Athlete Q&A: Arctic Spine Race

Having completed both the Yukon and Lapland races in recent years, endurance racer Kevin Leahy has now set his sights on taking on the new Arctic Spine Race in Sweden…

1000km of Chaos is a film that tracks the progress of Irishman Kevin as he undertook not one, but two of Montane’s coldest sponsored ultras in 2022, the MYAU and the MLAU. For anyone unsure of what to expect you can now watch the film on Amazon Prime and Apple TV - your chance to immerse yourself in the freezing landscapes he encountered.

With plenty of experience pushing his limits in extremely cold environments, his next arctic challenge is the new Spine race in Sweden. We catch up with Kevin to find out what he’s been up to since his previous Arctic races and what lessons he’ll be applying on the Kungsleden Trail.

Yukon arctic ultra

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Kevin Leahy. I’m based in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland. For a living, I own and run a hostel and coffee shack. It’s called The Black Sheep. We try our best to be an eco-conscious adventure hostel. Outside of my day-to-day work, I do all sorts of active things. Currently, ultra marathons are my main focus but I have competed in some 3-4 day multi-discipline adventure races. I like them and hope to get back to doing them in the next year or two. I’ve done two Fastest Known Times in Kerry in recent years as well as several ultras in Ireland.

We last chatted two years ago and at that time I was looking to conquer 2x 500km ultras, the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra and the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra. I completed these and the experience was captured in a film called 1000km of Chaos.

For the first 6 months after taking on the 1000km of Chaos, I didn’t do much, except for rest and recovery.  After that, I started training and traveling again taking on a  few ski and motorbike trips. Once I started back training, I varied my training a lot starting with Muay Thai and mountain biking. Earlier this year I took part in and won the Last Man Standing in Ireland. 

Why are you taking on the Arctic Spine and how have you prepared?

The main lure for this one is the size of the challenge and the fact that it’s the first time this route has been attempted as a race. The Kungsleden trail has a great reputation for its epic scenery, so I imagine it will be even more epic in Winter. The fact that we don’t even know if this race can be finished excites me. Also, not being a skier, I am interested to see how my body will handle this day after day. 

Since September I’ve been mainly focused on training for the Arctic Spine. As we have no snow in Ireland I borrowed a pair of Skikes (skis on wheels) from a friend and have been getting used to them on the roads here. I spent a few weeks in Norway before Christmas for additional ski training. Other training has included pulling a large tyre around for several hours a week, as well as long hikes and long bike rides every weekend.



In the tough moments, do you have any tactics to help you through?

Yes, I have loads. The main thing is not to let the negative voice in your head take control. I strive to keep myself present, focused on the positives and just be grateful that I’m able to do an event like this. I also believe that a life without adventure is a life unlived, so I'll be reminding myself of this life mantra when in need.

I lost a lot of weight and muscle during my last two Arctic ultras, so I’m going to focus more on eating the recommended 5000-6000 calories per day. I’ve also altered my sleeping system, so I’ll have a double exped mat system rather than an inflatable mat.

I feel I’ll be putting myself under less pressure to perform this time, so I’ll enjoy the experience more than before and I won’t be in a rush to finish.

Keep up with the Swedish Arctic action

Head over to our dedicated event HUB to find out more about our new Arctic race.