Ex-Lion runs in a glacier marathon

by Beacon Staff • April 22, 2009

Runners can have a tough time trekking down the crowded iced over sidewalks of Boston in mid-winter, but their complaints bear no weight to John Hanc, who has quite literally traveled to the end of the world and back in the name of running.

Hanc, since his graduation from Emerson in 1977, runs and writes about running. His most recent race was none other than this year's Boston Marathon. He also published his eighth book in iJanuary: The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon./i The book recreates his journey to Antarctica to compete in the most intense and exhausting marathon on the planet-the Antarctica Marathon.

With a degree in Mass Communication, Hanc said he knew he wanted to be a writer, although at the time he couldn't fathom writing about marathons.

"One of the experiences I never thought I would be doing while I was at Emerson is running marathons," Hanc said. "I think that it was to counteract some of the effects of the '70s college lifestyle that I started running."

Hanc then competed in marathons worldwide, deciding to write about running in a narrative style. The inspiration for this type writing came in 2005 when, at age 50, Hanc traveled 7,000 miles to compete in the annual Antarctica Marathon, a treacherous 26.2-mile race across a melting glacier. This was Hanc's 20th marathon, but he said it was the most difficult race he has ever competed in.

"If I ever had any doubts of global warming, they were answered that day," he said. "We ran on a glacier island, but the glacier was melting. We ran in ankle deep mud and streams of cold water-that is, glacier run off-and then we had to run up the glacier not once, but twice."

Hanc wrote several stories describing his experience in the Antarctica Marathon for publications, including iThe Boston Globe/i, iThe Smithsonian/i, iNewsday/i, and iRunner's World Magazine/i. After writing articles about the Antarctic race, he compiled his story into what would become iThe Coolest Race/i.

He said he was inspired not only by the marathon itself, but also by the runners who accompanied him on the arctic journey. William Tan, the first wheelchair-user to attempt to complete the Antarctica Marathon, a rough and tough ex-marine, and three bicycle riding grandmothers who were hoping to ride their way into the record books are just of few of the characters who competed against Hanc in the marathon.

In his days at Emerson, Hanc was a music critic for iThe Berkeley Beacon/i and he said his experiences at Emerson helped shape his career.

"A lot of my friends are from Emerson and I just really wanted to do something, we had a passion, even if it was just a vaguely defined passion, we wanted to do what we loved."