Even if you're not a competitive type, sometimes it can be fun to throw yourself in the deep end and see how you fair against other competitors.
Here's a list of some of the world's roughest, toughest and 'lucky if you even finish' races.
Marathon Des Sables
Duration: 6 days
Distance: 250 km / 155 miles
Start: Somewhere in the Sahara Desert, MOROCCO
End: Somewhere else in the Sahara Desert, MOROCCO
Known as the toughest foot race in the world, the Marathon des Sables is held every year in the Sahara Desert. It’s a multistage adventure race where all competitors are required to carry everything they need to survive the six-day event. The only exceptions to this are drinking water, which can be resupplied, and a tent, which is given to each competitor at night.
The location is kept secret each year, until the day before the race starts. You’ll be running between 21 and 82 km each day in temperatures up to 50° C (122°F). This is a race not for the faint of heart.
Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge
Duration: 40-90 days
Distance: 5,500 km / 3,417 miles
Mode: Ocean rowing boat
When: Start December
Start: San Sebastián, Canary Islands, SPAIN
End: English Harbour, Antigua, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
Described as the world’s toughest rowing race, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge does not disappoint. Teams of 1, 2 or 4 row a custom made ocean rowing boat from the Canary Islands to Antigua, across the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, you row a small 7 m row boat across an ocean. No motors, no sails, just oars. And yes, it’s also a race. The general strategy is to row in two hour shifts; two hours on, two hours off, all day, every day, until you reach Antigua.
Along the way you’re likely to see some incredible wildlife such as sharks, whales and lots of fish. You’re also likely to encounter the occasional storm and maybe even capsize. The boats are designed to re-right if capsized, but that doesn’t make it any less scary. It’s also an incredibly expensive undertaking, so start saving your pennies.
Western States 100
Duration: 1-2 days
Distance: 160 km / 100 miles
Start: Squaw Valley, California, USA
End: Auburn, California, USA
The Western States Endurance Run, commonly known as the Western States 100, is the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile trail race in the world. It’s been running for the last four decades and started in the 1950s as an annual trail ride for horses (until 1974 when Gordy Ainsleigh decided to enter on foot). The trail takes you through some pretty wild and remote country, with deep canyons and high mountain passes.
If you manage to finish in under 24 hours, you’ll get awarded a handmade silver Western States Endurance Run belt buckle. If you finish between 24 and 30 hours, you’ll get the bronze belt buckle. Since there’s only room for up to 369 runners each year, and about 2,000 people wanting to join, you have to enter the lottery to run. They say the first half of the race is physical, and the second half is mental.
Iditarod Trail Invitational
Duration: 20-31 days (any longer and you’re disqualified)
Distance: 1,600 km / 994 miles
Mode: Ski, run or cycle
Start: Knik, Alaska, USA
End: Nome, Alaska, USA
The Iditarod is an infamous 1,600 km dogsled race held in Alaska each winter. The Iditarod Trail Invitational is held at the same time and instead of dogsled, you travel either by foot, bike or ski. To be eligible, you need to have finished the 560 km (348 miles) version of this race, or other qualifying races listed on their website. There’s very little support and you’re required to be completely self sufficient from start to finish. You may however, put expendables such as food and fuel in drop bags that the race organisers will deliver to prearranged drop points.
There are no support crews and in some cases, your only option for a rescue is a self rescue. There are no rules for when or where you can camp, or even what route to take - just a few checkpoints you need to pass and time limits to reach each one. If you resonate with the selfreliant philosophy, this may be the race for you. You’ll be rewarded with incredible scenery and the satisfaction of finishing this tough race
Duration: 1-2 days
Distance: 217 km / 135 miles
Start: Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California, USA
End: Whitney Portal (the trailhead to Mt Whitney), California, USA
Like the Marathon des Sables, the Badwater Ultramarathon describes itself as the toughest footrace in the world. It’s held in one of the hottest places on the planet... in the middle of summer. Starting 86 m below sea level in Death Valley, California, you’ll run uphill for 217 km until you reach the trailhead to Mt Whitney at 2,548 m above sea level.
There are no overnight camps and you need to finish in under 48 hours. If you do, you’ll get rewarded with the coveted Badwater Belt Buckle. This is an invite only race, so get a few ultramarathons under your belt before applying for this one.
If you've got any other bad-ass adventure races you think are worthy of a mention, let me know in the comments below.