Gary Thornton would still be considered a novice to marathons having run in only 3 competitive races thus far, but the Galway teacher showed his natural strength in the sport with a first place finish at the North Pole Marathon.
Thornton recalled the race and elaborates some on his unique win. “The course was brutal. It’s like you’re on the moon up there. I’m only relatively new to marathon competition. I’d only raced in two before this, in cities, so this was totally different to what I’ve ever done. I had to wear a face mask and really needed that, it was brutally cold.”
The Irish Times reported Thornton completed the unforgiving course in 3 hours 49 minutes and 29 seconds and North Pole Marathon organiser, Richard Donovan, reasoned why Thornton’s native country could have given the runner the edge needed to win. “Coming from the west of Ireland means you are kind of used to robust weather conditions,” he said. “I know this is extreme but you go out running in the west of Ireland, wet and near constant windy conditions, it’s going to toughen you up.”
Too add to the excitement, Thornton wasn’t alone in his readiness to take on a challenge. His wife, Elaine Barrett, decided to take on the half marathon just days before the race begun. Her husband explained saying, “She might normally run 20 minutes once a week so this was a bit last minute. And she wouldn’t be a woman who likes the cold, she likes being beside the stove.”
The marathon was run 20-30 miles below the North Pole in temperatures plummeting to minus 30 degrees Celsius. Thornton puts that into perspective in saying, “On the last lap I could only really see partially out of my right eye and fully out of the left. I had to keep using my frozen mitten to break ice off the face mask.”
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