Think you’re pretty tough for completing that half marathon? Think again. The new book “The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges” highlights 50 insane ultra-endurance races that will put your half marathon to shame. In fact, they’ll put the feats of your crazy, type-A triathlete coworker to shame, and make you think twice about complaining about anything for a very (very) long time.
The Great Wall Marathon is run along China’s Great Wall and includes 5,164 steps, some of which are waist-high, extreme heat, and precipitous drops protected only by a handrail. “It is very hot–the heat can kill you out there,” participant Henrik Brandt told the authors. Photo courtesy VeloPress, adventure-marathon.com.
To cull the list, the book’s authors, Richard Hoad and Paul Moore, scanned every continent looking for Earth’s most extraordinary ultra-marathons, triathlons, cycling races, adventure races, climbs, open-water swims, and other ultra-endurance events. They focused on events with extreme obstacles such as fierce cold, intense heat, difficult terrain (sand, swamps, rocks), fast currents, high altitudes, great distances, and mental challenges such as absolute solitude. “Not only are they a testament to what people can achieve, they will hopefully provide you with the inspiration you need to tackle something truly formidable,” the authors wrote.
Within this story are a few of our favorite events highlighted in the book, but if you’re interested in exploring all 50 extreme endurance challenges, you can pick up the book when it hits shelves next week. In addition to stunning photography, info on when and where the races take place, and descriptions of the challenges each race entails, the book also features eye-witness accounts from many of the races’ participants. If the book doesn’t inspire you to put one of the races on your bucket list, it will at least get you motivated to go for a run or a bike ride–even if the weather has been getting a little cold recently.
The Tour d’Afrique is a four-month-long, 7,500-mile mountain bike stage race that begins at the pyramids and runs down the length of Africa. Its main obstacles are “distance, terrain, and weather,” Hoad and Moore wrote; the average stage is 77 miles and the race features desert terrain and climbs of up to 8,200 feet in a single day. Photo courtesy VeloPress, Joachim Loeffel.
The Tevis Cup Ride is a 100-mile horseback riding race that is known as “the world’s most difficult equestrian endurance ride,” the book said. It must be completed in 24 hours and begins in Lake Tahoe, California, runs through snowy, treacherous passes and baking canyons, and ends in Auburn, California. “To complete the race–let alone compete for the win–riders have to display excellent physical endurance and also supreme horsemanship,” the authors wrote. Photo courtesy VeloPress, Tevis Cup.
The famous Iditarod, the 1,000-mile dogsled race through Alaskan wilderness, had to make Hoad and Moore’s list. How could it not with its whiteout conditions, winds of up to 50 mph, and treacherous trail? Photo courtesy VeloPress, Louise Cukrov.
For some endurance athletes, one continent isn’t enough, which is what may attract them to The 4 Deserts series, which consists of four 155-mile desert races: the Atacama Crossing in Chile, the Gobi March in China, the Sahara Race in Egypt and the “Last Desert” in Antarctica. To qualify for the race in Antarctica, racers must complete at least two of the other three races, which each are run over seven days, but some athletes choose to compete in all four, the book’s authors said, so they can complete the “Grand Slam.” Photo courtesy VeloPress, racingtheplanet.com.
Every January up to 17 three-person teams ski and walk 420 nautical miles in a circular path toward the South Pole in the Extreme World Races South Pole Race. “Tales of frostbite, pneumonia, and snow blindness suddenly become a reality, and all the while the teams are forced to push on regardless,” Hoad and Moore wrote. Don’t forget the hurricane-force winds and temperatures that plummet as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Photo courtesy VeloPress, extremeworldraces.com.
All photos are courtesy the book’s publisher, VeloPress, and are protected by copyright law and can only be used in conjunction with publicity for the book.
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