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Source: New Zealand Defence Force

28 January 2020

Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) medic and former Gisborne man Max Neustroski can lay claim to a feat not many others have achieved – winning a marathon in the world’s most southern continent, Antarctica.

Able Medic Neustroski, a former Gisborne Boys High School student, won the McMurdo Marathon in a time of three hours 42 minutes.

Along with three other New Zealand Defence Force personnel – Major Andrew Thornton, Corporal Flea Beaven, and Lance Corporal Robin Goomes – he joined 50 other competitors on the start line for the marathon.

Able Medic Neustroski has competed in a marathon in New Zealand before, but mainly prefers CrossFit activities and cross-country running.

The race was held on the Ross Ice Shelf – a glacier the size of France connected to the continent and floating on the ocean – and provided interesting running terrain, with areas of soft snow, compacted snow, groomed ice and slippery ice.

Able Medic Neustroski said he had prepared with shorter runs whenever the Antarctic weather allowed, and some time on the base’s treadmills.

“It was interesting running in soft and compacted snow, but the views of the mountain ranges, Mount Discovery and the Ross Ice Shelf were amazing. It was a fun thing to do,” he said.

As in any endurance event, runners needed snacks and hydration. However, because Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent on Earth there were a few additional things to consider, such as layers of clothing to ensure the correct temperature was maintained.

“I’ve had a bit of time to acclimatise down here, so I started the race in a thermal, tee-shirt, light jacket, tights and shorts, and socks. I ended it in just a tee-shirt, tights and shorts,” Able Medic Neustroski said.

The marathon was a first for Major Thornton, who finished third in a time of four hours 19 minutes. It was also Lance Corporal Goomes’ first marathon, and she went on to complete the ultra-marathon (52km) and claim first place with a time of six hours four minutes.

While Able Medic Neustroski can usually be found working as a medic on RNZN ships, his job in Antarctica is communications operator, where he works shifts with three others, communicating mainly with science programme personnel throughout the continent.

The NZDF has been involved in Antarctica since 1955, supporting New Zealand’s contribution to international efforts to improve scientific knowledge and safeguard the pristine environment.