Intrepid ultra runner wins gruesome Arctic race after spending final two days as the only remaining participant

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Irish athlete Kev Leahy is the official winner of the Montane Arctic Spine – and the only athlete to finish the race (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Montane Arctic Spine race was never going to be easy. A 293-mile non-stop race along the Kungsleden Trail in Arctic Sweden pulling or carrying everything you need to survive against temperatures as low as -35C. The challenge was so gruesome that only a handful of the most daring athletes set off from the starting line at Abisko Tuesday, February 6. By Sunday, there would only be one runner left.

After racing alone across frozen tundra and snowfields, Irish ultra runner Kevin Leahy was declared the winner of the Arctic Spine. Leahy crossed the finish line  – which had been adjusted by race organizers as the race progressed – about an hour ago. A Youtube video, which you can watch below, shows Leahy finishing on cross country skis while pulling a sled. He says the course beat him up 5 km a day, but he "thoroughly enjoyed" the experience.

"What an adventure," reflects Leahy, sipping a celebratory beer.

"Beautiful scenery. I had some great moments listening to music just cruising along."

By the second night of the race, only four athletes remained, with Robi Dattatreya and Rob Brooks soon dropping out to leave Leahy alone with Ed Sellon. When Sellon called it a day on Sunday after becoming the first person to finish the Montane Arctic Spine Challenger course (129 miles), Leahy found himself the last man standing, but continued solo for two more days before bring crowned the winner a little short of the original intended finish line of Hemavan.

Race organizers say they've got three pizzas and an entire case of beer for Leahy to celebrate his achievement.

"We challenge you to think of a harder-earned medal than the one he has around his neck now. Kev has blazed a trail along the Kungsleden, setting a standard for anyone intrepid enough to take on this race in the future," write the course organizers on Facebook.

"Every kilometre he covered has been a record, and every hour that he remained out there has been a miraculous achievement."

Leahy, who runs a hostel in Killarney, ran this race in support for AsIAm, Ireland's autism charity. He has previously completed the the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra and the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra, both of which were captured in a film called 1000km of Chaos.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.