Extreme Outdoor Events

Forget Ironman, these are the toughest outdoor races in the world

Photography: Wewallac Wewallac/Flickr

If Facebook’s anything to go by, everyone seems to be entering running events these days, from 5k and 10k to marathons. But only ultra-marathons will earn you the respect of the toughest athletes 

As a marker of modern day masculinity, the blood, sweat and tears – and fire – of events like Spartan Race have eclipsed running 26.2 miles around London on a sunny April morning. Whether by foot, bike, water or through the desert, we’ve profiled the five toughest outdoor races on the planet.

Barkley Marathons

© barkley movie // Youtube

Your doctor would probably advise against this annual run held in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, US. The full course is approximately 100 miles long, though if that sounds too tough, the “fun run” is just 60 miles long! Electronic and technical equipment is forbidden, and the runners must cover a gruelling 65,000-foot vertical climb over the course’s five unmarked 20-mile loops.

Inspired by a prison escape, racers must reach the finish line within 60 hours of the start of the race to be considered an official finisher. Jared Campbell won for a third time this year – finishing just half-an-hour short of the time limit. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this race has only been finished 16 times since it started in 1986.

4 Deserts

Gobi March 2016 Stage three. #RacingThePlanet #4Deserts #GobiMarch

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4 Deserts is an annual series of four 250-kilometre races across deserts around the globe. It’s been described as the “ultimate test of human endurance”. These races are hot. Actually that’s a bit of an understatement. These races are really, really hot. Apart from the brutal final marathon in Antarctica, which is insanely cold.

© World of Adventure // Youtube

Athletes take in the “Sahara Race” in Egypt, the “Gobi March” in China, the “Atacama Crossing” in Chile and “The Last Desert” in the icy wastes of the Antarctic. Each race must be completed within seven days, though runners can also enter in individual events. Anyone wishing to enter “The Last Desert” must have previously mastered two of the other ones, though. Be warned – only 20% of participants run the entire distance.

Crocodile Trophy

© Regina Stanger // Youtube

Considered the Tour de France for mountain bikers, the Crocodile Trophy takes place in Queensland, Australia. The route changes each year, and in 2016 cyclists must overcome 650 kilometres and around 43,000-feet of incline.

As well as tropical temperatures and cruel climbs, the rough dirt roads are guaranteed to give your muscles a tough time across the rugged terrain of the Australian bush. With river crossings and the threat of crocodiles, this race is not for the faint-hearted.

Patagonia Expedition Race

With a nod to the golden age of exploration, this adventurous race is set in the pristine wilderness of Patagonia, with its unique landscape and South American heat. Mixed teams of four have to cross the Chilean outback by kayak, by foot and on mountain bikes.

You’ll need to have your wits about you for this race, including being able to use a compass, map-read and carry a whole host of equipment – as well as being in good health. An extreme challenge even for experienced outdoor professionals, more than half the teams that enter fail to finish.


The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race is coming to an end! This annual race is over 1,000 miles long. #iditarod #Alaska

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Billed as the “toughest race on earth”, since 1973 hundreds of competitors have come from all over the world to take part in this exhausting 1,150-mile race across southern Alaska. Between 60 to 100 teams participate each year, and each must start with 16 dogs and finish with at least six. Moose attacks on the dogs are frequent, so this event is not without risk.

Taking around ten days to complete, mushers will venture across frozen rivers, tundra and jagged mountains, with temperatures well into the minuses.

© Husky John // Youtube

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07 2016 The Red Bulletin

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