If we’re being honest, we can all admit that a marathon is an incredible personal feat. It is a long, hard fought, 26.2 miles of pain, suffering, triumph and joy, all rolled into one. But for some, your ÒaverageÓ marathon just doesn’t cut it.
So for the competitors who just can’t seem to get their fix of grueling physical challenges, there are groups around the world that have put together some of the most outrageously taxing events known to man. Running a marathon, or participating in a triathlon is extremely hard, but these, without a doubt, are the six hardest races on earth.
1. The Badwater Ultramarathon
What do you get when you combine 130 degree temperatures, an 8000+ foot climb, and 135 miles of desert running in the middle of July? You get the Badwater Ultramarathon. If just those three facts alone about this race doesn’t scare the hell out of you, there might be something wrong with your brain.
This race is a 100 runner, invitation only, grueling march through the desert. Many try and many fail, but there isn’t really a stronger accomplishment than coming away from this crazy race in one piece.
Runners sometimes take up to 48 hours to complete the massive challenge, and the list of safety precautions and rules is about a mile long. You can probably guess why. So after you run your first marathon, think about running five of them back to back in inclement heat up an 8000 foot mountain, and you have some idea of what the Badwater Ultramarathon is like.
2. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Marathon
If you’re looking for a marathon that is more of an experience than any other comparable to it, the Inca Trail Marathon is an epic and exploratory running experience. Most people won’t be doing this for a personal best time. In fact, if you are, you’re mostly likely going to be missing out on the views and the experience of one of the most amazing treks you may ever take.
The Inca Trail Marathon is a strenuous run that follows the first pilgrimage trail that leads into what’s known as the ÒLost city of the IncasÓ: Machu Picchu. You’ll be running through all kinds of terrain, in extremely high altitudes, viewing archaeology sites and sleeping in tents on campgrounds (which you thankfully won’t have to carry).
After existing for 16 years, they’ve got a good thing going, and if you want to really have a unique and taxing run, this experience is a standout.
3. The Barkley 100 Mile Run
The inception of this race is a bit morbid, but interesting nonetheless. Race creator Gary Cantrell learned that when James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. escaped from jail, he made it only 8 miles after running for 55 hours in the woods. Cantrell though he could run at least 100 miles in that time. And so a frighteningly grueling race was born. Only 10 runners in the history of this race have completed the 100 miles in the 60 hour time limit.
Runners complete five 20 mile loops through high altitudes, running in both directions through the loop, with only two water stations, and no other aid stations available. Only 30 runners are allowed in each year, and runners must also find 9 to 11 books along the course, and tear a page from each of them as proof of their completing the race.
If this sounds like a good old time to you, you’ll want to make your way down to the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee to get on board. They also do a 60 Mile Fun Run every year as well. Because, what’s more fun than running 60 miles through the mountains, right?
4. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
A human obviously can run 1,131 miles in two weeks through freezing Alaskan temperatures. But apparently dogs can. A true test of human strength and sanity, as well as a test of the animals that participate, The Iditarod has long been heralded as one of the most frightening races in the world.
This is due mostly to the fact that the length of the race, combined with blizzard conditions have caused the deaths of dogs and the near-deaths of multiple racers. It’s not pretty, but it’s true. No question, anything this taxing is a great feat to accomplish, but it’s reserved for extreme professionals only. And you’ve got to own at least 12 dogs. That right there puts me out of the running.
5. Arrowhead 135-mile Winter Ultramarathon
Pick your propulsion and hit the snow in Northern Minnesota for one cold ultramarathon. The Arrowhead 135 mile is an incredible trip through wilderness at Arrowhead state park. Bikers, skiers, and runners, all compete for two days, and must carry all camping gear on their backs. Temperatures in this area of Minnesota can dip below -60 degrees, so it isn’t just the distance that’s incredible; it’s the conditions surrounding it. Once again, this race is really one for the pros.
You’ve got yourself and the harshest of cold terrains, with no support teams or supervision. There are lodge check-in stations every 12-20 miles, so your safety can be monitored, but outside of that, it’s you and the open winter trail. Depending on your athletic abilities and your method of propulsion, you might be on the course for 15 hours, or three days, so know what you’re getting into with this one. And bring warm clothes. Lots and lots of warm clothes.
6. Le Marathon des Sables
This may be the toughest race on the list, just in terms of the overall depth of the race: the Sables Marathon is a 240 kilometer footrace through the french deserts, lasting ten days. Participants will walk, run, and jog, through some of the most outrageous and taxing terrain known to man. Up hills, outrageously hot temperatures, and all with 10 days worth of food and sleeping equipment on your back.
It’s not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s not for a lot of people at all. However, each year, about 1000 participants flock to France and take part in an incredible ten day event, that tests every part of your mind, body, and soul.
So if the Òregular oldÓ marathon just doesn’t cut it for you any more, now you know how deep the rabbit hole goes. And hey, even if they seem wild to even consider attempting now, at least you know there’s something bigger out there to reach for!
So, do you have what it takes to take on these monsters?