Texas A&M master’s graduate ran marathon miles across Antarctica on day of commencement

By Alyson Chapman, Texas A&M University College of Engineering
Image by Mark Conlon / Antarctic Ice Marathon

Four hours, 30 minutes and 49 seconds.

That’s how long it took for Kentaro Iio ’19 to finish sixth overall in the 26.2-mile course at the Antarctic Ice Marathon on Dec. 13. It was also his master’s graduation day at Texas A&M University.

In the race 600 miles from the South Pole, Iio was one of 56 runners to complete the race in 5-degree temperatures.

“During the race, I faced the hardest wind I have ever experienced,” Iio said. “The wind was harsh, but the most challenging part was snow terrain because it was slippery. It felt as if I was swimming without knowing how to swim.”

Kentaro has run several marathons in Asia and North America. He first heard of the Antarctic Ice Marathon when he was in high school.

“This race had been my teenage dream, and it wasn’t cheap, but I thought I would never do this if I kept saying ‘someday,’” he said. “The best part was meeting new people as they were all very adventurous, great runners.”

Since the race fell on the day of his graduation, he packed his graduation cap and gown. However, Iio’s checked luggage didn’t arrive on time.

“I didn’t have my running gear when we flew to Union Glacier,” he said. “Fortunately, some other runners let me use their extra gear. But the fact that I could not wear my cap and gown on graduation day was mentally challenging, too. I couldn’t do the probably southernmost Aggie ring dunk either, but I still had a great time there.”

Iio has run so many races that he has lost count, but some stand out more than others. In May 2019, he ran in the inaugural Chuck Norris 5K in College Station and came in first, crossing the finish line with a fake red beard taped to his face. He was the first of more than 5,000 runners from 48 states and seven countries to shake hands with Chuck Norris.

“I like running because it’s simple most of the time,” he said. “There is no referee controversy. Instead, running reflects who you are at the time of the race.”

Whether it is running or research, Iio said the fundamentals are essential.

“For me, winning a race or doing research are both fun, but I cannot run fast if I do not care about basic practice,” he said. “Similarly, I cannot do good research without learning basic knowledge and academic integrity.”

That knowledge and academic integrity helped him complete his master of science in the civil engineering transportation program. His research, “Bid-based Priority Signal Control in a Connected Environment: Concept,” was published in June 2019 in the Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board.

Now that he has graduated, Iio is working for a traffic engineering consulting firm in Houston, but he’ll also continue running.

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