'I must be an absolute idiot to do something like this' says racer running 2nd in Arctic Ultra

The nine remaining competitors in the 6633 Arctic Ultra race are on the final 193 kilometres of the race, travelling the ice road to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

6633 Arctic Ultra organizers ponder new route as all-season road to Tuk nears completion

Scottish athlete Roddy Riddle is making his second attempt at completing the 6633 Arctic Ultra race from Eagle Plains, Yukon, to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

As Roddy Riddle closes in on the leading racer in his second attempt to complete a 563-kilometre Arctic foot race, he is blunt.

"I don't like cold. I don't like camping. I must be an absolute idiot to do something like this," said the Scottish athlete.

"But I do it for a reason and it's to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes and what can be achieved with the condition. And if it proves to youngsters or it gives youngsters confidence that it doesn't stop them from achieving goals in their life, then it's a job well done."

Competitors in the 6633 Arctic Ultra race from Eagle Plains, Yukon, to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., pulling a sledge with their supplies. For the final 193 kilometres from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, racers travel on an ice road.

"I took part last year, and failed on the ice road," said Riddle.

He withdrew past the junction to go to Aklavik. On his way to that area on Wednesday, Riddle said this time it's different.

"I feel brand new to be honest. I feel driven to the ice road. In currently different conditions than last year," he said.

Roddy Riddle says he enters extreme races to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes and give to youth with the disease confidence that they can achieve their goals. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

He is currently in second place behind Romanian Tiberiu Useriu, who at one point was about 18 hours ahead of the pack. By Thursday, Riddle was catching up, and was about 1.6 km behind Useriu.

Twenty-three people started the ninth annual race in Eagle Plains March 10. Two were registered for the shorter 193 km race to Fort McPherson, N.W.T., while the rest were hoping to complete the race to Tuktoyaktuk. Like most years, more than half of the racers have withdrawn and only nine remain.

Organizer Martin Like says that although they don't advertise the race much, it attracts competitors from all around the world because it is one of the world's toughest, with a completion rate that used to be as low as about 12 per cent.

The 6633 Arctic Ultra begins in Eagle Plains, Yukon. It passes through the N.W.T. communities of Fort McPherson and Inuvik before finishing on the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk, 563 km from the start. (Google Maps)

"There are many, many people who have come here with ambitions of being physically fit and physically strong and have been humbled completely by the environment but equally those that respect the environment have done incredibly well," he said.

Like says that as more people are educated on the race, more people are finishing it. About 20 different countries have been represented over the years and Like says "we've had our first entrants this year from Canada which is a bit bizarre but perhaps they have more sense."

Romanian Tiberiu Useriu leaves Arctic Chalet in Inuvik, N.W.T., on Tuesday. Useriu is currently in the lead. (6633 Arctic Ultra)

This year is special as it's the last that will be on the ice road. A new all-season road is expected to open this fall, and it will be a shorter distance.

"The new route will still end at Tuktoyaktuk," said Like. "We don't want to make it much shorter than the existing route… so we are going to have to be inventive of how we are going to make that distance up."

Riddle says it's "touching to be part of the last race on the maintained ice road" and the father of three is hoping that this will be the year he ends his racing career.

"Last year I said it was going to be my last race and because I didn't finish the race, you are only as good as your last race, and me not finishing it wasn't good enough. 

"If I finish this year, no I won't be back. It will be my last race."

Racers are expected to arrive in Tuktoyaktuk Saturday morning.

Roddy Riddle runs the winter road to Tuktoyaktuk, the last section of the 6633 Arctic Ultra race. (6633 Arctic Ultra)