Toughest running events in the world are inspired by historic events and humans have been pursuing running for long. Running for not decades, not centuries but since time immemorial. In fact, today’s science supports the theory that running has actually helped our bodies evolve the way we are. Our ancestors ran for hunting and scavenging, to keep up with their world and way of life. Many battles have been fought and conquered on foot. Soldiers traversed rough unknown terrains and wild paths for days together. We have evolved so much so today, our top Olympic marathoners can only be beaten by few animals on Earth!
In spirit of pushing boundaries of physical and mental endurance, we bring the toughest running events in the world. Ones that you may want to consider- that is if you really feel that the regular 26.2 mile marathon is just a walk in the park!
Here is a compilation of a few of the toughest running events in the world:
Spartathlon – Greece
In 490 BC, it is said that a messenger named Pheidippides ran 250 km in a day and a half from Athens to Sparta. He delivered the message and consequently dropped dead. Spartathlon is hosted yearly to see if the same be achieved by modern man (of course alive) within 36 hours! The rather uneven terrain and ridiculous time limit are enough to make the runners perspire throughout the 75 checkpoints. 23 year old Kieren Dsouza from Bangalore,the lone Indian amongst 400 runners qualified to compete in September this year.
The Antarctica 100 km and North Pole Marathon
Recognized by Guinness Record of world records as the southern most marathon on Earth, The Antarctic 100km is possibly the coldest (and toughest) 62.1 mile race. The sister race, the North Pole Marathon, a 42.2 km run in North Pole. Runners combat sub-zero temperatures and deal with unruly weather conditions;the marathons are unlikely to start on the designated day. Imagine yourself walking on not land but 6-12 feet of ice, separating you from 12,000 feet of arctic water, could you?. You’ll never have a greater adventure story.
Marathon Des Sables – Sahara Desert
Combine a 250km race with brutal conditions of Sahara desert, Morocco, you land yourself in Marathon Des Sables. Equivalent to 6 regular marathons, this mother of all endurance running events is voted as the toughest foot race in the world by Discovery Channel. Participants each year navigate across a terrain that has seemingly endless dunes. As a result they plough their feet through sand in sweltering temperatures 50 °C up, where sweat on foreheads evaporate. hence special care is taken to stop fine sand from getting shoes and causing blisters size of golf balls. This is one of the toughest running events in the world that will give you swollen feet if not careful.
Jungle Marathon – Brazil
Tough? Maybe. Dangerous? Definitely. Nobody would challenge you to a marathon in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest, the world’s wildest foot race. With 6 stages, runners can opt between a 125 mile (200 km) and 80 mile (128 km) course passing through a dense canopy of green with sparse sunlight, swamps and rivers. Also, the temperatures hit 40°C with 99% humidity! Excited?? This event starts in October. Another toughest running event is“HURT 100” ultramarathon– a 100 mile foot trail overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the mountain jungles above Honolulu, Hawaii.
Hosted in Leh-Ladakh, India, therefore this is an invitation only race for the experienced ultra-endurance runners. The oxygen content is just 40% that of sea level and temperatures range from 40°C and – 10°C. The course is 333km long with the track cutting Khardung La, the highest motor-able mountain pass in the world at almost 17,700 feet. There is also a time limit of 72 hours for the conclusion of the race. Due to inhospitable terrains and avalanche prone passes, La Ultra is definitely one of the toughest running events in the world.
Badwater Ultramarathon – California, USA
Hosted annually since 1987, this track is extremely demanding even for a seasoned marathoner. Starting at Badwater basin at an altitude of 279 feet below sea level, the course stretches across a whopping 217 km. It goes through the Death Valley National Park till Mount Whitney, ending at an elevation of 8360 feet above sea level. Due to scorching heat athletes run on the white paint on roads to prevent shoes from melting. The track crosses two mountain ranges- taking the cumulative altitude gain to about 19000 feet (5800 m). The national park authorities have modified the rules to make it safer by discontinuing afternoon starts. As a result hardly 70-80 people qualify for participation each year, almost all of them manage to finish the race.
There are a lot more running events around the world that would easily qualify given their difficulty and variety. Finally we haven’t considered any of the duathlon and triathlon events that even incorporate swimming and cycling. Comment if you feel some event is missing in the list!