There are some determined people out there – for whom a five mile run each day just doesn’t cut it. For these fitness-fanatics, and it might well be you, there are some challenging adventure races which take exercise and fitness to a whole new level. We can only imagine how many hours in the gym you would need to put in to get yourself in shape for one of these bad boys….
Marathon Des Sables
The Marathon Des Sables has been hailed as the world’s toughest footrace, which comprises 150 miles of the Moroccan desert. Runners carry their supplies on their back while running the risk of getting lost in sandstorms, or bitten by scorpions.
There are time limits to complete various stages of the race, and there are mandatory checkpoints along the way to ensure that runners stay hydrated.
Despite the safety measures, there is still the possibility of losing your way. Back in 1994, Mauro Prosperi was caught in a sandstorm. He lost his way and wandered for around 125 miles on his own. He survived by eating bats and drinking his own urine and was finally discovered nine days later and over 30 pounds lighter.
The Ironman World Championship
You’ll have most likely heard of this tough event, an annual triathlon held in Hawaii. Ironman qualifying events take place around the world, and there is probably one local to where you are. Qualifying for the world championship race is hard enough, but even staying in the race is a feat. Participants must swim 2.4 miles within two hours and 20 minutes, bike 112 miles in under 10 hours and 30 minutes, and then finish running a 26.2-mile footrace by the 17th hour of the event.
Some past winners have managed to finish in slightly more than eight hours.
Back in the late 1970s, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin escaped from prison and ran a pretty poor eight miles in 55 hours. Local ultrarunner Gary Cantrell calculated that in the same time he could have run at least 100 miles. So began the Barkley Marathons, an annual race in Tennessee's Frozen Head State Park.
Entrants have 60 hours to run 100 miles of a steep, thorny, and muddy trail. To prove they are following the correct course, runners rip a page from books scattered along the trail.
Every 20 miles, the trail loops back to Cantrell, the event’s host, and a campsite of food, sleeping bags, and beer. There, runners figure out whether to endure another 20 miles or stay. Almost no one finishes.
The Badwater Ultramarathon
It sounds bad, and it most probably is. This 135-mile, summer race from Death Valley (just to encourage you) is 280 feet below sea level and rises to the trailhead of Mount Whitney, which is almost 8,300 feet above sea level.
Temperatures reach around 130 degrees Fahrenheit, so the road bakes to nearly 200, hot enough to force runners to race on the road's white lines or risk their shoes melting.
Support crews drench the runners every 15 minutes with ice water to prevent overheating. At the age of 67, Badwater legend Arthur Webb finished his tenth consecutive race in 2009.
Antarctic Ice Marathon
The world’s southernmost marathon, the Antarctic Ice Marathon rings part of the Antarctic Circle, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole. The race is held in November on a glacier camp at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica, and it’s the wind that’s the killer. Blowing at 10-25mph, with average temperatures between 0 and 10 degrees F, it’s not for those who dislike the cold. Due to unsettled weather you may have a several day delay just to get to the start lone, and with a five-day itinerary when you arrive, you only have limited time to finish.
If you don’t make it in the timeframe, aid snowmobiles will come, since prolonged exposure to these temperatures and wind chill is so dangerous.
Going to the other extreme – from chilling cold, to rainforest heat, the Jungle Marathon is held in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest in October. There are two races to choose from: The 63 miles in four stages, or 150 miles in six stages. You have to carry your own food and provisions as only bottled water is provided at the checkpoints. The hazards of the jungle are obviously a major obstacle – think anacondas, swamps and poisonous plants and animals. You have a hammock between stages to sleep in; where you can take time to question your sanity.
One of the world’s cheaper races to enter, the Comrades Marathon takes in 56-miles of road from Durban on South Africa’s east coast, to inland Pietermaritzburg. A 500-metre drop in just 13-and-a-half miles puts a real strain on the knees. The June race attracts at least 12,000 runners annually. Race officials enforce this rule strictly, shattering finishing hopes of hundreds of runners.
So we’ve already had a look at the Ironman, but there are people out there who just aren’t satisfied with one completely body-breaking event. A double takes the event to a completely different level entirely, pushing you to the absolute limit. It equates to a 4.8-mile swim, a 224-mile bike ride, and a 52.4-mile run. It’s unlikely that you’d do anything else in your life other than train if you choose this event.
Enduroman Arch To Arc
Almost tipping the scale for endurance races, the Enduroman is held in June and is a collective 290-mile triathlon which incorporates an 87-mile run from London’s Marble Arch to Dover, a 22-mile swim across the English Channel to France, followed by a 181-mile bike ride to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.If a Double Ironman isnÊ¼t enough for you, try the Enduroman. Held in June, the Arch to Arc is a collective 290-mile triathlon consisting of an 87-mile run from Central LondonÊ¼s Marble Arch to Dover on England’s southern coast, a 22-mile swim across the English Channel to France, followed by a 181-mile bike ride to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The average ï¬nishing time is about 100 hours. And the best bit is if you succeed, youÊ¼ll join the elite group of only nine racers who have ever finished.
Any of these take you fancy? You’ll need the best part of a year to train - if you're already in shape. Get on the treadmill, get on the rowing machine, get pumping that iron!
by Kath Webb
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by Kath Webb
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