Maria Leijerstam

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Maria Leijerstam
Maria Leijerstam.jpeg
BornJune 1978 (age 40)
Aberdare, Wales
OccupationBusiness consultant and owner of Burn Series, a family sporting events company
Known forFirst person to reach South Pole by cycle
Leijerstam's route (blue) over the South Pole Traverse (red)

Maria Leijerstam is a British polar adventurer. In 2013 she was the first person to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the continent.[1][2] Leijerstam started her expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf at the edge of the Antarctic continent at S85 27.066 W150 03.044. She cycled for 10hrs to 17hrs each day with no rest days, and the total distance cycled was 638 km (396 mi). Leijerstam cycled a uniquely designed, three wheeled Polar Cycle, a modernised form of polar travel, demonstrating that cycling can be more efficient than skiing to the South Pole.

Life and work[edit]

Private and professional life[edit]

Leijerstam was born in Aberdare, Wales, in 1978. Her parents are Adrianne and Anders Leijerstam. After studying mathematics at Plymouth University, Leijerstam worked as a consultant for Siemens, BAE Systems and Ford. She worked in Germany and Sweden for several years, before moving back to Wales where she now lives with her partner, Wayne Edy, founder of the running shoe manufacturer Inov-8.


During her time at Plymouth University, Leijerstam used the sports facilities of the University Officers Training Corps, a youth organisation of the British Army, and became an enthusiastic outdoor athlete. Over the years, she learned outdoor, water and winter sports, including long-distance running (single and double marathon, ultramarathon) mountaineering, hiking and trekking, skiing, cycling, multisport, canoeing, sailing and rally racing.

Leijerstam has taken part in competitions all over the world. Her successes include Canoe Marathon Devizes to Westminster International (2014), multi-sport adventure race Patagonian Expedition Race (2013), Surf Ski Race Rhoose Ski Race (2012), Triathlon Ironman UK (2010), Rally Car Racing Land Rover G4 Challenge (2009), Multisport Race Three Peaks Yacht Race (2008) and Turas World Adventure Race (2008).

In 2007, Leijerstam became the first Welsh woman to complete in the Marathon des Sables (aka. Sahara Marathon) where she ran six marathons in seven days, battling extreme high temperatures. In 2012, she became the first woman to complete the Siberian Black Ice Race, cycling across Lake Baikal, the longest and deepest frozen freshwater lake in the world.

White Ice Cycle[edit]

Maria Leijerstam at the geographical South Pole

At the end of 2013, Leijerstam gained a Guinness World Record in an expedition known as the White Ice Cycle, becoming the first person in the world to reach the South Pole by cycling.[3] She also holds the record for the fastest trip from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the South Pole using purely muscle strength.[4]

Leijerstam completed the almost-650 km (400 mi) route from the Ross Ice Shelf on the edge of the Antarctic to the South Pole in just over 10 days.[4] During the trip, she followed the South Pole Traverse, which led her on a steep climb through the Transantarctic Mountains, over the 2,941 m (9,649 ft) high Leverett Glacier and 500 km (310 mi) above the Antarctic plateau. Whilst riding, she fought against extreme cold, strong winds and snow drifts on the track.[5]

A custom-built recumbent trike called the Polar Cycle, made by Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE), helped Leijerstam secure her record. Her rivals rode standard upright bikes and took almost 4 weeks longer than Leijerstam to reach the summit. The 4.5 in (110 mm) wide balloon tires and a modified gear shift allowed Leijerstam to pass through snowdrifts and climb steep inclines.[6][7]

Future Goals[edit]

In April 2016, Leijerstam will run a marathon at the floating airbase 111 km (69 mi) from the True North Pole before cycling the rest of the way. She hopes to complete the most extreme Duathlon in the world and receive another World First.[8]

Burn Series[edit]

Leijerstam runs a multi-sport company, Burn Series. The adventure racing events held across South Wales are both a challenge and for fun, with the Mini Burn, a shorter and more diverse ‘triathlon’, aimed towards families. The events consist of running, mountain biking, kayaking and orienteering. The Mini Burn is the only adventure race in the UK where both parents and children can compete together.[9]


  1. ^ "IceCycle | World first cycle to the South Pole 2013". Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  2. ^ Benjamin Wright (December 27, 2013), "British adventurer Maria Leijerstam achieves world first by cycling to South Pole", The Independent
  3. ^ "IceCycle | World first cycle to the South Pole 2013". Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  4. ^ a b "The pain and ecstasy of cycling to the South Pole". ITV News. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  5. ^ "British adventurer Maria Leijerstam achieves world first by cycling to". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  6. ^ "Recumbent Trikes - ICE - World record cycle to the South Pole". Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  7. ^ "Maria Leijerstam's South Pole trike". Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  8. ^ Pritchard, Heledd (29 September 2015). "Adventurer aims for another world first with North Pole cycle challenge". walesonline. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Home - BurnSeries • Run • Bike • Kayak". Retrieved 19 October 2017.

See also[edit]