Most people would feel a major sense of accomplishment from completing a 10 or even 5k race. There are some however who just see these as a small stepping stone to more extreme goals, very extreme goals most would say. These races/challenges are for the best of the best. They are for the fittest and strongest endurance athletes in the world who want to push their bodies and minds to the limit and then beyond. Completing even one of these challenges could be a once in a lifetime event so the only two questions you have to ask are, would you attempt one of these extreme events and if so, do you have what it takes to finish it in one piece?
1. The Jungle Marathon, Brazil
Type: Running Race
Kicking off this list of the Most Extreme Endurance Challenges we are heading straight to the Amazon. If you are going to torture your body for a race you might as well go all in and race through the perilous (yet beautiful) Amazon Jungle surrounded by predators, snakes, bugs and scorching heat. You cover a total distance of 240km over 6 days and you run through various swamps, mangroves and dense foliage. You have to carry all your own supplies. A true Adventure.
Entry fee is around US$3,185
2. Mongol Derby, Mongolia
Type: Horse Race
Race semi-wild, small horses across 1000 kilometres (yip you heard that right) of Mongolian landscape. This is definitely a challenge like no other on earth. Because horses can’t run forever you stop every 40 kilometres and change horses. Nights are spent with nomadic herding families in traditional yurts.
Race organizers, the Adventurists, have their hearts in the right place — in order to enter each rider has to raise at least US$1,590 for the official charity Mercy Corps, to fund economic development projects in rural Mongolia.
3. The Artic Circle Ski Race, Greenland
Type: Ski Race
Prefer the winter sports? 160km of skiing just north of the Artic Circle may be just what you need to get the blood pumping. The race lasts 3 days. Luckily though you don’t have to lug your supplies around. You have a team of supporting dogsleds for that. Why not brave the cold and go on a gruelling artic adventure for the memories.
From US$1,849 for a basic entry package, including transfers and accommodation
4. Yak Attack, Nepal
Type: Mountain Bike Race
One of the most extreme, if not the most extreme MTB races out there, this is no joke. Covering a distance of 400 kilometres and at its highest point, reaching an altitude of 5,416 meters, it’s a punishing event. Battle the thin air, extreme cold and even landslides in some cases. Everest is cool but if you don’t have the budget for it, this is the next best way to explore the beautiful Himalayan Mountains.
Cost for entry and a package, including accommodation, transfers meals and more is around US$2,539
5. Vendee Globe, Worldwide
Type: Sailing Race
Perhaps you prefer the sea over the land. Sail the annual Vendee globe which starts in France, sails down the Atlantic, circumnavigates Antarctica and goes back up the Atlantic. Sailors have to do the great trek alone and without any help or stopovers. Battling severe wind and wave conditions, far from help, is it any wonder competitors return sporting a grizzled, sunburned appearance — along with a grin a mile wide?
There is no entry fee but obviously yachts will cost a bunch and it goes without saying that not just anyone can compete. No rookies allowed.
6. The Marathon Des Sables, Morocco
Type: Running Race
Run 225 kilometres ,the equivalent of five and a half marathons back to back, through the blistering, sweltering heat of the Moroccan desert. In terms of ‘torture races’ as I have coined them this is one of the most popular ones. Blisters, heatstroke and dehydration is all part of the fun in this gruelling test of mental and physical fortitude.
Cost is around US$2,550. but that is based on old data so you have to make sure.
7. Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Alaska, United States
Type: Dog Sled Race
Battle the elements on this 1,850 kilometre dog sled trail in the Alaskan wilderness. Start in Anchorage and race for 9-10 days across the vast tundra till you reach the coast of West Bering. The poor dogs! Gale-force winds, blizzards, bitingly cold temperatures, and long hours of darkness are some of the hazards faced by competitors.
The race is a serious commitment, and teams should expect to budget US$14,000
8. Race across America, U.S.A
Type: Bicycle race
From Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland, the Race Across America (RAAM) is a 3,000-mile coast-to-coast challenge that’s probably the world’s toughest single-stage bike race. Unlike the multi-staged professional tours of Europe, the RAAM is an extended time trial open to both professionals and amateurs alike. The current race route takes riders across 12 states and involves approximately 170,000ft of vertical ascent. Competitors can take part in teams or go solo, and have a maximum of 12 days to complete the course, averaging 250 miles per day. Each year, half the competitors drop out of the race due to exhaustion or other complications. Racers barely sleep at all and because of this they experience many hallucinations. Scary!
