Running a marathon is no small feat, but once you reach a certain elite level – hooked on training 5-6 times a week, regularly finishing in the top 100, consistently pushing sub-3 – it’s time to start thinking about the next big challenge.
For some marathon runners it may be all about the time, for others, it’s about the distance and intensity. For the latter type, here are five of the toughest ultra-endurance races in world right now.
Some will simply find walking the treacherous Inca Trail in the Southern Peruvian Andes a serious challenge, but there will always be those who want to take it to the next level. The Chasqui Challenge is a 100 mile multi-stage adventure run which follows the ancient Inca Trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu.
The adventure challenge takes 13 days to complete as runners are transported around the various archaeological paths and ruins, all at an average altitude of 4,000 metres (11,150 feet). The next race will take place from August 1st until 15th (applications should be in by February 2015 at the latest) and the cost for the entire marathon, including camping, is 3795USD.
This is the highest marathon in the world, running for 65 kilometres from Gorak Shep, near the Everest Base Camp, at an elevation of 5184 metres (17007 feet). Only the hardiest runners attempt this race as all participants take part purely at their own risk – no responsibility is taken for the conditions of the course or the risks associated with altitude. This is one for the light footed, but not headed!
This race takes place around March and April and only 50 hardened participants may enter.
The most southerly endurance race in the world takes place in Antarctica, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains. The organisers offer a classic 26.2 mile (42.195km) race, as well as a 100km ultramarathon for those crazies who want to spend even more time experiencing the Antarctic landscape, i.e. brutal subzero temperatures and 24 hours of daylight. Participants are flown from Punta Arenas in Chile to the race location and takes place in October.
For a race that’s a bit more accessible, the Haria Extreme takes place each year in Lanzarote. The race is just 32km long, but is teetering with harsh, rocky uphill scrambles that make it more than enough of a challenge for the most experienced runners.
Unlike the Antarctic Ice Marathon, this is something you’ll have to organise yourself. Check Ryanair for cheap flights, and to save cash on hotels, stay somewhere further south like Puerto del Carmen, which is close to the Timanfaya National Park and will have loads to keep you busy after the race is won.
This event is widely recognised as the world’s leading endurance footrace series, and was as named and as the “Ultimate test of human endurance” in 2010 by TIME magazine. It takes place over seven days and covers a total of 250 kilometers in the largest and most forbidding deserts on the planet. Competitors are challenged to go beyond their physical and mental limits in order to cover each of the four punishing legs, which include the Gobi March in China, the Atacama Crossing in Chile, the Sahara Race in Egypt and The Last Desert in Antarctica.
In order to qualify runners have to complete several registration and medical forms which are provided upon registration. Overall finishing times range from 25 to 70 hours (combined times over seven days). This is truly the most diverse, punishing, but stunning, mega endurance event on the planet.