The North Pole may be busy with Santa and his elves getting ready for Christmas, but there’s plenty of activity at the southern tip of the globe as well.
Each year, many of the 125 scientists, engineers, and various workers living at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station compete in an icy two- to three-mile race. For those who live in a place where the year-round average temperature is a frigid 60 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, the grand prize — a long, hot shower
— is highly coveted.
The exact route changes every year, but racers typically makes their way around the multimillion-dollar research projects based at the station, over an aeroplane runway, and around the Geographic South Pole. In looping around the pole, participants can claim that they celebrated Christmas in every global time zone, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Some competitors are more serious runners, like professional runner Rickey Gates, who got a job washing dishes in the station’s kitchen so he could compete in the race and hopefully qualify for the McMurdo marathon, at another American Antarctic station.
Others just do it for fun. Racers are allowed to use whichever mode of transportation they choose, including cross-country skis, bikes, floats, or their own two feet. Lighter activities like the Race Around the World make daily life a little more bearable for the scientists who study and live at the American station for months at a time.
Residents are limited to two showers of two minutes per week, so the longer shower is definitely a welcome reward. This year the prize will be five minutes long.
Here’s a video of the start of the race in 2007:
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