The world’s most extreme marathons

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April is marathon month, with a number of major marathons occurring within quick succession. Many of you may be preparing for the upcoming Paris, Milan, Vienna, Madrid or London marathons, several of which are held on the same day.

Extreme Running
Extreme Running (1)

Running a marathon is tough enough, but even greater challenges are out there, should you be seeking something more. Here’s ten of the most extreme marathons on earth, most of which are notorious Ultra Marathons:

1. UVU North Pole Marathon

UVU North Pole Marathon
UVU North Pole Marathon (2)

The UVU North Pole Marathon is definitely the world’s most northerly marathon. This race is run over a 4.22km course marked on moving ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Running on 6th April this year, competitors completed 10 laps and were guarded by armed security on the watch for polar bears. Extreme? No doubt.

2. Le Marathon des Chateaux du Medoc

Le Marathon des Chateaux du Medoc
Le Marathon des Chateaux du Medoc (3)

The 4 fundamental pillars of the Medoc Marathon are health, sport, conviviality and fun. En route there are 21 food stands including special gourmet sections that serve oysters, steak, cheese, ice cream and other gastronomical delights. Heading through the famed wine region of Medoc, this run also offers plenty of opportunity to sample some of France’s finest. Cheers!

3. 4 Deserts

The Gobi March
The Gobi March (4)

The Gobi March, the Atacama Crossing, the Sahara Race and The Last Desert constitute what might be one of the toughest physical challenges devised by mankind. Each of these separate races is a multi-day affair crossing difficult terrain in formidable conditions. The driest place on Earth, the hottest place in China, and the world’s hottest desert are all visited. The grand finale is a 250km footrace in Antarctica through gale force winds in sub-zero temperatures.

4. Al Andalus Ultimate Trail

Al Andalus Ultimate Trail
Al Andalus Ultimate Trail (5)

Perhaps a beautiful yet deadly way to see southern Spain is to follow the Al Andalus trail through the province of Granada. Most of the 230km trail covers off-road mountain and desert terrain, and includes a great number of difficult inclines. Five stages take runners through severe challenges in searing heat, but all end with a wonderful opportunity to relax and soak up some Andalucian ambience.

5. Everest Ultra

Running from Gorak Shep, near Everest Base Camp, at an elevation of 5184m above sea level, the Everest Ultra is the highest ultra marathon in the world. The course crosses 65km worth of Himalayan foothills before winding up in Lukla, one of the world’s most dangerous airports. When you consider that many people don’t even manage the walk up to Everest Base Camp, you may get an idea of how tough this run is.

6. 6633 Extreme Winter Ultra

6633 Extreme Winter Ultra
6633 Extreme Winter Ultra (6)

The 6633 Extreme Winter Ultra Marathon stretches from Eagle Plains, Yukon, to the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk. The race organisers believe that this is the toughest, coldest and windiest extreme ultra marathon on Earth. Contestants can choose to cover either 120 or 350 miles – non-stop. All provisions (cooking equipment, clothes, safety gear) need to be either carried or dragged on a sled.

7. Jungle Marathon

Jungle Marathon
Jungle Marathon (7)

100km is the lighter option in the Jungle Marathon. More ambitious contestants can opt to run 240km through the Amazon, to be completed in stages over a week. Though bottled water is provided at checkpoints, runners otherwise need to be self-sufficient, carrying equipment that includes a hammock, mosquito net and rain cover.

8. Spartathlon

Spartathlon (8)

This is a non-stop 246km race from Athens to Sparta. Spartathlon replicates the distance covered by Athenian messenger Pheidippides, on a mission to request Spartan support against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. The race is run amidst extremely challenging climatic conditions, with crippling heat and humidity during the day and severe cold at night.

9. Bear 100 Endurance Race

Bear 100 Endurance Race
Bear 100 Endurance Race (9)

Taking in the Wasatch and Bear River mountain ranges, the Bear 100 runs 100 miles from Logan in Utah to Fish Haven in Idaho. The average elevation is 2300m and contains almost 7km of incline combined across its route. The Bear 100 is the final section of the Rocky Mountain Slam, which also includes the Hardrock 100, the Leadville Trail 100, the Bighorn 100 and the Wasatch Front 100.

10. Canadian Death Race

Canadian Death Race
Canadian Death Race (10)

This 24hr race is held in and around Grande Cache in Alberta, Canada. Covering 125km, contestants hike and run over three mountain summits as part of the course. The race can be run individually or in relay teams, as competitors discover whether they are tough enough to complete the challenge. Following the Greek myth of Charon, the ferryman on the River Styx, each contestant carries a gold coin through the race in order to cross the river at Hell’s Gate canyon.

Armchair (11)

I could do with a bit of a sit down…

If any of you are out competing in any marathons – ultra or otherwise – this year, we wish you the best of luck, and please feel welcome to let us know how it went via the comments field below. Has anyone completed any of the extreme running events we’ve mentioned?

Thanks to:
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