endurance races

The 10 most adventurous endurance races

Has cabin fever led you to scratch your feet raw, consider fleeing to the Outer Hebrides for some quiet or signing up to the challenge of a lifetime? Whether you consider yourself the next Forrest Gump, a horse whisperer or a full-time mechanic to a good-for-nothing banger, then why not sign up to one of these extraordinary races?

Gaucho Derby, Argentina | Horse Riding 

Often described as the most inhospitable place in the world, Patagonia in southern Argentina is incredibly beautiful but capricious. Blustering winds, forceful sunshine and few places to shelter leaves competitors exposed to the elements.

Named after Argentine cowboys – gauchos – riders compete across 310 miles with horses they’ve never ridden. Its 10 days of horsemanship, navigation through unruly territory and temperamental weather. Completed for the first time in March 2020, riders competed against gale-force winds, slippery shale and sticky bogs, as well as each other.

Iditarod Husky Race, Alaska | Dog Sledding

Fancy learning to mush? Racers are pulled by 12-16 husky dogs and travel about 100 miles a day for over a week, making it the longest dog sled race in the world. Teams must race through fierce blizzards and complete whiteouts, with a chill often as low as -73C!

Dating back to 1973, this event introduced the first Siberian Huskies to Alaska where they quickly became the favored racing dog. The race often takes more than 15 days due to unpredictable weather, and the current record for the 937 miles is 8 days, 3 hours and 40 mins.

Yak Attack, Nepal | Mountain Biking

Get high in the Himalaya as you pedal the Annapurna Circuit, including the 5,416m high pinnacle, the Thorong La Pass. This single track race is the highest mountain bike race on earth, and if the altitude doesn’t take your breath away, the views most certainly will. 

The seven-day race covers 174 miles with a total ascent of 9,000m, which is more than Everest! Adopt the hike a bike approach when the road peters into nothing or turns to ice, followed by epic descents. Along with tricky terrain, challenging altitude and temperamental weather is fending off the yaks!

Barkley Marathon, America | Running & Navigating

The challenge begins before you even start running, this secretive club makes getting a ticket to Glastonbury a walk in the park. Notoriously difficult to enter, it’s even harder to complete! Only 15 people have completed the ultramarathon in over 25 years. 

Within the 60 hour time limit, runners must navigate a course that changes each year, without a map or GPS. Nicknamed a ‘fun run’, the 20-mile loop is run five times – two or three laps in the dark – and a total ascent that is equivalent to Everest, twice!

Race Across America | Road Cycling

Substitute Le Tour de France for the Great American Bike Race from west to east. Rather than stages like the Tour, this non-stop event from start to finish claims to be the world’s toughest bicycle race. Amateur and professional racers compete solo or in relay teams of two, four or eight.

Battling through the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, Monument Valley and the Great Plains, hours on end in the saddle have led to cyclists experiencing hallucinations. Since its creation in 1982, and thanks to ever-improving bikes and gear, the winning time has been shortened by an impressive nine days and 20 hours.

Mongol Rally, Europe & Central Asia | Driving

The race creators at The Adventurists describe this rally as “10,000 miles in a shit car your gran would be embarrassed by”. An intercontinental car rally, it begins in Europe, travels through central Asia and ends in Ulan Ude in Russia’s eastern Siberia, due north of Mongolia.

There’s bound to be tantrums, break downs and fascinating sights along the way as you drive – or push – your worthless piece of metal through Europe and the Stans. Oh, and while you cruise through Turkmenistan you might notice something rather strange, as the President banned all cars that aren’t white…

Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra, Canada | Running

A 300-mile ultramarathon through fiercely cold temperatures in the remote depths of the Yukon can be pretty unforgiving. Could you sleep at night in temperatures as low as -70C with only the wolves to coo you to sleep?

Following the Yukon Quest Trail, racers can choose between a 300-mile, 100-mile or marathon distance, which can be by snow mountain bike, cross country ski or foot. Running with enough layers to protect you from -30C without overheating would be the first hurdle!

Vendée Globe, Worldwide | Sailing 

Like your own company? Competitors sail around the world alone – without stopping or receiving any help. Starting and finishing on the French coast, competitors sail down the Atlantic, go around Antarctica, cross the Indian and Pacific Oceans, then back up the Atlantic.

Only 60 people have ever sailed around the world solo non-stop, 41 of which were competing in the quadriannual Vendée. Holding the record of 78 days is the French offshore yacht racer, François Gabart.

The Patagonian Expedition Race, Chile | A Variety

Hike, bike and kayak across Chilean Patagonia’s wilderness of glaciers, mountains, fjords, swampland and overgrown forests. Made up of mixed teams of four, teams need survival skills, map reading and to put mountain bikes together quickly as they race through the stages.

Revealed 24 hours before the start, the 500-mile Patagonian Expedition Race changes each year and teams only have 10 days to complete it. Nicknamed the The Last Wild Race, the ides was to raise awareness and protect this fragile environment.

Marathon de Sables, Morocco | Running

Dubbed the toughest footrace on earth by the Discovery Channel, could you complete it? The 155-mile ultramarathon takes place in the Moroccan corner of the sweltering Sahara. With routes changing every year, the six day race is essentially six regular marathons.

Made up of six gruelling stages and one rest day, the distances per day vary between 13 and 50 miles. Runners have to carry all their food and equipment for the week on their backs, and water is rationned. Those taking more than their allocation will get a time penalty!

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