Any ultramarathon demands extreme physical and mental endurance, but there are a few races around the world that make runners suffer on particularly extreme levels.
Here are eight of the toughest running races on Earth.
The Barkley Marathons
Only 15 people have ever completed The Barkley Marathons because it is designed to break its competitors. Getting a place in the field of 40 is difficult in itself, but completing the 100 miles plus of trails in Tennessee is almost super-human. No one managed it at the last running of the race in 2019.
Marathon des Sables
This 156-mile epic race through the scorching Sarah Desert is not for the faint-hearted. But scorching temperatures and a duration of six days don’t stop it being one of the most popular ultras in the world.
Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
Altitudes of more than 10,000 feet at several points along the route make this race possibly the most challenging in Europe. The race starts in Chamonix, France before crossing over the Italian and Swiss borders with stunning views along the way.
South Africans love their endurance sports and Comrades is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon with 25,000 runners. It is run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg with the direction of the race alternating every year.
HURT 100 Trail Run
The Hurt 100 meanders through stunning trails in Hawaii’s rain forest. It’s on off-the-beaten-track sort of adventure, but river crossings, routes and rocks make it a challenge of concentration as much as anything.
Participants in this South African trail race have five days to cover nearly 250 miles at an altitude of over 6,000 feet.
Possibly one of the most famous trail races around, Western States is so treacherous because of its variety of weather conditions. The route soars to high altitudes where runners can encounter snow, and in other sections exposes competitors to the California summer heat.
Participants of the Everest Marathon have to acclimatize for three weeks in Nepal to be allowed to compete. The race starts at Everest Base Camp, nearly 18,000 feet above sea level, and finishes at an altitude of over 11,000 feet. The best runners complete it in around four hours.