The World’s Toughest Races

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?

ÖTILLÖ_The World's Toughest Races

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

DRAGON'S BACK_The World's Toughest Races

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

ATACAMA CROSSING_The World's Toughest Races

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

IDITAROD INVITATIONAL_The World's Toughest Races

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

WORLD COAL-CARRYING CHAMPIONSHIPS

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.

Terrain: Road

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

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Written by Jenny Nickelson

Jenny Nickelson has been a sports enthusiast since childhood. Because of her deep love to water, she started training swimming in early years. Today she swears on variety and does it all: from swimming, running and cycling to fitness, skiing, dancing and mountaineering.

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