worlds toughest endurance challenges In Challenges

World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges

This would seem like an appropriate article to have on a site about climbing the 7 Summits. Yet, I’m not going to include any mountaineering in it at all. I fully believe I could just add the 14 8,000m peaks and the list would be pretty well finished.

However I’m going to limit this to a few criteria;

  • Amateurs can enter
  • No particular ‘technical’ training required (i.e no mountaineering skills, no sailing skills, no paragliding etc..)
  • Not obscenely long. A few days max. Otherwise this could get ridiculous… I could start adding things like ‘cycle around the world’ or ‘handstand walk across Germany’. Things could get very obscene very quickly.
  • A little diversity; in the activity and location. Although a large portion of these will probably be running based, I’ve tried to add a few different pursuits into the mix. After all, this is all about the adventures these pursuits take us on.


This is definitely not a bucket list for me, though there are at least a few of these I’d like to take on at some point in the next couple of decades. This is in a way a little research for me to find what is out there and what sounds appealing. So much to do…



Peruvian Jungle Ultra

This is a 5 stage, self-sufficient, 230km race located deep in the Amazon jungle.

Described on the site, competitors “make their way through 230km of sweltering jungle, choked with mud and humidity, broken by river crossing after crossing.” Sound fun?

I don’t like the sound of this at all… humidity is a bitch, let alone running through 230km of it. No thanks.


Race across America

The self proclaimed “Worlds toughest bicycle race”. They’re probably not too far off the mark.

The Race across America is literally that. Beginning in California, the course covers 3,000 miles (4,800km) and has participants cycling up 175,000 feet of elevation before arriving on the East Coast in Annapolis, Maryland.

The real challenge? You have to finish in 12 days. That works out to an average of 400km PER DAY.

Here’s an incredible account of what it takes by RAAM winner Jason Lane



Marathon Des Sables

Self proclaimed as the “worlds toughest footrace” (seems to be a common trend doesn’t it..), this is definitely one of the more infamous on the list. Its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years and budding participants now have to be very quick on the trigger if they want to score themselves a spot. Isn’t that a weird thing when you really think about it.. imagine what the inhabitants of the Sahara desert would say about all these people desperately trying to PAY for the chance to put themselves through hell.

What the Marathon Des Sables really comes down to, is running 156 miles (251km) through the middle of the Moroccan desert over 6 days. It’s technically self-supported, meaning you have to carry all your food and gear on your back (they do provide water along the way).

toughest endurance challenges



This is one is perhaps the most unique on the list. It’s also one of the more appealing ones to me.

Kokoro is modeled on the Navy Seal infamous ‘Hell Week’, but is open to anyone willing to pay the cost of entry (that can meet some rigorous fitness standards).

It’s a 50 hour ordeal that sounds brutal as all hell. Here’s a write up of the experience.

The standards to entry? Take a look..


Originally created to train Special Operations Candidates, Kokoro is now available to the civilian population, but our Physical Standards Test (PST) remain the same.

PST – You will be tested for maximum reps and you MUST reach the following minimum standards:
50 push-ups (40 for women): 2 minutes
50 sit-ups (40 for women): 2 minutes
50 air squats (40 for women): 2 minutes
10 dead hang pull-ups (6 for women)
1 mile run in boots and utility pants: 9.5 minutes

In addition to the PST you will be physically tested on how fast you can do MURPH. There is a 75 minute time cap.

MURPH (with weighted ruck in boots)
1 mile run

100 pullups
200 pushups
300 air squats
1 mile run


Badwater Ultramarathon

Now we have some competition developing within this blog post. Badwater, in direct collision with Marathon Des Sables, also describes itself as the “worlds toughest footrace”. We have a showdown. I haven’t done either so I have no idea what’s worse… Does someone want to weigh in on this?

This one just sounds tough.

Badwater covers 135 miles (217km) from Badwater Basin, at 280 feet below sea level, to the base of Mt Whitney, at an elevation of 8360. It’s run in the middle of the Californian summer, meaning temperatures reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, and it’s run non-stop… Yeh this one sounds like it may have the edge over MDS so far.

Unlike MDS, Badwater also requires extensive pre-race experience, including multiple 100 mile events. It’s entirely up to the organisers discretion as to whether he lets you in.

endurance challenges david goggins

Endurance and motivational legend David Goggins, during a Badwater race.


