Many world-class ultramarathons involve running on rugged dirt trails, towards mountain peaks and traversing forested and jungle areas. Hazardous conditions, such as extreme weather, dramatic elevation changes, dangerous wildlife and rugged terrain, attract running enthusiasts from around the world. Many ultramarathon competitors travel great distances to participate in the world’s most challenging events.
Previously, we have analysed some of the most difficult and challenging ultramarathons in the world, and today we bring out the focus back to Asia.
Twilight Ultra Challenge
Why this event is difficult: The Twilight Ultra Challenge is an endurance race, in which runners are required to complete as many 5 km or 10 km laps as possible within a 16 h time limit. Like the event says, “Conquer your innermost fears and the twilight by bringing out the best in you.”
Location/Country: Ban Tham, Thailand
Why this event is difficult: The Thailand Ultramarathon takes place over two weekends. Runners are given a choice of two distances, either 50 km or 100 km. The course is designed as a 50 km loop with approximately 2,500 metres of climbing in each lap. The course winds through lush jungles. The weather can be unpredictable, ranging from hot and humid to extremely hot and dry. Rain can be heavy at the highest altitudes, especially 1,500 metres above sea level. There are many dangers to be aware of in this event. Poisonous and potentially-deadly snakes including Cobra and Viper species which may be lurking close to the trail. Runners should be prepared for annoying mosquitos in the area, which can carry malaria and dengue fever.
Titi100 Road Ultra Marathon
Location/Country: Selangor, Malaysia
Why the event is difficult: Branded as one of the toughest road ultras in Malaysia, the TITI100 trail climbs two steep hills before winding through a dense jungle at night. The extreme hot and humid temperatures can challenge even the most expert ultramarathon runners. The course includes 3,200 metres of cumulative elevation. Only 50 runners are allowed to participate in the event.
Trans Japan Alps Race
Location/Country: Toyama Bay, Toyama-Shizuoka, Japan
Why the event is difficult: The Trans Japan Alps Race (TJAR) is a biennial mountain ultramarathon with a distance of 415 km and total elevation gain of 26,662 metres on the trails in the Japanese Alps mountains. The demanding nature of the race has labelled the event as one of the most demanding trails races in Japan. A maximum of around 30 participants are allowed and they are required to speak Japanese. The severe wind and rain in high altitude mountain region has often hit competitors with hypothermia and hallucination due to stress and lack of sleep.
Performax Bangalore Ultra Marathon
Location/Country: Kamataka, India, close to the city of Bangalore
Why the event is difficult: The Bangalore Ultra Marathon is a trail running long distance event with a two-day time limit. Runners may also choose to participate in a 24-hour challenge. The race features seven races, ranging in distance from 25 km to 100 km. Known as a loop course, runners must run back and forth along the 13 km trail, which is narrow and extremely challenging. Weather conditions are generally mild, although there may be occasional rainfall.
Location/Country: Gobi Desert in eastern Xinjiang Province, China
Why the event is difficult: This 250 km, six-stage foot race is part of the 4 Deserts series, one of the world’s top 10 endurance competitions. The Gobi March takes place over seven days in the largest and most dangerous deserts in the world. Runners are required to bring necessary equipment and food, as only water is provided by event sponsors. Runners endure extreme temperatures, fluctuating from hot and dry to cold and windy. Finishing times range from 25 to 70 hours over the course of the seven days. The Gobi Desert is known as the windiest desert in the world.
Location/Country: Fulong Beach, New Taipei City at Northeastern Taiwan
Why the event is difficult: The Ultra Taiwan takes you to a variety of terrains from mountains, valleys, rivers and beaches. The route includes steep climbs and downhills with the highest climb being the Teapot Mountain at 720m with the elevation gain of 4,500m. Participants must complete the full route within 32 hours.
Mount Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra Run
Location/Country: Cemoro Lawang (Lava View Hotel), East Jave, Indonesia
Why the event is difficult: The Mount Bromo Tengger Semeru Ultra Run is a multi distance trail running event that takes participants through various scenery, including a sea of volcanic sand with low temperatures and strong winds. The challenging race route includes rural back roads, forest paths, prairie and mountainous trails with the highest cumulative altitude gain of 10,000 metres for the 100 km race.
Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji
Location/Country: Yagisaki Kouen, Japan
Why the event is difficult: The Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji, which covers three days involves a distance of 167.5 km. The cumulative altitude gain is approximately 8,634 metres. The official time limit for completing this challenging ultramarathon is 46 hours. Runners are required to run the course in a counter-clockwise direction in order to complete the race.
Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon
Location/Country: Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Why the event is difficult: The Everest Marathon is referred to as the world’s highest marathon and probably the most adventurous trail run in the world. Runners must navigate a 24.14016 km trek to the race starting point in Nepal. Although this is a downhill endurance event, the course begins at an elevation of 5,184 metres and ends at approximately 3,445 metres. The course is extremely treacherous due to consistent below freezing temperatures and icy trail conditions. The course distance is 42.195 km, winding through narrow and icy mountain trails. Participants are required to arrive in Nepal at least three weeks before the event in order to acclimate to the high altitude and extreme cold temperatures.
Shangri-La Marathon & Ultra
Location/Country: Shangri-La, China
Why the event is difficult: Regarded as an adventure race, the Shangri-La Marathon & Ultra is a mountain marathon that takes place on the most spectacular mountain range in the world, the Himalayas. The terrain is difficult and diverse with ascents ranging to 5,288 metres for 100 km ultramarathon runners. The first 5 km of the event are the most difficult with a 1,000 metre climb. See if you’re up for the challenge and read more about it on this website.
Extreme Ultramarathons in Asia
With its breathtaking mountains, rivers, coastal beaches and magnificent scenery, Asia has become one of the most popular venues for challenging ultramarathons. Sensational waterfalls, tropical jungles and lavish forests make running in Asia an absolute delight for ultramarathon competitors. Since many ultramarathons in Asia require significant travel, many runners spend time after the event exploring the history and culture of the region. Visiting splendid temples, mosques, religious shrines and museums provide an overview of the historical and cultural significance of the area. After completing a difficult ultramarathon, relaxing on one of Asia’s pristine beaches may help recharge your body and mind. Be sure to spend time in some of the remote villages, sample local cuisine and visit some of the many outdoor bazaars and craft vendors.
Which other ultramarathons do you think should be in this list? Have you taken on the challenge of any of these races? Share with us your experience so we can salute you for your determination!