Running to the Ends of the Earth

Chicago Olympic bid travels to North Pole

On the very day the Chicago Olympic team is hitting the zenith of its sales pitch to the International Olympic Committee, the Chicago 2016 flag will be flying high. In fact, geographically speaking, it will be flying at the "highest" point possible on Earth.

The North Pole.

Next Tuesday, Chicago attorney Sarah Ames will compete in the North Pole Marathon. And she'll be taking the Chicago Olympic flag with her.

"It would be great to carry the flag of the Olympic committee to the North Pole, and raise it up at the pole," she said. "It would be a little hard to carry a torch, but I can carry a flag!"

For Ames, it is a chance to hit the grand slam of world marathons. She already has competed in races on every continent, including Antarctica, becoming the first German woman to do so. The North Pole completes her world circuit.

"I'm not an Olympic runner by any means. I'm not even a fast runner! But I can set my own little records, doing this."

"It's just an absolutely phenomenal place to be," she said. "It's stunningly beautiful. You're basically running on a large piece of ice, and it's constantly moving. So even if you were to stand at the actual north pole, if you don't move within a couple of minutes, you might be 10 meters away from the actual pole!"

Ames competed in the 2008 North Pole marathon, but stopped short of the finish when logistical concerns forced the race to be stopped. Those logistics can pertain simply to the difficult means of getting in and out of the region. But there can be numerous other factors.

In addition to the inclement weather, which plunges far below freezing, fissures can develop in the shifting ice. And then there are the polar bears. But Ames minimized the risk.

"They're making sure that we're running in an area that's very solid," she said. "And nothing's going to happen!"

And what about the cold? Ames says she will actually dress about the same as she does for a run on Chicago's lakefront, albeit with a few more layers. And if the snow is deep enough, she will run in special snow shoes.

"It's not super deep, but it's deep enough that it can be hard to run in. So running with snow shoes actually works pretty well."

Chicago's 2016 organizers provided Ames with a flag, and she plans to unfurl it at the pole next week. She is enthusiastic about Chicago's Olympic chances.

"It's such an outdoorsy place, where you can have a lot of opportunities for running and sports. And just to highlight that would be great if the Olympics could come to Chicago!"

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