The 8 Toughest Footraces On Earth

By combining extreme distance, rugged terrain, intense heat and cold, and elevation, these events are the toughest footraces know to man.

At PledgeSports, we are huge fans of ultra athletes and have worked with many of them to raise money through sports crowdfunding. Some have even raised thousands so they could compete in of the races listed below or for charity.

In no particular order, these are the Toughest Footraces On Earth.

Berghaus Dragon’s Back

Jim Mann extended his lead on the third day. Photo: Ian CorlessFive days of trail running through rural Wales sees participants cover 315 kilometres and climb roughly 15,500 metres over unmarked and often trackless, rocky terrain.

There are checkpoints along the way, but how racers get to each one is up to them. The race, which runs the length of Wales from north to south, was first held in 1992 and recently started again after a 20-year hiatus.

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The fastest racers spend 8 hours per day competing, while the slower ones managed about 18 hours. In 2012, 85 people started the race and only 32 crossed the finish line, cementing it among the toughest footraces on earth.

Barkley Marathon

barkley_treeclimbThe 100-mile unsupported Barkley in the Tennessee has only been finished 16 times since its start in 1986. Inspired by a prison escape, forty runners attempt to cover 65,000 feet of vertical change over the course’s five unmarked 20-mile loops.

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To make things more interesting, racers must stay within the 60-hour time limit to be considered an official finisher. While most mountainous races include switchbacks, the Barkley sends runners straight uphill.

Jungle Ultra

20140628191821-_MG_2857Runners race over 140 miles through the hot, humid Amazon jungle. This is a five-stage, self-supported race where athletes endure temperatures in the 90s, as well as plenty of the jungle’s wildlife.

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What makes the Jungle Ultra one of the world’s toughest footraces is that its track descends over 10,000 feet to the jungle floor, before crossing an incredible 70 rivers and streams as it meanders through the jungle.

Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc

jocelynchavy-ccc-8650 (2)This single-stage mountain race has numerous mountain passages in altitudes of 2500m, which by itself is almost enough to make it one of the toughest footraces!

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Runners endure difficult weather conditions as they compete overnight in wind, cold, rain and snow. that needs a very good training, adapted equipment and a real capacity of personal autonomy.

This 171km monster demands elite training and preparation, adapted equipment and a real capacity to push the limits of physics and mentality.

6633 Ultra

Likeys-6633-Arctic-Ultra (2)A 350-mile race where runners cross the Arctic Circle. Participants drag themselves and their sleds across very technical mountainous terrain between the Yukon and Northwest Territories where temperatures generally clock in at -25 degrees.

Runners must complete the course within 8 days. Due to unpredictable weather and extreme conditions, only 11 people have finished the race in its seven-year history. If you want the toughest footraces, look no further than 6633 Ultra.

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World Marathon Challenge (777)

imagegallery-41-5890547035c5eThe World Marathon Challenge is a logistical and physical challenge to run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days.

Competitors must run the standard 42.2 km marathon distance on courses in Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America within a 168 hours limit, or 7 days.

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Aside from the taxing run, competitors also endure approximately 48 hours of flying time throughout the week, adjusting to different time zones and climates as they go.

Badwater 135

badwater2 (1)Covering 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, California, the Badwater 135 is one of the most demanding and toughest footraces offered anywhere on the planet.

The start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 85 metres below sea level. The race finishes at Whitney Portal, 2530m above sea level.

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The Badwater 135 course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 4450 metres of cumulative vertical ascent and 1859m of cumulative descent.

Marathon Des Sables

SAM-2014-ETAPE1-5514moyDefDubbed the “toughest footrace on earth”, Marathon Des Sables (MDS) is an epic six-day, 251km ultramarathon that takes place in the searing Sahara Desert every year. The longest single stage in 2017 measured almost 90km.

In temperatures of roughly 50 degrees Celsius, competitors run the equivalent of London to Dover and back again, all the while wishing they had never entered the race in the first place!


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