The Arrowhead Winter Ultra 135 is a human powered ultra marathon taking place in the coldest part of winter in the coldest city in the lower 48 states, International Falls, Minnesota.
With average finish rates of less than 50%, the Arrowhead 135 is known for its brutal cold weather, attracting the toughest athletes in endurance sports. Race Director Ken Krueger shares what makes it so iconic, challenging, and alluring in this interview. Check out Ken's story and gallery of photos here.
Photos: Burgess Eberhardt
What’s the story behind Arrowhead Ultra?
This is the 18th annual Arrowhead Ultra 135. It was started by Pierrre and Cheryl Ostor. Pierre used to go to AK (from MN) to race every winter. His wife asked why he didn't start his own race. The first year there were 10 racers, 5 finished.
What makes the challenge for the Arrowhead so iconic and so alluring to endurance athletes?
It is ranked one of the 50 hardest races on earth. It is like a family reunion, most people are not here to win, but rather to see what they are capable. About 70% of our racers have been here before, some have been here many times. The finish rate is largely determined by trail conditions and weather. Each year is different.
How many times have you done it yourself?
I have 7 bike finishes, 1 ski finish, and 1 foot finish. I was the 5th person to earn the A'trois trophy for completing the race in all 3 disciplines. I have not had a DNF.
What’s the most common mistake you see athletes make?
DNF when they are capable of continuing - followed closely by continuing when they are not capable of making the next check point.
What was your most memorable year of Arrowhead and why?
2007 was my first year. It was probably the coldest we ever had. The finish rate was ~20%. I did everything wrong, my bike did not work for most of the race. I pushed it ~85 miles. I finished.
Most people don’t finish. What do you want non-finishers to know about their experience?
It is unfinished business, most will come back for revenge. If you DNF at Arrowhead, you are in good company. Amazing athletes have DNFed here.
Visit Arrowhead Winter Ultra to learn more about the race, read reports from other year's, and learn how to qualify for the race. The 2022 event takes place from January 31 to Feb 2nd. Find a list of 2022 registered racers here.