Yukon Arctic Ultra

“The worlds coldest and toughest ultra”….

The Yukon ultra follows the trail of the Yukon Quest, a dog sled race also held every year. Hang on just a minute… This follows a DOG SLED trail which is billed as the hardest dog sled race in the world. It’s quite that bad though as instead of just running, you have the option of utilising skis or a mountain bike if you prefer.

There are options for 100 miles or 300 miles and in 2018, there was only 1 finisher. Most of the other competitors were probably put off by the -40 degree temperatures. Yeh, it’s cold up that way.

Here’s a great article on Outside Online about the Yukon ultra experience.

Another race in pretty much the same category, yet that appears to be even harder is the 6633 Ultra


Yak Attack

To be fair, this probably doesn’t deserve a spot on the list among the worlds hardest endurance challenges. Instead, this one just looks like fun…

It’s a 5 stage mountain bike race through the Himalayas of Nepal, dubbed the ‘highest mountain bike race on Earth’.

I’ll let a video do the talking, check it out;



English Channel Swim

Though perhaps not the hardest of all the long open water swims, it’s certainly the most renowned.

The English channel, stretching from southern England to Northern France is 21 miles (33km) at its shortest point. Rarely though, is it possible to swim that route directly. The current pushes swimmers around so much, swimming double that distance is not uncommon.

Here’s a great article about an average, not typically athletic middle aged woman who managed to swim the channel in just under 19 hours: How I swam the English Channel


Norseman Ironman

Outside of Kona, the Isklar Norseman triathlon is regarded by the sports aficionados as perhaps the toughest event out there. Unlike Kona, it’s open to anybody (although a ballot is still involved due to its popularity)

The distances are the same as any full length Ironman: 3.8km swim, 180km ride followed by a 42.2km run. It’s the terrain and the conditions which make this event extra tough.

To kick off, you’re dropped off the back of a ferry, forced to swim through icy Norwegian fjords to make it to the bike transition. Then you ride up 5 mountain passes, clocking in over 4km of vert. Once off the bike and onto the run, you have to again ascend mountainous passes before reaching the finish, at the summit of Gaustatoppen.

I’m definitely in on this at some stage.

worlds toughest endurance events norseman

The start point of the Norseman Ironman



Patagonia Expedition Race

This is another one that looks like pretty damn good fun.

Combine trekking, kayaking, mountain biking and climbing in the remote Patagonian region of southern Chile and you have all the ingredients of an adventure race.

This one takes place over 10 days and covers over 350 miles, though the course is ever changing. Not only will it test you physically, it will test your ability to navigate and co-ordinate between various physical disciplines.

Sign me up


Snowman Trek

Hands up if you know a lot about Bhutan? Didn’t think so. Not that I can see you, but I’d guess there weren’t many raised. Besides being dubbed the ‘happiest nation on Earth’ and being the only ‘carbon negative’ country, I personally know very little. Expect for the Snowman trek.

The Snowman is one of the worlds highest altitude treks and billed as one of the hardest. It can take up to 25 days but that seems a little excessive. Let’s call it 3 weeks. Still, it’s long. You’re crossing 9 passes over 4,500m which means altitude is a factor for most.

This is a great write-up of the trek.

hardest physical endurance challenges



This is yet another brutally long, hot run that perhaps tops the list on the difficulty factor. Not only do runners have to cover 245km in the blistering heat, they have to do it in 36 hours.

Not only is it insanely difficult, it’s steeped in rich history. This is the route covered by Pheidippides when he ran from Athens to Sparta to ask for help, way back in 490BC. Many think the marathon was based on that effort but the reality is over 5 times longer…



Barkley Marathon

The Barkley Marathon has been running (hehe) since 1986 and in that time has seen 18 finishes from 15 different athle…. Woah woah woah hold up just a moment. So the event has been running 22 years and in that time, 15 different people have FINISHED it. This year nobody finished.

So what’s the deal? Why would people want to do something that in all likelihood, they’ll never finish? Well, that’s all part of the charm.

Check out this documentary; It gives a great explanation of the whole thing.


Special Mention; Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile

This one doesn’t make it on the the regular list because it’s far too ridiculous.

5,649 laps of an 830m block in New York. Yep. That’s enough information to know I don’t even want to think about it. But then that’s what makes all this appealing doesn’t it? What if… no, no, that’s beyond my realm of craziness.

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