Call them crazy, but there are certain people in this world who just love to race and push their bodies to the absolute limit. If you fall into the above category and are bored of entering the same old straightforward marathons and triathlons, the next 10 races are designed just for you. Whether it’s running up a frighteningly steep ski slope or swimming through freezing water between 26 separate islands, the following races are some of the toughest and most entertaining on the planet.
Red Bull 400
The Red Bull 400 (as the name suggests) is actually only 400m long but the race will push you and your body to the absolute limit. The course route is pretty simple: Competitors run straight up one of Europe’s steepest ski slopes, with a 180m vertical climb and around a 45% gradient! The slope is so steep that netting is even put on the floor in order for the competitors to have something to cling on to as they scramble up the course.
The Zombie Run
If you want to experience a race with a real difference then a Zombie Run is an absolute must. Competitors must race across a 5km long course and climb over walls and cross obstacles, which all sounds pretty straight forward, until you consider the fact a bunch of zombies chase the runners all the way around! The competitors all have three ‘life tags’ attached to a belt and the aim is to get around the course without letting the zombies steal all the tags.
Marathon Des Sambles
The Marathon Des Sambles is known as ‘the toughest footrace on earth’ and when you hear about the course it’s easy to understand why. The race takes place in the Sahara Desert and sees competitors running across 250km (156 miles) of sand dunes and salt plains for an exhausting 6 days. If that wasn’t tough enough, the competitors must carry all their equipment (barring a tent) with them and even water is rationed, with a time penalty incurred if you go over the limit. Ouch!
The Antarctic Ice Marathon
If you thought the heat of Africa was tough, the Antarctic is another beast altogether. The Ice Marathon takes place once a year in the South Pole and there are only a couple of hundred places available. Competitors are flown to the far south of Argentina before taking a boat ride to the Antarctic and a dinghy ride to the start line. With temperatures at an average of -12 degrees C, the runners not only have to wrap up warm but also have to continuously watch their footing on the 26.2 mile icy course. If that doesn’t sound challenging enough, there’s also the option of running a 100km (62 miles) race instead of the marathon!
The Cape Epic is known as the ‘Tour De France’ of mountain bike races and is just as gruelling. The course covers an incredible 700km (435 miles) over 8 days and, unlike ‘Le Tour’, the competitors don’t get to ride along smooth tarmac roads. The course crosses the rough tracks and mountains of the Western Cape of South Africa and competitors must ride through mud, dust and dirt for the chance to to be crowned champions. The riders enter in teams of two and have to stay together for the entire race for their overall time to count – it’s the ultimate test of teamwork!
Burro Days Race
Once a year, the town of Fairplay in Colorado is host to one of the strangest races in the world, the Burro Days Race. The event sees competitors lead a burro (a donkey) along a 30 mile course across the Colorado countryside. The race pays homage to the town’s mining past and has been held annually since 1948. And before you get any ideas, competitors must tackle the whole 30 miles on foot and riding the burro is strictly prohibited.
The OtillO race in Sweden attracts some of the toughest and most hardened athletes in the world and it’s easy to see why. The course is set across the cold waters of the Stockholm archipelago and requires competitors to swim and run between 26 separate islands before a team is crowned champions. Competitors must enter in teams of two and swim across 10km of open water and scramble across 65km of rough trails. To make conditions even tougher (and to save valuable time), the athletes also run in their wetsuits and swim in their shoes;
Fisherman’s Friend StrongmanRun
Mud runs have become increasingly popular in the last few years and one of the toughest available is the Fisherman’s Friend StrongmanRun. The course sees competitors crawling through mud holes, climbing nets, whizzing down slides, scrambling over walls and jumping through tyres, all while caked from head to foot in heavy mud. What’s not to like!
Running With The Bulls
The Running With The Bulls race in Pamplona, Spain is one of the most famous and also the most dangerous extreme races in the world. Held once a year during the San Fermin Festival, the race sees competitors run for their lives along a 825 metre course while being chased by angry (and very, very powerful) bulls! In terms of sheer adrenaline, few races can match this one but the dangers of being severely gored or trampled by a bull are very, very real.
Krispy Kreme Challenge
The Krispy Kreme Challenge may not be one of the most competitive races on this list but it is certainly one of the most fun. The event sees competitors run 2.5 miles to a Krispy Kreme shop before having to eat 12 doughnuts and then race 2.5 miles back to the finish line. The aim of the competition is not so much the winning but to try and get all the runners across the finish line within an hour. The challenge has been taking place in North Carolina since 2004 and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local children’s hospital.