GetResponse CEO Simon Grabowski is Slated to Run in North Pole Marathon

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Hardy competitors will run 26.2 grueling miles (42.195 km) on ice in sub-zero weather.

A marathon is a demanding run even under ideal conditions. A marathon on solid ice in the extreme weather of the North Pole sounds impossible. But Simon Grabowski, CEO of GetResponse Email Marketing, aims to find out if his stamina will get him through the race.

A seasoned runner, Simon is no stranger to tough conditions. He ran his first marathon along the beaches of Poland on sand, considered one of the most difficult running surfaces. But that can’t compare to conditions at the North Pole.

“My first marathon was tough: 30 degrees Celsius, no shade, unstable sand underfoot,” said Simon Grabowski. “But at NPM, we’ll be running on snow and ice, with temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius plus wind chill — COOL!”

The cold temperatures aren’t the only concern. The runners are entering an area ruled by polar bears. Even with average weights of 350–700 kg (770–1,540 lbs.), these carnivores are good distance runners and can sprint at speeds of up to 5.6 km/h (3.5 mph).

To reduce the risks of climate and critters, the race organizers carve a track in the ice that runners must complete ten times to cover the full distance. They airdrop a tractor onto the ice and use it to keep the track reasonably clear, waging an endless war against continual blowing snowfalls that can quickly accumulate in knee-high drifts.

The living conditions are equally Spartan, with competitors camping out in tents with no electricity or running hot water. And unlike the solid ground of the south pole, the north pole is a massive sheet of floating ice. In a previous year, one competitor’s tent floated away when a chunk of ice split and drifted out to sea.

To guard against the very real danger of hypothermia, competitors are instructed to dress in layers— a base layer, a fleece layer, a wind shell outer layer, and face cover to prevent frostbite. Most racers wear trail shoes although, in past years, some tried webbed snowshoes but found them too cumbersome for the long distance.

No one expects to set a speed record in such conditions. The course record is 3 hours, 36 minutes and 10 seconds, set by Thomas Maguire in 2007. Most runners finish in five to seven hours, happy to have fought the elements, met the challenge, and finished the course.

The race is organized by Thomas Donovan, a marathoner himself, who got the idea for a North Pole Marathon when he ran the South Pole Marathon in 2002. The race attracts running enthusiasts from all over the world, with this year’s race boasting forty-five competitors from twenty-two countries.

“I’m proud to be the fourth person from my native country of Poland to participate in this challenging race,” said Simon Grabowski. “I’ve had a lifelong interest in exercise, health and nutrition, and this challenging race will put me to the test.”

Grabowski loves a challenge, having founded his company in 1999 in his father’s attic with startup capital of about $200. He established a mission of making big-company technologies available to businesses of every size. Sixteen years later, that mission continues unabated, with a team of top programmers adding continuous improvements to GetResponse’s popular email marketing platform. Today, GetResponse is one of the fastest growing technology companies in the world, with more than 350,000 customers in 182 countries and more than 250 employees in Poland and North America.

The GetResponse team expects great success from Simon in the North Pole Marathon and send their best wishes for his safety, endurance, and warmth. They remind him that, if chased, he doesn’t have to outrun the polar bear; he only has to outrun the slowest runner.

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Hanna Andrzejewska
since: 12/2008
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