Puerto Rican woman conquered Antarctica marathon, now she’s taking on the North Pole

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Lisa Richardson of Hastings, left, running the Antarctic Ice Marathon in November 2015, with Sasie Smittipatana of Thailand, center, and Teresa Strad of the Cayman Islands, right.

A report by Richard Chin for the Minnesota Star Tribune

Lisa Richardson loves marathons so much she’s going to the ends of the earth to run them.

In November 2015, the 41-year-old Hastings woman ran “the Southernmost Marathon on Earth,” the Antarctic Ice Marathon, on a glacier in the Antarctic continent.

On Sunday, she aims to run the North Pole Marathon, the world’s most northerly marathon.

Richardson’s parents are Puerto Rican, and Chad Richardson said he thinks his wife, who grew up in Ohio and Puerto Rico, will be the only Puerto Rican-American to run a marathon at both Antarctica and the North Pole.

She’s not the fastest or the most experienced runner.

Richardson has run seven marathons total since she took up the sport in 2011. Her personal best for the race is over five hours. In the challenging conditions in Antarctica, it took her nearly nine hours to finish the 26.2 miles. But her aim now is to run a marathon on all seven continents of the world in addition to the North Pole.

Richardson, an orthodontic assistant and mother of two, said running has been part of a healthy transformation that included losing 113 pounds from her former weight of 267 pounds. She also quit smoking.

“She’s been an inspiration to a lot of people, including me,” said her husband, Chad Richardson.

For the North Pole Marathon, Richardson flew to Oslo, Norway, and then headed to the coastal island Spitsbergen before flying to Barneo Ice Camp, a temporary air strip and base camp built by Russians on the ice sheet at the top of the world for the Russia Geographical Society.

That’s where Richardson will run laps on a 4.2-kilometer loop marked out on the snow and ice floating on the Arctic Ocean. The competitors will be watched by race organizers who have rifles on hand in case a polar bear shows up.

“We have polar guards. There will be people out on the course,” Richardson said in a phone interview Friday from the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen.

The race website says racers could expect windchill temperatures to be 22 below or colder.

Richardson said she’s taking multiple layers of clothing for the race, including four or five balaclava hats.

She said the temperature was about zero at her Antarctic marathon.

“The weather wasn’t that bad for a transplanted Minnesotan,” she said.

“It’s sure something you have to wrap your brain around: I’m getting on a plane and I’m flying to the North Pole,” said Heather Carr, an Eden Prairie orthodontist and another Minnesota polar marathoner.

Carr raced the North Pole Marathon last year and did the Antarctic Ice Marathon in 2014. When she heard of an open space for a runner in the 2015 Antarctic race due to a last minute cancellation, she called Richardson, who is a friend.

Richardson made the decision to do the polar race even though it was only two and a half weeks before she needed to board a plane to Chile to catch the flight to Antarctica.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” Richardson said. “It was like landing on the moon.”

“I don’t know that she had so much adventurous spirit before she started running,” Chad Richardson said.

About 55 people for each race pay around $15,000 to a race tour operator for the privilege of running a polar marathon.

The North Pole Marathon race organizer says that less than 100 people have completed its Marathon Grand Slam Club, finishing a marathon on all seven continents and at the North Pole.

“Anything is possible. I’m going to be running at the North Pole. That seems something that should be impossible,” Richardson said.

Richardson has also run a marathon in Poland. She’s thinking about running a marathon in Thailand for her Asian race, and running a marathon around a volcano in Chile to cross South America off her list.

“I’m not this amazing athlete at all,” Richardson said. “Anyone can do it.”

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