Athletes Kick Off Ultramarathon In Minnesota Despite Extreme Cold Endurance runners, skiers and cyclists in Minnesota haven't let extreme cold get in the way of competing in the Arrowhead 135 ultramarathon. The race kicked off Monday in International Falls, Minn.
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Athletes Kick Off Ultramarathon In Minnesota Despite Extreme Cold

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Athletes Kick Off Ultramarathon In Minnesota Despite Extreme Cold

Athletes Kick Off Ultramarathon In Minnesota Despite Extreme Cold

Athletes Kick Off Ultramarathon In Minnesota Despite Extreme Cold

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/689760932/689760933" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Endurance runners, skiers and cyclists in Minnesota haven't let extreme cold get in the way of competing in the Arrowhead 135 ultramarathon. The race kicked off Monday in International Falls, Minn.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Officials in the Midwest are warning many residents to limit their time outside due to the extreme cold. But a group of racers in remote northern Minnesota are seriously bucking that advice.

(CHEERING)

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Dozens of skiers, runners and cyclists set out yesterday morning to run a 135-mile race.

KEN KRUEGER: It's 22 below with a wind chill of 46 below.

CORNISH: That's Ken Krueger. He directs the Arrowhead 135 race.

SHAPIRO: Participants head from International Falls on the Canadian border to the small town of Tower, Minn.

KRUEGER: The whole course is wooded. You don't see a house until you get to the finish line.

CORNISH: Now, if that doesn't already sound hard enough, the runners also pull sleds behind them with emergency supplies - a stove, sleeping bag, matches.

KRUEGER: And they weigh approximately 35 pounds.

SHAPIRO: Some years, only 20 percent of the racers finish, but that's all part of the draw.

KRUEGER: Maybe some people want a warm race, but most of them want a tough race. They want the challenge. They want the bragging rights. And if they get a, quote, "easier year," it's almost like they were cheated out of a race.

CORNISH: Already, a number of this year's racers have dropped out.

RUSSELL LOUCKS: A variety of reasons. We did have one drop because of frostbite.

SHAPIRO: That's Russell Loucks. He's a race official. Racers have also quit because their drinking water froze or because of mechanical issues.

LOUCKS: Tires go flat or something breaks or something and it's 22 below, and you really can't take your gloves off for more than 30 seconds.

CORNISH: Loucks himself hasn't participated in the race.

LOUCKS: Oh, hell no. (Laughter) These people are crazy.

SHAPIRO: But cyclist Leah Gruhn just finished the race for the seventh time.

LEAH GRUHN: Once you finish something like this, you kind of look, you know, into the rest of your life and ask yourself, oh, what other things are out there that I don't think that I am able to accomplish but maybe with some planning and work I actually could? So I think it's really empowering.

CORNISH: The bikers and skiers have mostly finished by now, but most of the runners won't wrap up until later tonight and tomorrow.

SHAPIRO: Expected lows tonight at the finish line - 30 below zero.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE PIANO GUYS' "LET IT GO")

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