For the Love of an Idea Nasos Ktorides at the North Pole Marathon
NICOSIA, April 06, 2012 To know ourselves in adversity, to experience the extraordinary beauty of our planet, to be touched by the greatness of the human will. These are experiences that are not meant for show but certainly broaden our understanding of life. This is the temptation offered by the “coldest marathon on earth”, as characterized in the Guinness Book of Records.
The seventh North Pole Marathon was under preparation for a whole year, and took place at 10 pm at night on Friday, April 6th, away from the spotlight and the cries of numerous spectators. The only witnesses? Forty, all in all, each one a Marathon fanatic, from eighteen countries of the world; a handful of experienced and knowledgeable organizers; the endless, immaculate white snow but always the threatening majestic glaciers; some curious polar bears; a few eager husky dogs; and of course the most impressive witness to everything, the midnight sun, which at that end of the world, reigns from March until September.
Our compatriot, Nasos Ktorides, lived, endured and enjoyed every moment of what he says was this very demanding task. His limbs, hands, feet, were at the mercy of the relentless cold of minus 28 degrees Celsius, which pierced through gloves and boots and reached right to the very bone. The nose is necessarily exposed, and is under threat of losing vital cells because of the merciless cold.
The breathing felt like icy blades through the nostrils, making this precious activity a laborious task. The road, 42 kilometres and 195 metres long, was pure and unpredictable. Water hidden under ice and snow. Each stride, a bet if your foot will sink just a few centimetres or half a metre. For Ktorides an ankle sprain came at the twenty-fifth mile. Each step thereafter, he was begging his imagination to fool the senses, his mind to ease the pain. Being forced to “get out of your body” explains our marathon.
The polar odyssey for Nasos Ktorides lasted six hours and thirty-four minutes. He finished in 16th place, beating the fear, the doubt, the pain. “Never give up. Go. Only you can believe in your race. Only you can ‘reach as far as you cannot’, in the words of Kazantzakis.” This is my experience that I want to share with fellow travellers in life, business and sports. Nasos confides, “I cried at the will and determination of my American co-runner when I saw her finish last, after eleven hours and forty-one minutes, in those inhumane conditions! The real winner. The will of each of us has no limits!”
This year’s runners complete the large group of 210 people who have ever managed to finish the marathon in the North Pole. Six marathon runners, incuding Nasos, celebrated at the finish with a special revitalizing swim. The temperature of water was minus 1.8 degrees Celsius and the air temperature was minus 25.
Clearly, for Nasos Ktorides, the marathon is still a way to express his love for those who fight for freedom and universal ideals. This was his motivation to introduce and institutionalize the First Nicosia Marathon to serve the ideals of fair play and friendship.
At the event in Boston, Nasos “went astray” in the second kilometre of the route, laying an olive wreath and a few flowers from the the soil of Cyprus to honour the tomb of our compatriot, Stylianos Kyriakides, the winner of this marathon in 1945.
He carried to the exact geographic location of the North Pole the flags of Cyprus, Greece and UNICEF, which he serves as the first Cypriot Goodwill Ambassador. “It was a declaration of loyalty to three ideals that nourish my humanity. To see them fluttering in the most northern point of our planet was a symbolic confirmation that big ideas are tested in the furnace of life, but they still thrive on top of our hearts,” the Cypriot marathon runner emphasised. The private ceremony was completed, at the same place, with a suspended signpost pointing to the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia, 6098 km away. At the back of it , there were signatures of friends of the training group in Cyprus.
The next big challenge for Nasos Ktorides is the South Pole Marathon in Antarctica in November 2012. This will take place immediately after the third Nicosia Marathon this coming December.