The Ice Man Cometh

By Alice Morrison

Romanian endurance runner Tibi Useriu has won the 6633 Arctic Ultra for the second time. He crossed the finish line on Friday morning, March 17, at 1:25 local time. His full race time was 158.25, ahead of Roddy Riddle in second with 165.39.

The 6633 is known as one of the most difficult ultras in the world due to the extreme weather conditions. The race route begins at Eagle Plains (Yukon); the 120mile distance event ends at Fort McPherson (NWT) and the 350mile category ends at Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean, above the Arctic Circle. 

It is a non-stop self-sufficient event where participants must carry all the necessary gear and food on sleds. Two drop bags are permitted for the 350mile distance. Checkpoints along the route have hot water and shelter for the participants. And medical support and evacuation are available throughout the course.

Tibi Useriu also won the 350-mile race beyond the Arctic Circle in 2016. He returned this year to defend his title.

He took the lead from day one and put a significant distance between himself and his nearest competitors, maintaining that lead throughout the race.

However, he did face major difficulties in the last part of the race when he suffered from frostbite. At the very last checkpoint before the finish line, the doctors advised him to stop racing and get immediate treatment as his frostbite was infected.

But Tibi pushed through and left that last checkpoint just as his nearest competitor was arriving. He ran another heroic 50 miles to cross the finish line in Tuktoyaktuk.

This race really is like no other and can take you to some very strange places in your mind as Gavan Hennigan told RunUltra after his 2015 run:

“Just before the last checkpoint at the end of a 70-mile stage 6 days in. I was extremely sleep deprived and started going into a very weird state of delirium. I had tunnel vision and my mind was playing tricks on me. I could see the lights of the checkpoint up ahead. It was just a 4×4 and a trailer, but it was on the ice road that was long and straight. I couldn’t seem to get any closer no matter what I did and it drove me a bit mad.”

Congratulations to all the competitors and especially to Tibi. Amazing stuff!

"At the very last checkpoint before the finish line, the doctors advised him to stop racing"

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