From the driest place on earth to endless tundra, these are the toughest races on the planet. Do you think you could tackle any of these five most extreme endurance events?
1 WATER – ÖTILLÖ
Twenty-six islands, 47 miles of near-freezing lakes, treacherous rocks and technical trails stand between participants at the start line, on the Swedish island of Sandhamn, and the finish line on the island of Uto.
Terrain: Lakes, rocks, trails and roads
Weather: Don’t be fooled by the sunshine; temperatures can go down to about 3°C
Course record: Team Milebreaker, 8hrs 16mins 12secs (2014)
Length of each swim: From 100-1,600m
Number of times racers go in and out of the water: 40+
More info: otilloswimrun.se
2 EARTH – DRAGON’S BACK
A five-day, 186-mile mountain race across the Welsh wilderness. Starting from Conwy Castle on the north coast, the route takes in the rugged and uncompromising landscape of Snowdon, the Moelwyns and the Black Mountains. In 2012, only 32 of the 85 competitors managed to complete the “race” – a misleading term for what is really a physically exhausting test of navigation and endurance.
Terrain: Unmarked trails
Weather: Hot during the day and freezing cold at night
Course record: Helene Diamantides and Martin Stone, 38hrs 38mins (1992)
Obstacles: 15,000m of ascent, changing temperatures and low-lying cloud
More info: dragonsbackrace.com
3 FIRE – ATACAMA CROSSING
A 155-mile route through the driest place on the planet, Chile’s Atacama Desert. For seven days, participants have to be entirely self-sufficient, carrying everything they need on their backs. As a consequence, one of the most difficult challenges is packing enough food to maintain sufficient caloric intake. Participants can expect to lose 2kg.
Terrain: Arid desert
Weather: 30-46°C during the day, 6°C at night
Course record: Vicente Garcia Beneito, 23hrs 46mins (2012)
Optimum weight of your daypack: max 9kg
Litres of water consumed by racers, staff and volunteers: 15,000
More info: 4deserts.com
4 ICE – IDITAROD INVITATIONAL
One thousand miles by bike, ski or foot along a dog-sled route across the frozen wilderness of Alaska. Just over 40 people have ever completed the course and it’s so difficult that organisers limit entrants to just 50 a year.
Terrain: Frozen wasteland
Weather: A tropical -1°C
Calories burned per racer per day: 30,000
Obstacles: Blowholes and charging moose
More info: iditarodtrailinvitational.com
5 WEIRDEST – WORLD COAL-CARRYING CHAMPIONSHIPS
A 1K race across the West Yorkshire town of Gawthorpe. The catch? It has to be completed while carrying a 50kg bag of coal. Reports suggest a slight incline at halfway feels like a small mountain and, whatever you do, don’t ever drop your coal.
Weather: Inevitably drizzly
Race legend: Dave Jones of Meltham, West Yorkshire, is 6-time winner of the World Championships and holds the course record with an amazing time of 4mins 6secs, set way back in 1991.
More info: gawthorpemaypole.org.uk