Colin O’Brady covered the final 77.54 miles over 32 hours without sleep, a trek he described as an Antarctic ultra-marathon, then called his family to tell them tearfully, “I did it!”.
“Something overcame me,” O’Brady said in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “I didn’t listen to any music – just locked in, like I’m going until I’m done. It was profound, it was beautiful and it was an amazing way to finish.”
He had spent 54 days in conditions that pushed his body to its limit, battling hunger, cold and solitude, often trekking almost blind through driving snow, struggling over treacherous terrain and pulling weeks’ worth of supplies on a sled. The total journey was 932 miles.
O’Brady, 33, had called his trek “the impossible first”. In 2016, Briton Henry Worsley died after calling off the same trek only 30 miles from the end. Another explorer gave up the quest at the south pole last year
Adding to the pressure, O’Brady was racing Briton Louis Rudd – a friend of Worsley – across Antarctica, in a competition with echoes of the famous contest to reach the south pole more than a century ago. The two men set off together, with Rudd taking an early lead, but by Christmas Day he was more than 80 miles behind his American rival.
O’Brady decided to make a final push for the finish line on Christmas Day. He finally stopped near midnight – but took only 90 minutes to boil water and eat a double ration of dinner.