The world’s toughest marathons

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We’ve put together a list of the world’s toughest marathons.

Marathons used to earn you serious bragging rights. Not anymore. Nowadays, you’ll only be cashing in kudos if you can run through a desert for more than 150 miles or get through 1,000 miles in Alaska.

Ultra-marathons are now popping up around the world, pushing most participants beyond the bounds of mere mortals. We’ve put together a list of the world’s toughest marathons for super-hardy, Iron-Man types. We’ll watch from the sidelines, please.

Marathon des Sables, Morocco

The Marathon des Sables is a grueling test of mental and physical endurance, covering 156 miles – the equivalent of five and a half regular marathons – in the Sahara desert, over a six-day period. Participants carry their own belongings, face nearly unbearable heat and are entitled to very little rest. The youngest registered competitor for this race was just 16, while the oldest came in at 78.

Marathon des Sables © USACE
Marathon des Sables © USACE

Jungle Ultra, Peru

Running, climbing and jumping 143 miles through the Peruvian rainforest are just some of the challenges to be reckoned with at Jungle Ultra. Every year teams of participants race through the jungle carrying all of their supplies. As if this ultra-marathon isn’t hard enough, there is a six-hour time penalty if you accept assistance!

Jungle Ultra © istock/thinkstock
Jungle Ultra © iStock/Thinkstock

Badwater 135, US

Extreme heat, high winds and varying altitude are just some of the forces to expect on the Badwater ultra-marathon. Referred to as the “world’s toughest footrace,” it’s a 135-mile endurance testing challenge for which the clock never stops. Melted shoes and ice water baths a-plenty, the race starts at Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level, and ends 8,360 feet above it, at Whitney Portal. 

Badwater 135 © Quinn Dombrowski
Badwater 135 © Quinn Dombrowski

Spartathlon, Greece

The concept of Spartathlon is based on the 153-mile stretch from Athens to Sparta, which Pheidippides ran in 490 B.C. If you think beautiful views and picturesque surroundings should make this race a breeze, think again – it has to be completed in 36 hours. Runners continue through the day and night.

Spartathalon © Jan van de Erve
Spartathalon © Jan van de Erve

(Main image: © iStock/Thinkstock)

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to… whose London guide covers all the best hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, sights, shops and spas

The world’s toughest marathons was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Claire Bullen
Author: Claire Bullen (88 posts)

Globetrotter, chowhound, travel writer for Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to... and contributor to Cheapflights Travel Blogs.