10 Toughest Running Events in the World

Whether seemingly endless expanses, blistering heat or merciless cold, following ten toughest running events in the world is an absolute challenge for every runner.

In this leaderboard of the toughest running events in the world, however, for better comparability only individual events are considered. The top ten places in the list of events are only held annually. Criteria for inclusion in the Top Ten were in addition to the regularity of the event especially to manageable distance, weather conditions, the road profile and the mental demands associated with each run.

1. Yukon Arctic Ultra

Self-sufficient in snow and ice

Toughest Running Events

In the northwestern corner of Canada, not far from the Arctic Circle, lies the Yukon Territory. Every year in February, it brings together a few die-hards to take on snow and ice and travel the 700 kilometers from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

Temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius or less (record: minus 60 degrees Celsius, 2007), put runners in snow drifts and snow storms.

The race takes place in non-stop mode and the participants are supplied with food and drinks only at the checkpoints.

In addition to the running you can complete the Yukon Arctic Ultra optionally also on a mountain bike and cross-country skiing – which actually makes the things little more complicated.

2. Badwater Ultra

Next stop: Valley of Death

Toughest Running Events

From the ice into the heat of Death Valley in California’s Mojave Desert, one of the driest places in the world. Accordingly, it is named “Valley of Death” and rightly so.

It is so obvious that even in this inhospitable place every year in July, an ultra-running is organized. When it comes to Badwater at temperatures of about 50 degrees Celsius 220 kilometers through the desert, it’s not an easy job.

Drought and heat are the constant companions of the runners from the start in Badwater (85 meters below sea level) to the finish on the Mount Whitney (2,530 meters above sea level).

Participation costs are around 1000 dollars. This requirement is quite reasonable, because the Badwater Ultra is after 60 hours of final destination. The course record is 22 hours and 51 minutes, corresponding to an average of just under 10 km / h.

3. The Last Desert – Antarctica

To the ends of the earth

Toughest Running Events

The Antarctica is probably the hardest run of “Racing the Planet” series. This race is a series of races in addition to the pass through the icy wastes of Antarctica, three further annual desert crossings: Atacama, Gobi and Sahara. In addition, a fifth runs at different locations each year.

Taking place in November Antarctica is virtually the season finale of the series. Participants pay an entry fee of nearly 4000 dollars.

The participants have all their equipment and their support throughout the provisions themselves. Only (warm) drinks are provided to them at the checkpoints.

The biggest enemy of the starter is the cold weather – although in November in the southern hemisphere actually summer prevails but that brings eternal ice only a little more brightness.

4. Marathon des Sables

Nothing but sand

Marathon des Sables

Annually held in the Moroccan Sahara in April Marathon des Sables is a real traditional event . This competition is held since 1986.

The name “Marathon” is a clear understatement by the way. In fact, annually changing routes are available namely, about 230 km on the program, which are to be completed in six stages in seven days.

The biggest challenge is an extremely long section of about 80 kilometers in length, for which the participants have a maximum of 40 hours of time and that when external conditions are of 40 degrees Celsius during the day and temperatures of partially only 5 degrees Celsius at night.

To equip each starter, a minimalist survival gear (sleeping bag, snake bite kit, food) is provided, which he must always carry around.

5. Gobi March

China from its loneliest page

Toughest Running Events

Gobi March held every year in June is also one of the events of “Racing the Planet” series. Accordingly, the basic data it includes: 250 km in six stages, seven days, 4000 dollars entry fee approx.

With more than 45 degrees Celsius, it goes through one of the most desolate regions of the world. Even where once ran along rivers, participants can expect only drought.

The edition of the 2011 Gobi March started in the Turpan Depression in northwest China. This is the third lowest in the world (155 meters below sea level). Only the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee in Israel are even deeper.

The expected winning time is usually less than 24 hours net, which means an average of more than 10 km / h in the deep desert sand.

6. Atacama Crossing

Dry Race

Atacama Crossing

“Racing the Planet” series also includes the run through the Atacama Desert in Chile. It takes place each year in March. The participants race about 250 km in six stages, seven days through the driest area in the world.

The maximum temperatures are not the very big problem in the Atacama Crossing. Due to the location (influence of the cool Humboldt current) the mercury rises in this desert hardly shoot over the 30 degree Celsius mark.

7. Sahara Desert

In the Footsteps of the Pharaohs

Toughest Running Events

The last representative of the “Racing the Planet” series is ranked seventh in our list of the toughest running events in the world. The Sahara Desert is presented annually in October in the Egyptian part of the Sahara.

Of the four regular races held in this series, this one probably has the most flair – at least it converts the route in the footsteps of the Pharaohs and pass by several archaeological sites.

The race is 250 km long and divided into six stages out of which seven days falls in the Valley of the Whales (Wadi al-Hitan), a locality of whale, shark and coral fossils in the desert today.

That means at least some variety but later on racers have to face maximum temperatures of about 50 degrees Celsius to grapple in the red-hot deep sand.

8. Jungle Marathon

Full of moisture

Toughest Running Events

On the eighth place we find the first running event that takes place neither in the desert nor in the Ice: The Jungle Marathon takes place annually in October in the Brazilian rain forest.

At extremely high humidity and high heat, the participants have to fight through trails in the jungle.

To complete 200 km in six stages in seven days, the queen stage is 80 kilometers long, which is why the participants try to cover that up during nights.

The race begins with the complete route marked with colored caution tape and the night stage is illuminated.

9. Ultra Trail Mont Blanc

A lap in the triangle

Ultra Trail Mont Blanc

The toughest European running event is held annually in August in the border triangle of France, Switzerland and Italy. Start and finish point of the 166 km long course around the roof of Europe – Mont Blanc, which is the former Olympic town of Chamonix in the French Alps.

The Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, is having quite pleasant temperature in the Alps in August, that is why we have presented it at the bottom of our list under the level of difficulty.

One who wants to participate in the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, must qualify at several competitions in advance.

10. Spartathlon

In the footsteps of the ancient Greeks


The Spartathlon, a truly traditional event is a run from Athens to Sparta about 246 km.

One of the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) believed that the messenger Pheidippides in 490 BC during the Persian Wars was sent by the Athenians to Sparta to asked for their support for the upcoming battle of Marathon.

The duration is 36 hours. The course record is 20 hours , which corresponds to an average speed of about 12 km / h. Thus, the spartathlon is the fastest running event in this leaderboard.

However, this relatively high speed is also related to the comparatively moderate route profile and quite tolerable temperatures along – two factors that have prevented its higher ranking in our list.