Bethel native Updegrove sets South Pole running record

January 17, 2021

Growing up in Bethel helped prepare Craig Updegrove for running farther than anyone has at the geographic South Pole.

In a Facebook post on January 16, Updegrove announced that he ran 90 kilometers (55.9 miles) in 13 hours, 24 minutes on Jan. 10.

Updegrove placed second in a marathon event at the Amundson-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica where he works in logistics. Thereafter he “just kept running to see how far I could take it.”

Photo by Geoffrey Chen

To Updegrove’s knowledge, the longest previous run at the Pole was a double marathon (52.4 miles) four years ago.

“I am sure my time and distance will be beat next season,” Updegrove, 37, wrote in a Facebook comment. “There are a lot of extremophiles down here that thrive on new feats and experiences.”

Photos show a smiling Updegrove wearing goggles to cover his eyes and black tape to protect his cheeks on a sunny day with bluebird skies and an average temperature of -17 Fahrenheit. His pace slowed as fatigue set in running through choppy snow, dropping temperatures and a wind chill that reached -35. Troubles with his left knee forced him to “shuffle jog” and power-hike towards the end.

Adding to the challenge was an altitude of 9,300 feet.

“The temp and wind had the familiar sting of walking to (Bethel Regional High School) in the winter, the 9,300 ft. of elevation is a ways up from Bethel’s 100 ft.,” Updegrove said.

A marathon (26.2 miles) has been held annually at the South Pole since 2011. Professional runner Rickey Gates set the record that year of 4 hours, 2 minutes.

– By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor