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7 Crazy Races Around the World That You Won't Believe Actually Exist

  • Summersdale

    Fire, Ice and Water

    If you're looking for a step up from your usual marathon, these races take everything to the extreme. Wild races across the globe happen every year, and as The World's Toughest Races attests, some have been going for years, even centuries.

    Adventure races and endurance challenges have grown at a phenomenal rate in the past decade, with thousands of men and women traveling to all corners of the earth to take part in events that will test their limits [...] Although many of these events are races, they are about much more than just speed. Getting to the finish line is important, but it's the experience that counts. How much do you think you could endure and survive? Read on, and decide.

    Excerpted from The World's Toughest Races: From the Most Extreme to the Downright Weird by Ali Clarke (Summersdale)

  • The North Pole Marathon

    Location: On the melting layer of ice around the Arctic Ocean

    Held: Annually in April

    Activity: Running

    Distance: 26.2 miles

    Fastest time: 3 hours 36 minutes

    The "World's Coolest Marathon" is a cute joke considering the wind chills at Santa's homestead are -22 degrees Fahrenheit. No polar bears up here—it's too cold even for them. The course is a 2.6-mile circuit completed 10 times, plus a tent to warm up after each lap if needed. Don't count on getting into a rhythm either, considering the solid ice and snow underfoot. (We hope they have the best winter workout clothes)


    Earth: The Jungle Marathon

    Location: Near Para, Brazil

    Held: Annually in early October

    Activity: Foot race

    Distance: From a marathon (26.2 miles) up to six stages (158 miles)

    Fastest time: 46 hours, 2 minutes

    If you've never experienced 99 percent humidity under a dense jungle canopy, here's the perfect chance to do it. If the tricky forest floor isn't enough, swamps with anacondas and river crossings with piranhas are just a regular day here in the Amazon. You'll also have to haul a mosquito net and rain sheet if you're planning on the longer race, plus food or money to buy from local villages. Don't worry, they do provide the water at checkpoints.


    The Dusi Canoe Marathon

    Location: Pietermaritzburg to Durban, South African

    Held: Annually in mid February

    Activity: Kayaking

    Distance: 75 miles

    Fastest time: 6 days, 8 hours, 15 minutes

    Grab your racing kayak and wind your way through rapids and rocks in upwards of 100-degree weather. If the paddling isn't hard enough, carrying your boat on your shoulder to run to the portage at each of the three legs of the race might be. Not to mention the possible crocodile spotted along the course.


    Tour D'Afrique

    Location: From Cairo to Cape Town

    Held: Annually from January to May

    Activity: Cycling

    Distance: 7,456 miles (78 miles a day)

    Fastest time: 384 hours

    Blazing heat, deserts, and mountain climbs span the whole of the bike ride down the continent, so it's no surprise there have been only a few hundred finishers to date. It's divided into stages, with days off to actually see the places you pass through. Trucks carry most of your gear and for the full four-month experience it costs $14,000—an investment, but also the trip (and race) of a lifetime.

  • Shutterstock

    Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc

    Location: Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France

    Held: Annually in August

    Activity: Running

    Distance: 104 miles

    Fastest time: 20 hours, 11 minutes

    This is one of the toughest but also most scenic ultramarathons. The route normally takes walkers 10 days through the beautiful valleys and white peaks, but runners are required to finish within 46 hours. The course passes through Italy and Switzerland before ending back in Chamonix. So failing to finish in time (800 people have) isn't the ultimate loss.

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    La Ruta de Los Conquistadores

    Location: Costa Rica

    Held: Annually in November

    Activity: Mountain Biking

    Distance: 300 miles

    Fastest time: 12 hours, 19 minutes

    Mountain biking has never been this extreme with volcanic ground, beaches, and jungles to navigate. You'll cross five mountain ranges from the Pacific to Atlantic shore. An epic level of endurance is required to scale the cumulative 29,000 feet in just three days—and you'll need everything from sunblock to rain gear to handle the ever-changing climate.

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    Location: Australia

    Held: Every 18 months

    Activity: Running, kayaking, cycling

    Distance: 466 miles

    Fastest time: 5 days, 2 hours, 8 minutes

    No one does rugged quite like Australia, and their XPD expedition race is no exception. Teams of four must trek, kayak, and mountain bike all along the way, and all members must complete all sections. No doubt you'd have to cycle through the night in some stages. It has been done in five days, but a ten-day expedition is recommended as far more reasonable.