Whether you’re an Olympic medal holder or a first-time runner, marathon races are never a simple stroll in the park. Over 500,000 marathon runners finished their races in the United States alone last year, making the endurance test more popular than ever before.
While most are all too familiar with marathon races held in London, New York and other major cities across the globe – there are some races that go under the radar and aren’t for the faint hearted.
Here, we introduce you to the five toughest races in the world.
#5 – The Badwater Ultramarathon
The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135-mile haul in the middle of Death Valley. Undertaken in the middle of July, the race goes 280 feet below sea level, where runners must deal with rugged highway, passing motorists and temperatures as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The race is an invitation-only affair and is limited to 75 runners with a suitable pedigree. 79% of runners finish the race, yet if it was open to the general public that number may not be quite so high.
#4 – The Siberian Ice Marathon
This is billed as the coldest race in the world. Taking place every December, the Siberian Ice Marathon sees 1,000 runners battle the Siberian winter to complete the course, which stands at 21.1kms. Temperatures reach well below zero and in 2001, weather severely disrupted the race with runners braving a devastating minus 39 degrees Celsius. On that occasion, just 13 finished the course.
#3 – The Everest Marathon
In a list that’s filled with extremes, the Everest Marathon can boast about being the world’s highest race. Filled with 42km of downhill running, the course is filled with ice and snow, proving a fresh challenge from those who may be used to road marathons. Because of the altitude competitors are running at, participants are required to spend 26 days on the mountain just to acclimatise to the conditions.
#2 – The Barkley 100 mile run
The Barkley 100 mile run is the race most described as being the toughest endurance test on the planet. Due to its difficulty, the course has been altered on a number of occasions but the basic plan stays the same – a sequence of 32km loops through the hostile terrain of the Frozen Head State park in Tennessee. The race is restricted to just 35 runners, who have to secure their place through a motivational essay entitled: “Why I should be allowed to run in the Barkley”. If literary skill was all that the race required, I think we’d see a few more successful runners.
#1 – The Marathon Des Sables
This race can rightly stake its reputation as the toughest race on the planet. The Sahara desert is the setting for this one, where over seven days, runners wage their way through a shocking 249km of sandy terrain. Organisers say that those who wish to run must intake 4,000 calories per day, drink 7 litres of water and wear shoes that are two sizes too big – just to accommodate swelling.
Maybe we should just stick to trying our hand at the London Marathon after all?
About the Author
This article on the toughest marathons in the world was written by marathon-running Barrie, who works for Watchco.com – suppliers of men’s sports watches to help you keep a track of your time.