How extreme is too extreme? That’s a question every runner must ask himself or herself when confronted with opportunities to take part in an event that’s as far from a trail run as Singapore is from the other side of the world!
We live in an era that encourages everyone to be the best they can be, but in some cases, that best comes with enough risk to give a mum pause.
Will you consider taking one or more of the challenges we’re presenting in this article? We promise not to inform your mum if you say yes!
Race 1: 6633 Ultra
Place: The Arctic Circle
Details: This 350-mile race sends competitors racing across rugged terrain and ice while dragging gear on sleds over mountainous elevations. Not only is the weather harsh during this “self-supported” race, you could feel very alone unless you happen upon another of the Ultra participants. Hustle from the Yukon to the Northwest Territories in formidable temperatures made worse by strong katabatic winds. Does it get any more stressful? In fact, you must complete the course in 8 days (191 hours) or you’re disqualified.
The Challenge: Only 11 people have ever completed this competition successfully in its seven-year history.
Race 2: Dragon’s Back Race
Place: Wales, UK
Details: Spend five days running from castle to castle over a 186-mile race course that takes competitors over terrain that’s as high as 51,000 feet. This rugged trail isn’t marked within the wilderness that spans the race circuit so staying attuned to where one travels is part of the strategy a runner must remember so as not to get hopelessly lost. Checkpoints? There are just five set up to direct participants travelling the north-to-south length of Wales. First held in 1992, this event was suspended for 20 years and only re-started once demand for more ultra races began to dominate the international running scene.
The Challenge: Prepare to spend 8 hours on your feet in blinding rain. In 2012, 85 people started; 32 finished.
Race 3: Jungle Ultra
Place: The Peruvian Jungle
Details: Tackle this 5-stage, self-supported race with plenty of bug repellent on your person and find a clever way to tote water because this race covers nearly 143 miles in unbearable heat. You’ll have to put up with 90-degree temperatures, 100-percent humidity and those bugs as you traverse some of the most diverse terrain Peru has to offer. Not only will you encounter high ground, but the course plummets competitors down 10,500 feet to the jungle floor. Prepare to channel your inner amphibian because you will also have to traverse 70 rivers and streams to reach the finish line.
The Challenge: According to organizers, sweating has no effect on core body temperature during this race.
Race 4: Marathon des Sables
Place: Southern Morocco’s Sahara Desert
Details: If you’ve ever had trouble getting your footing during a marathon because the terrain under your feet is composed of sand, you know what to expect if you run this harrowing event. To compound the misery of competitors, the des Sables lasts six days and challenges runners to trek 154-miles through harsh landscape better suited to camels than humans. With temperatures of over 100-degrees during the day, there’s literally no opportunity to relax nor is there shelter to be had on the Sahara. Despite all of these negatives, more than 1,000 athletes sign up to participate in this endurance race every year.
The Challenge: During the history of this race, three runners have died. Make sure you don’t add to the number.
Race 5: Red Bull 400
Place: Park City, Utah USA
Details: If photos taken at the last Red Bull 400 don’t discourage you, you’re a potential candidate for the steepest 400m race on the planet. The clever concept invented by Red Bull marketers deserves a nod: event organizers turn ski jumps into vertical obstacle courses by installing rope-ladders along the climb areas that require competitors to sprint heavenward at a 36-degree incline. To add insult to injury, the elevation at which competitors must achieve success is 7,000 feet high. In addition to reaching the summit, racers must contend with potential dangers like dodging other climbers on this perilous course. Oxygen masks, anyone?
The Challenge: Organizers say that self-doubt and fatigue are factors that cause most racers to quit early.
Race 6: Spartathalon
Details: It may not be every runner’s dream to experience what the legendary Olympic runner, Pheidippedes, felt when he raced from Athens to Sparta in 490 BC, but if this is your desire, the nation of Greece is happy to oblige you. You don’t have to run the 153-mile course wearing a toga, but you will have to wear the best running shoes in your closet because rolling hills and dirt roads makes this terrain quite harrowing. While Pheidippedes wasn’t required to complete his original run within a specific time frame, you’ll only have 36 hours to reach the finish line. The good news is that there are 75 aid stations along the way. The bad news is that if you fail to stop at any one of them, you’ll be immediately eliminated.
The Challenge: Pheidippedes died of exhaustion when he reached his finish line. Don’t emulate him.
If you were asked to choose one of these races, which would it be? If your answer is “none,” what other extreme race would you be willing to try?