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The 7 Toughest Ultramarathon Races in the World

I have never participated in a multiday endurance race. Nonetheless, today I’m going to share with you a few crazy races that I would love to add my to “been there, done that” list.

These ultra beasts will push your body and mind to the breaking point. So only consider stepping in after you have proved your fitness level and have already completed a bunch of marathons, obstacle course events, and other endurance races.

Note: If you have already crossed the finish line on some of these races, then congrats and I urge to email me because I really want to learn more about the training you went through in order to get ready for these crazy events.

The 7 Toughest Ultramarathon Races in the World

1. Marathon des Sables

Also known as “Marathon of Sands” in English, This crazy race takes place in the breathtaking Moroccan desert in North Africa, and is one of the cruelest footraces on Earth. It’s also one of the best organized and biggest multi-day endurance events in the world.

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Image Credit – Alastair Humphreys via Flickr

What to expect

The MSD is a 6-day race that will test your endurance as you make your way through a 154-mile hellish trek under some of the most inhospitable conditions on the planet. So this race is not really for the faint-hearted.

During the event, you have to run the equivalent of a full marathon each day of the race on sand in hellish desert temperatures. Plus, it’s a self-sufficient race. So participants have to carry their own supplies, and the necessary items for desert survival.

2. The jungle Ultra

The Jungle Ultra Marathon is a 140-mile race from The Andes to the Amazon. The race course consists of tough jungle trails, mountain roads and village tracks as participants lead their way down from 10500ft in the Cloud Forest to Amazon Jungle below.

What to expect

This endurance event will have you partake a five-stage race covering roughly 140 miles through the humid and merciless Peruvian jungle, wetting your feet in 70 tropical rivers and streams before you reach the finish line.

It’s not all. You are expected to make it through the jungle while carrying your own supplies, a hammock to sleep in, and fight off hordes of hungry bugs and temperatures in the 90’s.

3. Badwater Ultramarathon

This is one of the grandfathers of the modern ultra running craze. This even goes way back to the mid 70’s, and it is, still, one of the toughest and most challenging footraces on earth.

What to expect

During the event, you will have to cover a 135-mile through Death Valley, the hottest spot in the U.S,  during July, the hottest month, so expect scorching temperatures, reaching over 125 degrees.

The race kicks off below sea level, then climbs up to 8,300 feet to the trailhead at Mountain Whitney.

4. Antarctic Ice Marathon

People pay good money to compete and run in the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the only official marathon run on mainland Antarctica and is a member of the Association of International Marathons & Distance Races (AIMS).

Taking place at 80 degrees south, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole at the foot of Ellsworth Mountains, the Antarctic Ice Marathon also is the world’s southernmost marathon.

What to expect

This is a truly Antarctic challenge with conditions comprising ice and, snow and winds blowing steadily at 15 to 25 mph, with average temperatures between 0 and -10 degrees F. Plus, the whole even takes place at an altitude of 2300 feet.

5. North Pole Marathon

On the other side of the planet, the North Pole marathon has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the most northernmost marathon on earth.

What to expect

The North Pole marathon takes place at Russia’s Bareno Ice station in the geographic North pole, and will have you running across Arctic ice on the top of the world. You will be mainly racing on 6 to 14 feet of ice— the only barrier between you and the salty Aortic ocean below—to complete 26.2 miles in one of the remostest parts on earth.

Nonetheless, if the 26.2 is too much you can always opt for the half-marathon option.

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Image Credit – Bruce Grant via Flickr

6. Hardrock 100

If you are into mountain races, then this one is for you. The Hardrock 100 takes place in San Juan, Colorado, and is held each July since 1992.

What to expect

The Hardrock 100 is the premier ultra mountain race, with an average altitude of roughly 11,100 feet above sea level, the highest point reaching over 14,000 feet atop Handles peak. The race course circles around the San Juan Mountain Range of southern Colorado.

During the event, expect to suffer from altitude sickness, with symptoms including headaches, dizziness and a plethora of other trouble.

So it’s not, really, your typical 100-mile trail run. And what makes it extra hard is that you are expected to finish the whole course in under 48 hours, otherwise you would be disqualified.

7. Spartathlon

Greece has been in the news for all bad reasons these last years, but that shouldn’t thwart you from participating in one of the most famous and grueling endurance events on earth.

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Image Credit – Adventure Endurance via Flickr

What to expect

The Spartathlon is s a non-stop 153-mile that kicks off in Athena, Greece’s capital, and wraps up in Sparta, the legendary city, to simulate the road that the Greek messenger Pheidippides ran in 490 BC to alert the Spartans and ask for help against the Persian army in what’s known as the battle of Marathon.

So you will be, lit really, taking on a legendary path, and celebrating thousands of years of tradition.

What makes it this even really challenging is that you have only 36 hours to finish the course, so you if failed to make it to one of the 75 control points along the course, you are disqualified.

As a final note, keep in mind that the legendary Pheidippides died of exhaustion shortly after finishing the whole course himself.

Conclusion

I think that’s it for now. Please if you have any race ideas or questions, feel free to leave them below in the comment section.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

David D

Featured Image Credit  – Alastair humphreys via Flickr

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David Dack

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