Ever wondered what it’s like to take on one of the world’s coldest environments? The Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra is a challenge like no other and tests the athletes brave enough to take part to their absolute limits. Having competed before and back again for the 2022 race, we caught up with Kevin Leahy to learn more about him and to find out why he loves the Yukon so much.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
My name is Kevin Leahy. I’m based in Killarney, County Kerry Ireland. I do all sorts of things. Currently ultra marathons are my main focus but I have competed in some 3-4 day multi-discipline adventure races. I really 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 the last two years, several ultras in Ireland and one in Canada (100-mile Yukon).
In 2022 I’m aiming to complete 2 x 500km ultra marathons in a month. 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.
Why are you taking on the yukon?
The Yukon is a challenge like no other. I first went to Whitehorse 3 years ago on a solo backpacking trip and by pure coincidence the Yukon Arctic Ultra was starting there that week. I saw the runners and immediately wanted to take part. I asked Robert, the race organiser, if I could do the marathon distance but I was too late. So I came back for the 100-mile the next year. This year it’s the 300-mile and I hope to do the 430-mile in the not too distant future.
This race is a massive challenge mentally and physically so I’m really testing to see if I can find my limits. It’s also very interesting preparing for the race with the nutrition and hydration issues (Temperatures get so low that all food freezes so we need to boil water and eat dehydrated meals).
How have you prepared for the cold conditions of the Yukon?
I haven’t really. The coldest I got this winter was minus 2 degrees while camping at Mount Brandon. With the cold, the most important thing is having the right kit and using it at the right time. How do you balance your work life with training? Running two businesses means I’m always busy, but I have great staff so I also have a lot of flexibility. I’m up at 5am, 2-3 mornings a week so I get a lot of my training done then. Sunday is when I do my long days. Again the staff at the Black Sheep know me well and appreciate my training schedule. I’m very lucky!
Is there any part of the route you’re particularly looking forward to or, alternatively, fearful of?
No part in particular. I know some of the route from when I did the 100-mile two years ago but I’m just looking forward to getting away from the start line and focusing only on the race. The Yukon is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one.
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.
Eager to learn more about Kevin and the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra? Tune into our podcast to hear from him! You can discover more about this event by heading to our dedicated event hub page. In addition to taking on the Yukon, Kevin also plans to take part in the new sister event the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra, taking place in March.
Kevin’s incredible ultra run efforts are also being closely tracked by film crew Grand View Media and a film is due out later this year (keep your eyes peeled for more information on this coming soon!).