Former Russian captain Alexey Smertin was filmed juggling a soccer ball on the icy surface of a vast lake in Siberia – the day before battling his way through icy conditions to win one of the toughest marathons in the world.
The brave Smertin, wearing gloves and a wool hat, demonstrated skillful knee and footwork to hit a ball on the ice with friends before the annual Baikal Ice Marathon, a remarkable 26.2-mile race that takes place on the surface of a lake hold.
The brave 45-year-old showed that he still had some of the skills that led him to a much-needed warm-up to the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, and he went on to prove that he is just as competitive and willing a runner as he has been during a celebrated career that has largely been spent on ruthlessly ice-free pitches.
Regularly rated as one of the toughest and most extreme races in the world by a variety of media and fitness magazines, the marathon takes place as part of a broader sports festival in the region on an extremely unusual surface where runners reach their limits.
Small “mounds” of ice debris cover geothermal springs along the way, with seismic activity causing melting and forming holes and cracks in the ice.
The flat course is hard and uneven with areas of highly polished ice described as resembling an ice rink with no potential for strong winds and extremely challenging cold.
The organizers describe the race as “mentally and physically demanding” and explain that the “absolutely strange landscape” gives the competitors little or no sense of perspective and offers them nothing to focus on but how far they can from theirs Target are removed “.
“It’s a long, cold, lonely path through the barren white landscape, where progress is only marked by checkpoints 5 km away [three-mile] Intervals, “they say.
“However, many of those who once ran the Baikal Ice Marathon return – some keep coming back.”
Should Smertin return next year, the 2005 Premier League winner is the man to beat. Almost 22 years after becoming Russian Footballer of the Year, he won the race in an impressive finishing time, driving in a shadow under three and a half hours.
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