Following the ten toughest running events in the world is a challenge for every runner, no matter if the course seems to go on forever, it’s blazing hot, or it’s freezing cold.
In this list of the hardest running events in the world, however, only individual events are taken into account so that they can be compared more easily. The top ten events on the list only happen once a year. Not only did the event have to happen regularly, but it also had to meet certain criteria like a manageable distance, the weather, the road’s slope, and the mental demands of each run.
1. Yukon Arctic Ultra
The Yukon Territory is in the northwest corner of Canada, not far from the Arctic Circle. Every February, a few hardy people get together to travel 700 kilometres from Whitehorse to Dawson City through snow and ice.
Temperatures of -40°C or lower (the record was -60°C in 2007) and snow drifts and snow storms put runners in dangerous situations.
The race doesn’t stop, and the only places where people can get food and drinks are at the checkpoints.
You can run the Yukon Arctic Ultra, but you can also ride a mountain bike and cross-country ski if you want to. This makes things a little more complicated, though.
2. Badwater Ultra
From the ice to the heat of Death Valley in the Mojave Desert in California, which is one of the driest places on Earth. So, it’s called “Valley of Death,” which is a good name.
Even in this harsh place, where people don’t want to live, an ultra-running event is held every July. It’s not easy to walk 220 kilometres through the desert to get to Badwater, where the temperature is about 50 degrees Celsius.
From the start in Badwater, which is 85 metres below sea level, to the finish on Mount Whitney, where the race ends, drought and heat are always present (2,530 metres above sea level).
Costs to participate are around $1,000. This rule makes sense, since the Badwater Ultra is more than 60 hours from its final destination. The record for the course is 22 hours and 51 minutes, which is just under 10 km/h on average.
3. Antarctica: The Last Desert
Most likely, the Antarctica run is the hardest one in the “Race the Planet” series. In addition to the pass through the icy wastes of Antarctica, there are three more annual desert crossings in this race: the Atacama, the Gobi, and the Sahara. A fifth takes place in a different place every year.
Antarctica is almost the end of the season because it takes place in November. Nearly $4000 is paid by each person who wants to join.
The participants bring all of their own gear and help with them during the provisions. At the checkpoints, only warm drinks are given to them.
The cold weather is the biggest threat to the starter. Even though it’s summer in the southern hemisphere in November, that doesn’t make the eternal ice any brighter.
4. Marathon des Sables
Marathon des Sables is a traditional event that takes place every year in April in the Moroccan Sahara. This event has been going on since 1986.
By the way, the name “Marathon” is an obvious understatement. In fact, the routes change every year, and there are about 230 km on the programme that need to be done in six stages over the course of seven days.
The hardest part is a very long section that is about 80 kilometres long. The participants only have 40 hours to finish it, even though the temperature outside is 40 degrees Celsius during the day and sometimes only 5 degrees Celsius at night.
Each starter is given a small amount of survival gear, like a sleeping bag, a snake bite kit, and food, which he must always carry with him.
5. Gobi March
One of the “Racing the Planet” events is the Gobi March, which happens every June. So, the basic information it has is: 250 km in six stages over seven days, entry fee of about $4000.
With temperatures of more than 45 degrees Celsius, it goes through one of the world’s most empty places. Even where they used to run along rivers, they can only expect drought.
The 2011 Gobi March began in the Turpan Depression in the northwestern part of China. This is the third lowest in the whole world (155 metres below sea level). The only places that are deeper are the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee in Israel.
Most of the time, the winning time is less than 24 hours net, which means that the average speed in the deep desert sand is more than 10 km/h.
6. Atacama Crossing
The run through the Atacama Desert in Chile is also part of the “Race the Planet” series. Every year in March, it happens. The racers go about 250 km in six stages over the course of seven days through the driest place on Earth.
At the Atacama Crossing, the highest temperatures are not the biggest problem. Because of where this desert is and how the cool Humboldt current affects it, the temperature rarely goes above 30 degrees Celsius.
7. Sahara Desert
Seventh on our list of the toughest running events in the world is the last race in the “Race the Planet” series. In the Egyptian part of the Sahara, the Sahara Desert is shown every year in October.
This race probably stands out the most among the four regular races in this series because it follows in the footsteps of the Pharaohs and goes by several archaeological sites.
The race is 250 km long and has six stages. Seven days are spent in the Valley of the Whales (Wadi al-Hitan), a place in the desert where fossils of whales, sharks, and coral have been found.
That means there will be at least some variety, but later on, racers will have to deal with temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius in the deep, hot sand.
8. The Jungle Run
The Jungle Marathon, which takes place every year in October in the Brazilian rain forest, is the first running event that doesn’t take place in a desert or on ice.The people taking part have to fight their way through trails in the jungle, where the heat and humidity are very high.The queen stage is 80 kilometres long, so people try to cover it at night so they can finish 200 kilometres in six stages in seven days.
9. Ultra Trail Mont Blanc
Every year in August, the toughest running event in Europe takes place in the triangle between France, Switzerland, and Italy. The former Olympic town of Chamonix in the French Alps is where the 166 km course around the top of Europe, Mont Blanc, begins and ends.
The weather in the Alps in August is pretty nice on the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. Because of this, we put it at the bottom of our list in terms of how hard it is.
Herodotus, a Greek historian from the 5th century BC, thought that the Athenians sent Pheidippides to Sparta in 490 BC during the Persian Wars to ask for their help in the upcoming Battle of Marathon.
It will take 36 hours. The course record is 20 hours, which is about 12 km per hour on average. So, the spartathlon is the event with the fastest running time on this list.
But this relatively high speed is also because the route isn’t too steep and the weather isn’t too bad. These are two things that have kept it from being higher on our list.