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Stunning drone footage offer's bird's eye view of annual ice marathon across world's deepest lake

Every winter, dozens of Russians and international visitors lace up their special ice cleats and embark on a remarkable 42.2-kilometre run across Siberia's Lake Baikal.   

Lake Baikal, located in southeastern Siberia about 4,300 kilometres east of Moscow, is famous for its pristine water, which freezes clear and creates stunning blue ice formations. Baikal is between 20 million and 25 million years old and holds more water than all of North America's Great Lakes combined.

At more than 1,600 metres deep, including under the marathon route, it is easily the deepest lake in the world.

The Baikal Ice Marathon, organized by local businessman Alexei Nikiforov, has taken place every year for the past 17 years. Even with Russia still gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, Nikiforov says he was determined not to cancel the event. 

This year, 70 runners took part. While much of the route across the lake was over clear ice, blowing snow meant runners had to trudge through knee-deep drifts for the last 10 kilometres to reach the finish line. The winner was former Russian pro-football star Alexei Smertin, 45, who clocked in at three hours and 25 minutes. 

Our CBC Moscow crew visited the lake for this year's race, which took place Feb. 28.

WATCH | Why runners couldn't stay away from the Baikal Ice Marathon this year:

Lake Baikal is one of Russia's natural wonders, and in the middle of a fierce Siberian winter, it's the site of one of the most extreme sporting events on earth — a marathon on the frozen surface of the world’s deepest lake. 5:36

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