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If you’ve ever wondered…these are the world’s 7 toughest ultra runs….

As if a marathon wasn’t tough enough, recent years have seen runners looking for more ways to challenge their resolve, strength, athleticism and endurance, and so ultra running was born.

These are 7 Ultra Races that are just off the charts and some of the most difficult out there!

Hardrock Endurance Run 100
Colorado USA

* The toughest race in America
* 100 miles (160km)
* 10,000m
* Hazards: Altitude, wilderness, storms, steep drops

This endurance run is held on a loop course on 4WD roads, dirt trails, and cross country in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range, USA.  It’s considered the toughest 100-miler in the US, and takes place at an average altitude of 11,000ft (3,500m).  terrain is considered technical, including steep scree climbs and descents, snow packs, river crossings, and boulder fields.

It’s not uncommon to experience thunderstorms whilst navigating the course and mountaineering & wilderness survival skills are as crucial in this event as optimum endurance. The course is designed to provide extreme challenges in altitude, steepness, and remoteness

In order to complete the event, instead of crossing a finish line, runners are required to “kiss the Hardrock”, a picture of a ram’s head painted on a large block of stone mining debris.

The Jungle Marathon
Amazon Jungle, Brazil

* The best race for wildlife
* 200km+
* Climb not recorded
* Hazards: Swamps, snakes, mosquitoes, leeches, crocs, mud...

The Jungle Marathon is an extreme eco-footrace set in the Brazilian Amazon jungle with three categories: a marathon, a 4-stage 127km race and a 6-stage 254km race.  All stages with their own cut-off times.

The course includes swamps, river crossings, trails and beaches in high humidity and scorching temperatures, averaging over 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 99 percent humidity.  With dangerous wildlife to boot, there’s no question that the race is dangerous, where runners may be exposed to snakes, wild animals and poisonous plants.  Heat exhaustion, dehydration and problems with salt/electrolyte balance are also very real dangers.

Organisers describe it as the “world’s most terrifying adventure” – running over 200km through the jungle, the runners have six days to battle their way across the inhospitable jungle terrain.

Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra

* The best race for feeling COLD!
* 692km
* 6,000m
* Hazards: Hypothermia, frostbite, exhaustion

The Yukon Arctic Ultra is a series of non-stop multiday races that take place concurrently beginning in Whitehorse, Yukon at the beginning of February each year.  With epic conditions, it’s become known as they world’s coldest ultra!  430 miles of snow, ice, temperatures as low as -40°C and relentless wilderness, the MYUA is an incredible undertaking.

Racers have to pull a sled, carrying all their mandatory equipment and food.  Just surviving is an achievement. “When the cold comes in at night you cannot make a mistake,” says 100-mile course competitor Jacob Hastrup.

Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race
Wales, UK

* The best race for no trails!
* 300km
* 15,000m
* Hazards: Technical ground, wet & cold, navigation, sheep!

This is a brutal multi-day running race across mountains from North Wales to South Wales, and don’t be deceived, because the ascents in this ultra would add up to twice the height of Mount Everest. The first race was in September 1992 and it took 20 years for the race to make a comeback in 2012.

The Dragon’s Back is characterised by wild, remote and trackless terrain, none of which is marked. You need to be a ninja navigator to make your way quickly and safely through these Welsh mountains.  One seasoned ultra runner stated that any day of the Dragon’s Back Race was tougher than any of the 100-milers he’d done – and he’d done over 100 of them! 

The Grand Raid Réunion / Diagonale des Fous
Réunion island, Indian Ocean

* A race for madmen
* 164km
* 9,917m
* Hazards: Huge drops, 10,000m of ascent, volcanic rock, extreme weather

Translated as Madman’s Diagonal, seems the name tells us all we need to know!  It’s a non-stop 164km run with a tropical climate, temperatures that go from heavy rain to thick fog to extreme heat and sharp, volcanic rock that can be painful to run on.  Some sections have been said to “scare the shit out of you and if you suffer vertigo….it’s not the race for you!”

From coastal beaches to forests to mountains and even dry shrub-land, La Réunion has many faces, making the run beautiful but also all the more difficult to prepare for.  Luckily the runners usually come with support from their families and other spectators. Volunteers also set up stands and picnic benches along the race track to cheer on the runners.

Tor des Géants
Courmayeur - Valle d'Aosta, Italy

* To finish this race is an achievement!
* 330km
* 24,000m
* Hazards: Extreme weather, sleep deprivation, hallucinations

Feared by even the most seasoned of ultra runners, the stats of this race speak for themselves.  With 25 mountain passes and 24,000m of ascent, only 50% finish.  Conditions are extreme and harsh, and quite frankly sound miserable.  Think freezing cold temps and strong gusts that try to push you off the mountain all whilst you battle rain, sleet, hail and thunderstorms.  Not forgetting the long dark nights and sleep deprivation, spattered with hallucinations!

Any plus sides you might wonder?

Well, if you make it to one, you can see incredible sunrises and the stars are really spectacular as the night reaches its peak.  The Tor des Géants® is the first race of this kind to cover an entire region, running along its spectacular paths at the foot of the highest Four-Thousanders in the Alps and through the Gran Paradiso Natural Park and the Mont Avic Regional Park

La Ultra – The High
Indian Himalayas

* The race with incredible views
* 333km
* 3x 5,000m passes
* Hazards: Altitude sickness, lack of oxygen, massive mountains, heat and cold

Nicknamed The High, thanks to the extreme altitude that runners must conquer, this single stage ultra race in The Himalayas is one where in extreme cases, may result in death, thanks to the perils of altitude sickness.  It is so extreme that the organise actively discourage competition and rivalry amongst its entrants.  The High is among the toughest foot races known to man.

Temperatures can fluctuate between Minus 12 degree C to 40 degree C heat, in a matter of 6-7 hours. Five mountain passes are dotted throughout the the route, all above 17,000 ft. adding to the unique challenge of low oxygen density, of less than 50 % of what you breathe at sea level.

One thing is for sure….we don’t think you will find an ultra race with views quite like this one…but first, you have to make it high enough!  Human spirit is the celebration in this magical environment, surrounded by unique and rich culture.