The beautiful snow-covered mountains of Åre, Sweden set the stage for one of the most grueling endurance events of the season, the third-annual 24-Hour Spartan Ultra World Championship. The much-anticipated event drew a field of athletes from more than 40 countries to its new location.
Returning men’s champion Ryan Atkins defended his title, completing 80 miles (129 km) with a time of 23:22:05. The women’s race was captured by Slovenia’s Rea Kolbl, who finished 70 miles (112 km) with a time of 24:10:00. She held a commanding lead over France’s Myriam Guillot-Boisset, who finished 65 miles (104 km) with a time of 24:55:02. Temperatures hit -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 degrees Celsius) with continuous snowfall, which provided a fresh blanket of powder on each lap.
On his path to victory, Atkins climbed more than 8,800 meters, higher than Mount Everest, while Kolbl climbed nearly 7,700 meters. On each 5 mile (8 km) course loop, athletes had to conquer 25 obstacles including the Spear Throw, Monkey Bars, Rope Climb, Sandbag Carry, and Tire Drag.
An Unlikely Battle for Second Place
A battle for second place in the men’s race was waged between 24-hour race first-timer Aaron Newell (USA) and a relatively unknown Norwegian, Sebastian Conrad Haakansson, who hailed from nearby Trondheim. He finished 80 miles (129 km) with a time of 25:28:06, topping Newell, who completed 75 miles (120 km) with a time of 23:34:26. William England, from Umeå, Sweden, took fourth and Kristopher Brown, a 100-mile trail specialist, finished in fifth.
“This year’s Spartan Ultra World Championship had beauty and serenity behind it, which disguised a soul-crushing race that tested the toughest athletes on earth and pushed them to their limits,” said Spartan’s VP of Production David Watson. “This will go down in history as one of the greatest Spartan events that has ever happened.”
Although Atkins took home the race’s top spot on the podium, he fell short of the distance needed to win Spartan’s Million Dollar Challenge, which offered the largest purse in OCR history to elite athletes who competed in Spartan’s three World Championship events during the 2019 season. The challenge began September 29 at the Spartan World Championship Powered By Rakuten in North Lake Tahoe, California, before moving to the Trifecta World Championship in Sparta, Greece. It ended, unanswered, in Sweden. To win, Atkins had to cover 110 miles (174 km). Other eligible athletes included Guillot-Boisset, who needed 90 miles (145 km), and Newell, who placed third with 75 miles. He needed 110 to take home the prize, as per the bonus point system outlined in the challenge.
Killian Ends Race Early; $1 Million Prize Goes Unclaimed
Missing from the podium completely was Robert Killian, a favorite to win both the race and the $1 million prize. Killian, who needed to cover 105 miles to win the challenge, ended the race early, 16:36:05 into the event. He placed 10th with 55 miles (88 km) and saw his chances at the million slip away.
In addition to the elite competition, the weekend featured age group and open categories for the 24-hour Ultra, as well as an 8-mile “Spartan Super” with 30 obstacles, which drew more than 200 racers of varying skill levels.