Juneau runner excels in Antarctica

Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2001

McMURDO, Antarctica -- Juneau's own Hiram Henry has a reputation as one of the fastest runners on the Antarctic continent.

Last year Henry won most of the races held at McMurdo research station in Antarctica, where he works, and he's keeping up the pace this year. After placing a very close second in the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K, Henry won the Obhill Uphill last weekend.

The race started halfway up Observation Hill, a McMurdo landmark, and went to the cross on top, 350 feet above. Henry made it up in 4 minutes, 15 seconds, beating the second place finisher by 28 seconds.

Henry said he's always run well on hills, partly because he trains both his mind and body to continue pushing when the going gets steep.

"People laugh at me because I start yelling at myself as I run up hill," Henry said. "I chant 'fly' to remind myself that I can fly."

The footing was ankle-twisting on Observation Hill, which is covered in loose volcanic rock and dust. Since Antarctica is a frozen desert, there is no organic matter or water to hold the dirt together.

"The rocks roll under your feet or slide," Henry said. "All the runs around here, even on the roads, have kind of that cross country aspect."

Henry ran on the Juneau-Douglas High School cross country team before graduating in 1993 and has continued to learn from experienced runners in Juneau, he said.

"The Glenn Fricks of Juneau make it entertaining. They've just taught me so much," Henry said. "You can never underestimate the fogeys."

In Antarctica Henry usually runs alone, most often on the road between McMurdo station and New Zealand's Scott Base. The five mile route is comparable to Eaglecrest Road, before it was paved, he said.

Henry plans to run the marathon held in McMurdo later this month. Last year he ran it in three hours.

"I don't think I'll ever run a marathon on pavement," Henry said. "A full marathon here on snow is easier on your body than a half marathon on pavement."

Kristan Hutchison is a Juneau Empire reporter on leave for four months to work in Antarctica. She can be reached at sabbatkr@mcmurdo.gov.

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