3 Of The World’s Craziest Endurance Races
There are many ways that we can make our lives more exciting and adventurous. Some ride a bike, go for a jog, give a one finger salute to a policeman, or even… dare I say it… write a comment under a girlfriend’s new Facebook pic; smth like “you’ve gained some weight dear ” …and make it public. Oh… you poor suicidal men out there…
Anyways, today I would like to talk about those challenges that only the coolest kick-ass Rambos, the strongest super boys and girls and the most insane daredevils are able to withstand and pull through. (Note, no special forces training like marines or navy seals – that’s a post for another day)
So put your running shoes on, get some sunscreen… ‘cause we’re going to start with the hottest run of them all – the ultra marathon ‘Des Sables’…
Marathon des Sables
The runners take on a journey of 6 days, covering in total 156-miles (251 km) on foot through the Sahara Desert of Southern Morocco, carrying all their supplies on their backs, running up and down sand dunes, through sandstorms and having a hell lot of fun. Btw, “hell” is just the right word here since the temperature can get as high as 120 F and high humidity adds an extra challenge.
Interesting fact: every year at the start of the race the famous AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ is played – how’s that for motivation! Right? Anyways, no matter what, Marathon des Sables remains popular, bringing 1K competitors every year. Get this – to attend the race you need to sign up 2 years in advance. Bummer… at least lots of time to make excuses and prove to yourself that you don’t have the guts.
Let’s leave the sands here for now and get to some harder stuff, that’s right H-A-R-D-E-R.
Out of the fire and straight into the icy cold mountains. Second on our list is 6633 Ultra. A 350-mille race through the Arctic Circle (that’s right Arctic!) mountainous terrain with temperatures around 125 F below zero, winds and all. And yes, here too you’re totally on your own. Oh… and you need to make it on time. You’ve got only 8 days to make it across the finish line or… I don’t know, maybe you won’t get that 1st class meal or smth. However, who cares? During the Ultra’s 7 year history only 19 people have crossed the finish line, though about 100 have tried.
Cool facts: The name of the ultramarathon denotes the place where runners cross the Arctic Circle – 66 latitude in degrees and 33 minutes. Since there’s a time limit and you need to make it in 191 hours to the finish line, some of the participants have forced themselves to go without sleep for about 3 days or more.
Ok, we’ve just experienced the “Hot&Cold” so what’s next? Let’s get a little bit crazier.
Somewhere, far far away there’s a person eating his/her last Twinkie and even further away there’s a small group of boys and girls pushing the limits, trying to just get out alive. So leave that Twinky alone and let’s get talking about the big bad Barkly marathon.
This is an ultra-run through the mountains (trail race) held every year at Frozen Head State Park (US, Tennessee). There are two choices – “The Fun Race” 60 miles or the big bad 100 miles one. Either of these need to be finished within 60 hours, one min late – you’re out! Since the very first run in 1986 Barkly has had many changes in distance, route, and elevation. Currently, it consists of a 20-mile loop with no markings, no aid stations, just a little water and for the suicidal ones who’ve decided to take the 100-mile run – the 20-mile loop is repeated 5 times. Clockwise. Counterclockwise. And zigzagging all the way for the fifth time. But wait! There’s more! All racers need to push through a 60,000-foot vertical climb every time he/she repeats the loop again. And one needs to find books along the way! Every book has pages with numbers – rip out your corresponding page and submit it to the finish line as proof that you’re not a cheater and have completed all mileage fair and square.
Cool facts: every single year, the day of registration for this ultramarathon is uncertain, and there’s a limited entry; up to 40 runners (that’s right). You’re either quick about it or out of the race. Furthermore, in order to get approved to participate, you need to write an essay “Why I wanna be a runner in the Barkly marathon”. But wait! There’s still some more!
A Little bit of history: Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell came up with the idea of such a marathon after hearing the story about James Ray’s escape from a nearby prison. Ray was the assassin who killed Martin Luther King, Jr. He managed to get away after running 8 miles through woods which took him 55 hours to do. Cantrell thought to himself “I can do better than that in 60 hours” and so Barkly came to be. Btw Cantrell named the race in honor of his neighbor and trail pal Barry Barkley.
Despite all the awkward stuff relating to the marathon, it is considered to be the number one hardest race in the US and most likely in the world. About 55% of all races that took place between 1989 – 2017 ended up with not one participant crossing the finish line in accordance with the requirements!
Hard, exhausting, challenging and sometimes ridiculous – those are the top 3 races out there. Try one if you dare 🙂