Cool runnings: Montblanc

Montblanc’s global managing director for the Watch Division, Laurent Lecamp, and mountaineer Simon Messner recently completed the Antarctic Ice Marathon, an extreme challenge in one of the most remote and harsh environments on Earth

Travel and Wellbeing 29 Apr 2024

Montblanc’s global managing director for the Watch Division, Laurent Lecamp, and mountaineer Simon Messner recently completed the Antarctic Ice Marathon

The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the world’s southernmost race.

Anyone who has taken part in a marathon will know that it is one of the toughest physical and mental challenges a person can put themselves through. But despite the sore limbs, record- breaking blisters and anguish of hitting the dreaded wall, many runners find themselves addicted to the experience: looking to better their time, to push themselves further and find even more extreme twists to the ultimate challenge.

The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the world’s southernmost race and one of the most formidable adventure marathons on Earth. Nothing about this hostile frozen environment is conducive to running. Taking place at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, just a few hundred miles away from the South Pole, competitors find themselves battling an average wind chill temperature of -20°C with underfoot conditions of snow and ice. Not to mention contending with an altitude of 700 metres and harsh katabatic winds.

Suffice to say that participants will not achieve a personal best at the Antarctic Ice Marathon, but they will join a very exclusive club that counts only a handful of members. The 18th Antarctic Ice Marathon took place in December last year. Among the 66 participants were Laurent Lecamp, global managing director of Montblanc’s Watch Division, and alpinist Simon Messner. The son of legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner, Simon is one of Montblanc’s latest “Mark Makers”, an ambassador or “inspiring individual” who embodies the ethos of the luxury German brand. He joins such storied and diverse Montblanc Mark Makers as actor Cillian Murphy, DJ Peggy Gou and former footballer Zinédine Zidane.

Although Messner is accustomed to extreme conditions and has been climbing mountains since he was a teenager, this was to be his first-ever marathon. Talk about a baptism of fire – or should that be ice?

‘[Simon] and I are two different runners of different ages and varying levels of experience,’ says Laurent Lecamp, now back in the real world. ‘But I knew that I wanted to run specifically with him and finish the race together. This meant having to find the same pace and support one another but, in the end, we did it.’

The 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen South Pole Exploration Limited Edition, £6,400

Messner and Lecamp (the latter a seasoned marathon runner) had another challenge up their sleeves; to put the new 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen South Pole Exploration Limited Edition Montblanc timepiece through its paces. The watch is part of Montblanc’s Zero Oxygen series, specially designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. It holds extra-special significance for Messner as the series was created in honour of his father, the first person to summit Everest solo and to scale all 14 of the world’s highest peaks.

Limited to 1,990 pieces (a nod to the year Reinhold Messner became the first person to cross the South Pole on foot), the new timepiece references the Antarctic through its turquoise blue dial and 3D engraving of the Aurora Australis on the caseback. Stylish but designed for optimum performance, the watch is housed in an ultralight 42mm titanium case and the “zero oxygen” technology prevents fogging – a simple yet vital tool for the outdoor sports enthusiast.

‘The watch performed extremely well thanks to it being a mechanical watch with zero oxygen inside,’ explains Lecamp. ‘This meant that it had no issues facing the extreme temperature changes, such as the 40-45°C difference between the inside of our tent and the outside climate. With normal watches, you would see humidity appear on the inside of the watch – this was not a problem for us.’

Messner and Lecamp crossed the finish line hand in hand at 4 hours and 29 seconds, finishing in an impressive 7th place. The pair had synced their Montblanc watches at the start and – lo and behold – had exactly the same time at that final agonising step.

‘The race was not easy,’ says Lecamp, ‘but I learned so much. It showed me that mental resilience is key in everything we do, and it’s something that can be applied to everyday life.

‘During the final stretch I told Simon, “Even if you are suffering, I am suffering as well. But if we stop running now, we will regret it all our lives!” He was a little surprised by what I said, but we both agreed that giving up was not an option and kept running; it was a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity. So crossing the finish line was a huge relief, as well as a great demonstration of friendship.’