In winter 2021, when Ukrainian-American Vladimir Aslan reached the melting point of his day-trading job, he found running in cold weather made a good distraction from his sorrows. A year and a half later, he became the first person to run a shirtless half-marathon across northern Greenland, at 0 F (-18 C).
You may be wondering why anyone would do that, but his idea to subject himself to sub-zero temperatures came from winter running in New York’s Central Park. “It always felt better, whenever I dressed lighter on the coldest days: no jacket, no long-sleeve shirt, no T-shirt and only shorts and running shoes,” Aslan says. “I understood that it has a straight impact on my mind. I felt rejuvenated. I felt alive. I felt clear.”
Most of the people around him considered Aslan’s approach to training abnormal, but he knew it worked for what he was trying to accomplish. “I started being interested in human psychology/abilities behind the line of fear and strength,” he says. “The cold emancipated me from fears and sorrows.”
The half-marathon was run in Qaanaaq, Greenland, which is one of the most northern settled towns in the world. It has a population of 646, and the average temperature during his February 2023 expedition was -23 C . Qaanaaq was settled by Inuit, Eskimo and Thule inhabitants, who hunt, harpoon and dogs led to feed their families.
Aslan was born and raised in Ukraine, but has lived in the US for almost 15 years. He trained for the half-marathon by doing 30-minute and one-hour cold plunges and running outdoors in the middle of a New York City winter wearing only running shoes and shorts.
After accomplishing a sub-zero, half-clothed half-marathon, the 39-year-old extreme athlete plans to head back to northern Greenland to swim an ice mile in the Atlantic Ocean. Aslan says the most difficult part of his half-marathon was the rugged and icy terrain. “The ice run in Qaanaaq was the hardest challenge I faced in my life,” he says.