The Toughest Races in the world
When it comes to the sport of Ultra Marathon, there are today more options than ever before. In other words, there is something for everyone with various degrees of difficulty. But when we speak of some Toughest Races AND unique races, we have to mention Montane Spine Race, Tor des Géants, Yukon Arctic Ultra and of course UTMB. Lets take a look at each one in detail.
The Toughest Race: Montane Spine Race
Hailed as “Britain’s Most Brutal Race”, this 7 day stage race has competitors run 268 miles and see an ascent of 36,729ft (11,195m) One of the Toughest Races. Now lets explore what makes this toughest race so brutal. The course is lovingly, and sometimes not so lovingly, called “The Spine”. It follows UK’s most iconic trails, The Pennine Way. The terrain is absolutely gorgeous but also brutally tough, covering the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park, Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviots; finishing at the Scottish Borders.
To top it all, this race takes place in the winter…and don’t get it wrong, we are talking about some extreme conditions where the runner have to deal with deep snow, ice, mud, bogs, ground water, storm force winds and torrential rain. British humor may be dry, but their weather certainly isn’t. The runners are usually wet, cold, dealing with fatigue, sleep deprivation, tiredness and mental exhaustion. This race is truly as hard as they come, as the athletes need to mostly be self-sufficient and ONLY the most prepared and skilled runners can break the spine!
Tor des Géants
Tor des Géants or TDG is considered to be one of the greatest non-stop trail races in the world. Participants must complete 205 miles within a 150-hour cut off, while gaining an elevation of approx. 78800ft (24,000m)…that is THREE TIMES the height of Mt Everest. This well organized race, with around 2000 volunteers, takes place in Aosta Valley Italy; starting and ending in Courmayeur.
The conditions during the race are tough enough to test giants… hence the name. The elevation change (minimum altitude 300m and highest 3,300) means unpredictable weather where the runners can encounter sun, rain, wind, and snow. During TDG, the runners cross 34 municipalities, 25 mountain pass over 2000 metres, 30 alpine lakes and 2 natural parks. This race has an incredibly high DNF percentage, with 2018 seeing over 60% of its participants not completing the race.
Yukon Arctic Ultra Series
Yukon Arctic ultra is the world’s coldest and toughest ultra for a good reason. This multi day race happens at the beginning of February each year with three races to choose from 100m, 300m and 420m. This race follows the Yukon Quest trail, the trail where one of the worlds toughest dog sled race used to take place. Thankfully no dogs get hurt, abused or killed during the YAU, however the humans participating in the foot race do put themselves at serious risk, racing through dangerous conditions. The runners climb over 6,000m through conditions that leave them susceptible to hypothermia, frostbite and exhaustion with temperatures sometimes as low as -40°C.
The race begins in Whitehorse, Yukon, finishing 13 nights later on the in Dawson, Yukon. But not many are able to finish this race. In 2018 only one person finished the 300m section of the race while many were treated for frostbite and hypothermia.
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, known as UTMB festival has many races to offer. the Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (“In the Footsteps of the Dukes of the Savoie”) known as TDS is a 121 km long race sees an elevation gain of 7,300 m is hands down one of the toughest footraces out there. While it is one of the lesser known and one of the shorter races of the UTMB offering, the runners participating know that it is Toughest Races or brutal! Runners get to run through and enjoy the gorgeous sight of the Alps during their run. However unlike the other UTMB races, TDS runners get to run many miles of it up high in the rugged mountains in relative peace. The few inhabitants who do make it to the high points are known to be friendly and kind.
However running in the mountains doesn’t mean it is cold the whole way, for parts of the race runners can face heat well into the 90s. Runners need to complete the course in 33hours or under, resulting in a very high DNF rate. TDS was first introduced in 2009 and the course goes along the Grande Randonée paths through the Aosta valley in Italy, followed by the Beaufort, Tarentaise and finally Mont-Blanc valley in France.
The toughest part of the race is by far the steep and relentless climb out of Bourg Saint-Maurice and up to the Cormet de Roselend. This is and almost 2000m of vertical with limited water and a big shock after the relatively easy running of the first 50km. The weather too is unpredictable. All in all, these factors make this race qualify for our list.
So there you have it, four of the most Toughest Races Mountain Ultra marathons out there. Do you think you could do one?