Endurance athlete chases $1 million bonus prize

Pirate IRWIN
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British champion obstacle course racer Jonathan Albon competes in the Spartan World Championship in California in September 2018

British endurance athlete Jonathan Albon could be $1 million richer by Sunday -- all he has to do is win a 24-hour race, cover at least 100 miles and conquer dozens of obstacles.

The 29-year-old, who lives in Norway, has a shot at the huge cash bonus after winning the Spartan World Championship in the United States and the Spartan Trifecta World Championship in Greece.

That leaves the Spartan Ultra World Championship in Iceland, which is a 24-hour multiple-lap event. The winner is the athlete who runs the most complete laps within the time limit.

To be eligible for the Spartan $1 million Trifecta, the winner must also complete 100 miles (161 kilometres) or more.

In order to qualify to race in wintry Iceland, Albon was required to complete a 50-kilometre Spartan Ultra in less than 10 hours -- and he opted to do that in Malaysia last weekend before dashing back to Europe.

Albon is now about to swap the "sauna-like heat" of Malaysia for potentially freezing conditions in Iceland.

He is not so concerned about that -- he is allowed to come in briefly after each lap to stock up on equipment and food -- but the performance of last year's winner does not fill him with confidence.

"The odds are stacked against me," he told AFP. "Last year's winner managed 71 miles."

And he concedes he may not even finish the race on undulating terrain featuring obstacles with fearsome names such as Inverted Wall, Barbed Wire Crawl and Spear Throw.

"It's not going to be quite a walk in the park but I want to do myself justice," he said.

"If I feel I can't run the 100 miles in the 24 hours I will pull up as I have made enough money this year. I have nothing to prove and I want to enjoy the off-season and go skiing."

The British runner says getting through the first half of the race is the toughest bit.

"It is always more difficult and challenging," he said by phone from Bergen while sitting on an overflowing suitcase as he has to be prepared for anything the Iceland climate can throw at him.

"You are more likely to be doubting yourself in that part of the race. Once you have passed the 12-hour mark you are halfway there and it becomes easier."

The former building surveyor for the London Underground said the race will be unlike anything he has encountered before.

"This is largely due to the 30 burpees (squat thrusts) you are penalised for missing an obstacle," he said.

"Normally you do those at that particular obstacle but for this race they are added up and you do them at the end of that lap," he said.

Making things even more challenging is that not all the obstacles are lit.

"The most challenging thing is using the headlamp -- it gives you a headache," he said. "Although that could be easily cured by winning the bonus."