Indoor marathons!

Wait until they get to Heartbreak Stairs.

Winter has arrived. In the athletics world this signals the start of the cross-country and indoor ‘boards’ seasons.

But if, like me, you pound the streets as a marathonian then this season brings the danger of icy surfaces, the drag of multiple layers of running gear (with subsequent extra laundry), and the drama of snow forecasts that threaten your run altogether.

So what are we meant to do – have our long run indoors? Well, yes.

Indoor marathons are growing in popularity across North America and Europe, both as a winter-beating event and a different type of race-day experience.

Typical of these events is the impressive-looking Icebreaker Indoor Marathon, held each year in Milwaukee. In what seems to be an ice skating centre, the race is run on a circuit of 442.87 metres – and as those of you who did honours maths are already shouting at your computer, that makes around 95 and a half laps to complete a full marathon. You feel that the biggest obstacle in the Icebreaker isn’t The Wall but The Monotony. Still, what’s a marathon but a psychological challenge with some physical effort attached?

Some other concerns have been headed off by the organisers. For instance, an indoor marathon would surely be a hot, crowded affair if huge numbers of runners were sucking up all the available space and oxygen – and so the Icebreaker is limited to 130 entrants. The running surface is rubber laid on concrete, but the organisers stress that neither this surface nor the repetitive laps have been known to cause injury. And volunteers call out the lap count, just in case you lose track and start wondering if that was lap 57 or 58.

If going the whole hog of 95 laps isn’t your thing, the Icebreaker also has half-marathon and 5km races. (You can do the lap-count maths yourself.)

Other popular indoor marathons are held as far afield as Montreal, Vienna, Aarhus – and not forgetting Northfield, Minnesota’s impressively-titled Zoom! Yah! Yah! race, so named to cater for any runners who look to complete a full A-to-Z of marathons, the organisers explained to the Wall Street Journal.

Watch this video of the 2012 Icebreaker to get an idea of what indoor marathons are like:

YouTube credit: IndoorMarathon

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