A local man is among the nearly 180 athletes who will compete in Borderland's extreme ultramarathon later this month.

Bob Bahr and 175 others are currently on the roster for the 16th annual Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon that begins at 7 a.m. Jan. 27 at Kerry Park in International Falls.

“I anticipate Bob to do really well,” said Ken Krueger, co-director for the event.

Bahr will run the 135-mile event from International Falls to Fortune Bay Resort in Casino in Tower. Racers can bike, run, ski or kicksled. Bahr competed in 2018, but dropped because of colder temperatures.

“The cold can catch people off guard,” Krueger said.

But it's the cold and the camaraderie that attracts people to the race.

The grueling event takes racers through northern Minnesota’s wilderness, and has been hailed as one of the toughest races in the world. The competition draws athletes from around the state, country and world.

“People come from all over,” Krueger said. “I know some of the racers are already here or on their way to start getting acclimated to our weather.”

Krueger and his wife, Jackie Krueger, are in their seventh year as race directors, and Ken said he is most looking forward to seeing the competitors.

“It's a highlight,” he said of being reunited with those involved in the event. “It just goes too fast... I'd love to spend time on the trail with everybody and get to know them a little more. It's great to see everyone.”

By the numbers

This year’s race will feature 85 bikers, 81 runners and 10 skiers who have 60 hours to finish. Twenty-eight of those athletes will race unsupported, meaning they are not allowed to stop at any of the checkpoints along the route.

“It adds to the challenge,” Ken Krueger said of racing unsupported.

Ken credited the diverse group of dedicated racers, many who continue to sign up year after year, with the race's success. Some even attempt to earn the “Arrowhead a’Trois” trophy, which means they have have finished the race by skiing, running and biking. This year, seven are competing for that title.

While registration is up this year, Krueger noted the Tuscobia Winter Ultra, held at the end of December in Rice Lake, Wis., featured “some pretty harsh” weather conditions, forcing some athletes to withdraw from the Arrowhead 135.

“The two races attract a lot of the same people and some have had to drop because of the cold, rainy weather in Wisconsin,” Krueger said. “We've had a few drops from our race already and I expect some more before (Jan. 27).”

Helping out

In addition to competing in one of the world's toughest races, Krueger said the Arrowhead 135 also attracts participants because it features a family-like atmosphere.

“Very few people come here to win this race,” Krueger said. “It's all about helping each other and surviving.”

Last year, he recalled a biker who got a flat tire only three miles into the race. Another biker gave the stranded cyclist his only spare tube, even though he had 135 miles to go.

“I think any biker out there would have done the same thing,” Krueger said. “It's pretty impressive.”

The race director also gave a nod to the volunteers who help the race run smoothly.

“Many of the volunteers have been part of this longer than Jackie and I have,” Krueger said. “The group makes it go so smoothly.”

Krueger encouraged the community to come see the racers off at 7 a.m. Jan. 27 at Kerry Park. The event will again feature a brief fireworks sendoff. 

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