It is a tangled web, a farrago of charges and countercharges that
boils down, some 17 months after the first South Pole Marathon,
to this: ANI picked the wrong guy to stiff.
This is an article from the June 16, 2003 issue
Readers of this section may recall Richard Donovan, an Irishman
who in 2002 appeared to have won the inaugural South Pole
Marathon (SI, April 29, 2002) after completing the race in eight
hours and 52 minutes--almost 27 minutes ahead of runner-up Dean
Karnazes. Immediately after the race the frostbitten, snow-blind
Donovan was declared the winner in a news release sent out by
Adventure Network International, the Florida-based company that
had put on the event and promised $25,000 to the winner.
This is where we step through the looking glass. The day after
the race, ANI backtracked. Donovan, 36, an economist from Galway,
was declared the winner of the "snowshoe division," Karnazes, 38,
the winner of the "runners" division. The problem was, no mention
of any such divisions had been made before the event. Competitors
were free to race with snowshoes (as Donovan did) or without them
(as Karnazes did).
To Donovan, the whole thing smelled. In addition to sponsoring
Karnazes, The North Face was a sponsor of the marathon. ANI's
marathon coordinator in Antarctica was Doug Stoup, who has been
sponsored by The North Face on various expeditions and was dating
ANI president Anne Kershaw. In an affidavit Dr. Duncan Gray, the
marathon's physician, testified that "several hours after the
conclusion of the event ... [Stoup] asked for my advice on a
problem he had, this being that he needed to find a way to make
Mr. Karnazes the winner of the race but wanted to keep all of the
other competitors happy." The good doctor replied that Donovan
had "obviously won the race, and it was inappropriate to attempt
to alter the results."
The confusion, according to Kershaw, began after dreadful
weather conditions convinced the runners to cancel the race and
run to the Pole as a group, for safety reasons. Along the route,
however, the group became increasingly competitive and split up;
the race was back on. At the finish, with the racers--mostly
Donovan and Karnazes--arguing over what exactly they had agreed
upon before the run, the divisions were created, says Kershaw,
"to be fair to everyone." Two weeks later, after returning to
Ireland, Donovan received a call from Kershaw, who informed him
that he, like the four other entrants in the run, would receive
If Kershaw had hoped Donovan would simply go away, she misjudged
him. "I wasn't going to win a race by half an hour and be told I
didn't win it," he says. Donovan had dedicated the race to his
mother, Mary, who'd died in the summer of 2000 of heart failure.
In running seven races on seven continents in one calendar year,
he was raising money for two of Mary's favorite charities. In his
view, ANI was taking money from those charities.
As much as he was offended by ANI's invention of a snowshoe
division--"The implication was that I'd won dishonestly, that
some flying carpet whisked me over the ice," he says--Donovan was
dumbfounded by an article Karnazes posted on an ultramarathon
website a few weeks after the race. "Upon crossing the finish
line," Karnazes wrote, "I was pronounced the first and only
person in history to ever run a marathon to the South Pole." Not
long after he pointed out the article's inaccuracies to The North
Face, Donovan received a letter from Karnazes in which he
informed the Irishman that he'd contacted the U.S. State
Department. "At issue," he wrote, "is a non-U.S. resident acting
aggressively, and potentially with malicious intent, toward a
"To me," says Donovan, "that was his way of saying, 'I'm going to
muzzle you, boy.'"
No such luck. Last October, Donovan filed suit against ANI in
British Columbia (though based in Florida, ANI is registered in
B.C.), demanding that he be paid the full $25,000. ANI was given
until April 15 to provide a statement of defense. The company
declined--for business reasons, says Kershaw--and the Supreme
Court of British Columbia awarded Donovan all outstanding prize
money, plus interest and legal fees.
Ten weeks after the South Pole Marathon, Donovan was sucking wind
at the other end of the world. He became the first person to run
marathons at both poles. He succeeded in his quest to run seven
ultras on seven continents, winning three of them and raising
about $23,500 in pledges. If you told Donovan you would sponsor
him, take our advice and write him a check today. You don't want
to stiff this guy.
The next SI Adventure will appear in the July 7 issue.
the polar marathon controversy.