for those who love the outdoors

15 March, 2023


5 more of the scariest ultra marathons in the world

After talking through 5 of the most incredible ultra marathons in the world, we are spotlighting 5 more races that seem impossible to take on.

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The world of ultra marathons

To celebrate Halloween in 2022, we listed 5 of the scariest ultra marathons in the world - you can check this article out here - which spotlighted races such as the Barkley Marathon, Marathon Des Sables, and more - and we had some amazing suggestions back from readers of other races they think fit the bill. We have compiled these suggestions into a list of 5 more of the scariest ultra marathons in the world. 

If you are reading this article and haven't seen the preceding feature, or are not so familiar with ultra marathons, then here is a bit of a debrief. 

An ultra marathon is any running event or distance that exceeds the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Distances have a wide range by the most common distances are 50 km, 50 miles 100 miles, and even span to upwards of 1,000 miles. Races often take place on trails in scenic settings such as mountains, deserts, forests, and other natural areas. Taking part in an ultra marathon requires not only significant physical ability, but a high level of mental strength, grit and determination.

Not only do runners have to train for months in order to build up their endurance and strength, but they also have to train their brain to withstand the multiple barriers they will encounter. Ultra marathons tend to take place through difficult terrain that is often remote and with varying weather conditions that can further weigh on the competitors’ physical and psychological resilience. All of these factors combine together making ultra marathons not only physically challenging but also mentally taxing on any individual attempting them.

So, which races stand out among the rest? Here are 5 more of the scariest ultra marathons in the world.

1) Spartathon

The Spartathon Ultra Marathon is a gruelling ultra marathon race that takes place every year in Greece. The route takes runners up and down ancient mountain trails in the area around Sparta, and the route covers a whopping 246 kilometres (153 miles).

The course is far from flat, with 18,500 metres of elevation gain over the entire route. Runners must navigate rocky terrain, steep slopes, and even some river crossings as they make their way around this ancient track. The race has become so popular that it often draws athletes from all over the world to participate in the event.

To complete the course, runners must stay on track for 30 hours or less. The death march aspect of the race is not uncommon among participants; many have been seen crossing the finish line with tears streaming down their faces, as they have pushed themselves beyond their limits to complete this incredible challenge.

In addition to honouring one of Greece's iconic cities, Spartathon stands out as one of few ultra marathons offering stunning scenery along its course. With breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, and glimpses into history at archaeological sites like Thermopylae where legendary battles were fought centuries ago; this is truly a unique experience that no runner should miss!

Alongside taking on the conditions above, you will also be battling the Spartan heat which can get up to the high 20's (degrees) when the race takes place towards the end of the year. In 2023, the Spartathon ultra marathon event will be taking place on the 30th September - 1st October 2023.

Will you be entering?!

2) The Spine Race

The Montane Spine Ultra Marathon is an annual long-distance race that takes place along the Pennine Way National Trail in the United Kingdom. It is widely regarded as one of the toughest, most challenging ultra-marathon races in the world due to its unforgiving terrain and extreme weather conditions (if we have learnt anything then we know we can never trust the British weather. The course covers a total distance of 268 miles, winding through some of the most grueling environments in England and Scotland. Participants must climb over 40,000 feet of elevation during the race, and traverse through boggy moors and desolate mountainsides in addition to traditional pathways. Along their journey, runners must brave bracing winds, often freezing temperatures, and unpredictable snowfall - all while carrying their own supplies and equipment.

This brutal event tests not only physical endurance but mental fortitude. Participants who choose to take on this challenge will face personal obstacles such as sleep deprivation, hunger, dehydration, fatigue, blisters - all while persevering on an isolated path with limited access to outside help or support. Who would get into ultra running, hey? The Spine Ultra Marathon has become a source of personal achievement for many athletes who push themselves beyond limits they never thought possible. Finishing this race demonstrates remarkable courage and resilience; despite its rigors it has seen tremendous growth since its inception in 2012.

If you think there is just one iteration of this race then you'd be mistaken. The expedition series is made of three different race events; the Winter Races, the Summer Races and the Arctic Races. The Winter and Summer Races, often known as Britain’s Most Brutal, take on the iconic Pennine Way in the UK. The Arctic Races take on The King’s Trail, also known as the Kunglesden, Sweden’s longest and most famous trail.

3) Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra

The Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra is an extreme endurance event that takes place annually in the remote, icy wilderness of the Yukon Territory in Canada. This grueling race requires athletes to traverse long distances on foot or by bike over rugged terrain, during winter. Racers will have to face temperatures as low as -60°F (-51C) and traverse an unforgiving landscape of snow-covered mountains, frozen rivers and vast open spaces. The course covers one of the most beautiful tracks in the world, covering a total distance of up to 430 miles (690km) for the longest route, 300 miles for the middle route, and 100 miles for the shortest route. 

Runners must also carry their own navigation equipment and supplies including food, shelter and medical supplies throughout the race. The unique challenge of this race has attracted some of the world’s best endurance athletes who strive to overcome the physical, mental and emotional obstacles posed by this demanding environment.

This event has been described as ‘the world’s coldest and toughest long distance winter ultra marathon’!

The organiser of this event, Robert Pollhammer, accurately talks about the reason ultra runners take on this sort of challenge during his blog on the events website:

"People will think that you are absolutely crazy if you decide to do this. The way I look at it, people who have never faced such a challenge are a lot crazier. Those of you who have done similar races previously know what I am talking about. The feeling of finishing such a race won’t be that new to you any more. However, for you it will be a new and exciting challenge and an event you won’t want to miss".

4) Sir Chinmoy 

The Sir Chinmoy event is beyond anything you could have imagined and really stands out on this list. This event takes place annually and spans over a 52 day period with the fierce competitors traversing a loop around a sports field, playground, and high school in Jamaica, Queens, New York City. Unlike the other races on this list, this course is flat and is well-staffed with aid stations always around the corner.

Conceived of as both a physical and spiritual journey, the race allows athletes to test themselves in a format unlike any other ultra-marathon. In order to meet their goal of 3100 miles in 52 days, they must log an average of 59.6 miles per day.

Runners begin at 6 a.m. and run for extended periods throughout the day, taking breaks as needed. If they want to, they can continue as late as 12 midnight when the course closes for the night. The base camp is well-lit, and during evening hours a Team member travels the loop on a bicycle, helping to ensure runners' safety.

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race was conceived by Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual teacher, athlete, artist, musician, poet, and humanitarian. His emphasis on self-transcendence and the triumph of the human spirit provides the inspiration which has powered the race since its inception.

While a race is by definition a form of competition, the self-transcendence aspect means that runners should feel they are competing with themselves, to run the best race they can, while relating to fellow runners in a spirit of camaraderie and good decorum.

Who is brave enough to take on this race?

5) Tor Des Geants

The Tor des Geants is an ultramarathon race that takes place in the Aosta Valley in Italy with a total route length of 330 kilometers (205 miles) and 24,000 meters (78,700 feet) of climbing. The course goes through some of the most stunning landscapes in Europe, taking runners through 14 mountain passes situated between 2,000 and 3,000 meters (6,560 to 9,840 feet). Runners have only 150 hours to complete the entire course.

Tor des Geants is the only race to combine long distance with the individual style of runners. There are no compulsory stages, but the winner is determined by the runners who completed the course in the shortest period of time. This means that it is down to the individual runner as to when they plan their rest and refreshment times.

In addition to its grueling physical challenges, the Tor des Geants also presents mental ones. Runners must be prepared for the unpredictable weather conditions that are common throughout the Alps. They must also have enough nutrition and hydration for all stages of the race as well as a plan for sleeping whenever possible. Many of these factors combine to make this race one of the most difficult endurance events on Earth, pushing competitors to their very limits both mentally and physically.

Dominic Brown

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Hi! I'm Dom and I am the Digital Communications Manager at Outside & Active. I manage the content and marketing for this site and sometimes document my experiences and thoughts. I absolutely love to be outside and active in any way possible.

I have been playing all varieties of sports since the age of 5 but in the past few years I have somehow become a 'runner'. This has opened my eyes to a whole new world of adventure, I still love playing team sports and heading to the gym - but managing this website has helped me explore different ways to enjoy the outdoors.

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