a fantastic effort by all the participants and volunteers who were here," she said. "I am humbled and grateful."
Translated by Mark Sabbatini