6 of the World’s Toughest Ultra Marathons
Far past the boundaries and deep into the outskirts of the running world lies a small group of super endurance athletes competing through some of the most grueling events known to man. Their incomparable stamina is jaw dropping while their intense determination is admirable. The group I speak of is called “ultra marathon runner’s” and they bring new meaning to distance running. These individuals compete in distances of 50k, 50 miles, 100k, 100 miles and even longer. An ultra marathon can be unforgiving yet blissful and if you hang in long enough you may discover the true phenomenon of your untapped potential. In this post you will receive a sneak peek at six of the toughest point-to-point continuous ultra marathons on earth.
Known as “The World’s Toughest Foot Race” the Badwater 135 has earned its reputation as one of the toughest ultra marathons in the world. The race starts below sea level at the lowest part of the U.S., Death Valley, and finishes at the highest part of the contiguous U.S., Mt Whitney. Badwater takes place in the hottest part of the U.S. during the hottest part of the year where temperatures are known for reaching a scorching 130°F. Runners are known to scale the painted lines of the road to prevent their shoes from melting! If you are fortunate enough to earn an invitation and daring enough to take on such a challenge, you will find yourself having a realistic opportunity at becoming one of the greatest distance runners in the world.
The Spartathalon is an annual 153 mile ultra marathon held every year in Greece. It traces the steps of Anthien messenger Pheidippides as he covered 250k from Athens to Sparta in a quest for help in defeating the Persians during the Battle Of Marathon. The terrain itself is not too demanding but the distance alone is surely unbearable and here’s the catch, there are 75 checkpoints with tight cutoff times. Slowing down even after 100 miles may cost you the race and a whole day’s worth of running. In an ultra marathon with so much history you may become history yourself if ill prepared.
The Barkley Marathons is peculiar at best. With 54,200 feet of total elevation gain it consists of 5 nominal 20 mile loops. Some say the loops actually measure at 26 miles totaling 130 miles in length. Furthermore, the race has no official start time causing participants to anxiously await the sound of a horn from their tents to begin. Also, there’s a few other erratic rules. Newcomers must bring a license plate from their home state, entry fees consist of a dollar and a flannel shirt, the director lights a cigarette to start the race, and they even choose one inexperienced runner from the application process as a sacrifice to the race. The Berkeley Marathons have seen multiple years with no finishers through the unmarked and unaided woods of the Frozen Head State Park. It’s considered one of the toughest races in the U.S. and quite possibly even the world.
Held in the San Juans of Silverton, CO this 100 mile strenuous ultra marathon consists of 33,050 feet of leg crushing elevation gain with an equally punishing level of decent all while averaging 11,000 feet in the air. Hardrock is certainly one of the most popular of the bunch appealing to the more competitive ultra marathon runners. The unforgiving 100 mile loop allows for up to 41 hours of running and may include subzero temperatures along with high winds and thunderstorms. To finish the race and as a mark of completion one must kiss the hardrock that awaits at the other side of the finish line.
Now covering 175 miles within 60 hours, the Brazil 135+ is held in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains in the state of Minas Gerais. Runners will earn every single solitary mile with 30,000 feet of climbs mixed with the Brazilian heat and humidity. Known as one of the toughest continuous ultra marathons on the planet, after one has completed the Brazil 135+ it’s similar to running up and down Mt. Everest!
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
Elite runners welcome! UTMB hosts an epic showdown each year high in the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland. The fastest ultra runners in the world race through 103 miles of drastically technical and severely rocky terrain all while facing freezing cold rain and snowy hills as they run through 30,000 feet of positive altitude change. As runners push themselves to exhaustion they are fortunate enough to see some of the most beautiful views throughout Europe and are cheered on by the locals of each town in passing. Maybe not the most comfortable way to spend a European vacation but certainly a memory one will never forget.
As we look past our barriers, doubts, and excuses while we begin to take control of our lives and of our actions, we can then begin to see things in a new light as it shines on our limitless abilities. The people who take on the toughest ultra marathons on earth are uniquely built individuals. These courses can host the greatest day of a runner’s life or possibly the worst. But with the right level of preparation, resourcefulness, and determination, you may find yourself one step closer to a new possibility, the possibility of standing at the finish line among some of the greatest distance runners to have ever put on a pair of running shoes.