Solo -$3575, 2 person-$5400, 4 person- $8995, 8 person- $14695
9. Dakar Rally, Saudi Arabia
Type: Off-road rally car, bike and truck race
The ultimate challenge for motorsport enthusiasts. The rally is open to amateur and professional entries, amateurs typically making up about eighty percent of the participants. The rally is an off-road endurance event. The terrain that the competitors traverse is much tougher than that used in conventional rallying, and the vehicles used are typically true off-road and motorcycles, rather than modified on-road vehicles. Most of the competitive special sections are off-road, crossing dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks, and erg among others. The distances of each stage covered vary from short distances up to 800–900 kilometres (500–560 mi) per day.
Cost ain’t cheap at $75000 to enter
10. Barkeley Marathons, U.S.A
Type: Ultra endurance running race
The Barkley Marathons are a race like no other. Only 40 people are allowed to run a year and you have to write a letter why you think you deserve to run the marathons. The route is a 20 mile route through an unmarked trail that you have to run a total of 5 times. Each time you run the loop it is at different times of the day or running in different directions. The Barkley starts any time from midnight to noon on race day, with one hour till race start signalled by blowing a conch. The race officially begins when the race director lights a cigarette. The Barkley Marathons is one of the hardest ultramarathons in the world Out of more than 1,000 starts, the 100-mile race has been completed ,within the official 60-hour cut-off, 18 times by 15 runners.
11. The Patagonia Expedition Race, Chile
Type: Adventure Race
The Patagonian Expedition Race is an adventure race carried out in a non-stop expedition format through the wild nature of Southern Patagonia, usually also called “The Last Wild Race.” The expedition is completed in mixed teams of four members that must remain together throughout its duration, covering distances greater than 500 km while facing sections of mountaineering, trekking, trail running, mountain biking and kayaking. Fundamental aspects of the race include, but are not limited to, teamwork, orientation skills, sleep management and nutrition, first aid knowledge and race strategy. The race route is revealed 24 hours before the race to all teams at the same time, where teams must complete cut-off times in predefined control points.
Entry fee: $4,000 (per team of 4)
12. The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, New York City, U.S.A
Type: Running Ultramarathon Race
This challenge is quite unique in that you don’t have to travel into the wilderness to do it ,but rather you run it in the bustling city of New York. In the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, racers must complete 5,649 laps around one block in Queens, New York within 52 days. The race is put on by followers of Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual leader who taught that athletics could be a form of meditation. If ultrarunning is a test against the self, this race that puts that challenge front and centre. If you commit to this race I think it works out to be about two marathons a day for 52 days. That’s absolutely, positively INSANE!!!
13. The 6633 Ultra, U.S.A
Type: Running Race
Jumping into yet another extreme ultramarathon, the 6633 Artic Ultra is described by many athletes as cold, dark, miserable and long. Since the first edition in 2007, the 6633 has earned a reputation as one of the most difficult foot races in the world. Taking place in the first few weeks of March, the 6633 – the race takes its name from the latitude of the Arctic Circle, 66 degrees 33 minutes north. The marathon has two distances the 120 mile (193km) and the 380 mile (611km). Aside from a small support staff on hand in case of injury or sickness, the athletes race without assistance. The only thing the racers are given is hot water at predetermined checkpoints. The competitors pull all their supplies behind them in a sled
Cost for 120 mile is $5,050
Cost for 380 mile is $4,410
14. Death Race, U.S.A
Type: Endurance Obstacle course race
No one knows what they’re getting into when preparing for the Death Race in the Green Mountains of Vermont, since no two races are alike. The obstacles in the Death Race, both physical and mental, are unknown before the start. Organizers do not provide support. They don’t tell you when it starts. They don’t tell you when it ends. Basically participants know nothing until 48-hours prior to the race. The race can last more than 70 hours and require participants to do various tasks ,like chop wood for hours or trudge around with a pack full of rocks. Some have even had to complete memorisation challenges after climbing up a hill under barbed wire and jumping into an icy pool. The organisers write: “We provide no support. We don’t tell you when it starts. We don’t tell you when it ends. We don’t tell you what it will entail. We want you to fail and encourage you to quit at any time.” This is truly only for the toughest of the tough. Do you have what it takes?