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Runner recaps completing one of the world’s coldest ultras

Robbie Britton, an ultrarunner, recaps his experience at the Beyond the Ultimate Ice Ultra, one of the world's coldest distance races in northern Sweden.

world's coldest ultras

As Robbie Britton describes it, the Beyond the Ultimate Ice Ultra is an ideal race for those that consider “sub-zero days, vast frozen lakes, chasing reindeer and the Northern Lights” fun.

Britton, an ultrarunner from Great Britain, won the 230-kilometre competition in Sweden in late February and considered the event more of an adventure than a race according to a piece he wrote in the Independent. Runners carry all their own food, water, and equipment and have five days to complete the challenge, all of which takes place in northern Sweden, near the arctic circle.

With warmer than seasonal temperatures, runners were forced to go across frozen lakes with almost a foot of water on top. In a battle to stay warm, but not too warm, Britton used the term “arctic striptease” to describe the strategy of shedding and adding layers to adjust his body temperature.

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Britton estimates that he consumed up to 7,000 calories per day over the four-stage race. Runners could only carry so much food, however, as supplies weren’t transported by race officials but the runners themselves.

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The use of skis was prohibited according to the race rules but would have provided an ideal alternative to traversing the ice and snow of Sweden, where temperatures reached –30C. Snowshoes were often the footwear of choice. At night, competitors stayed in remote cabins or Tipi tents.

Britton notes that many runners did the race for a sense of “self-discovery, reaching limits,” and seeing how far one can push the body in adverse conditions.

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Britton notes that although an arctic ultra may not be suitable for everyone, lengthy races in other parts of the world, including deserts and jungles, also pose certain risks. “The bears were all asleep for us,” concludes Britton.

The race costs approximately $3,800 (£2,000).