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The 5 Toughest Races in the World

The 5 Toughest Races in the World

1 March 2021

Lockdown and restrictions may have impacted your ability to train as often as you may want to. But, with all the signs pointing in a more promising direction in2021, now is the perfect time to think about a new challenge.

After spending the better part of a year indoors, it makes sense that new challenges and outdoor activities are things you want to set your sights on.

This could be anything from heading to some of the best walking trails in the UK or doing something action-packed. If you have a competitive streak, you may want to consider signing up for something a bit more stimulating, like a race. But be warned, what we’re about to present isn’t for the faint-hearted.

We’ve put together a list of the five hardest races in the world – something you may want to aspire to take part in at some point in the future.

What sets the hardest races apart from others?

While most people consider half marathons to be pretty tricky, there are a few aspects that will ultimately make a race more difficult than most, including:

  • Intense terrain
  • Altitudes
  • Extreme temperatures (cold or hot)
  • Steep ascents and descents
  • Long distances
  • Cut-off times

To be able to complete these types of races you must train for long periods of time. However, there is no experience quite like taking part in the real thing.

The hardest races in the world

Iditarod Trail Invitational

The Iditarod Trail Invitational has a reputation of being the “world’s longest-running winter ultra-marathon”. As one of the most challenging experiences on the planet, with inhospitable conditions and minimal outside support, it is arguably one of the toughest races in the world.

As a participant, you must brave the extreme environmental and mental challenges, while also dealing with the gruelling physical demand that this race requests of you. According to the Iditarod Trail Invitational website, the race “is a measure of human willpower like no other”. Those looking to take part need to make it through 30 days and nights in frozen temperatures and demanding conditions.

Marathon Des Sables

The second competition making it onto our list of the toughest races in the world is the Marathon Des Sables, a race held in the middle of the Sahara Desert in Morocco. This arduous and physically demanding race is just one of the many that our very own National Army Cadet ambassador Sally Orange has completed to support military charities.

Along with finding the mental and physical strength to contend with demanding terrain and scorching temperatures, each participant must carry their own backpack containing food and sleeping gear for approximately 250km. The race aims to bring participants together and create a community in the tents, on the trails and at the finish line. This is a race where you might meet lifelong friends as well as accomplish something you never thought possible.

Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon

For most people, hiking Mount Everest is an unimaginable feat with high altitudes and frozen temperatures. However, both new and professional runners come together to take part in this once in a lifetime experience.

The Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon celebrates the historical ascent of Mount Everest by the late Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary on 29th May 1953. In honour, this tough race continues to be held on 29th May every year. Participants can choose between three categories they want to take part in - 60km Extreme Ultra, 42km Full Marathon or 21km Half Marathon.

Badwater 135

Badwater 135 is a non-stop 135-mile race in Death Valley, North America, covering three mountain ranges with a cumulative ascent of 4450m and a cumulative descent of 1859m.

Dubbed “the world’s toughest foot race”, contestants start the race at the lowest elevation at Badwater Basin, Death Valley (the lowest elevation in North America, 85m below sea level). They then continue to the Whitney Portal - the trailhead to the Mount Whitney summit at 2530m.

Jungle Marathon

The final, but equally as tough, race on the list is the Jungle Marathon. Voted by CNN as “The World’s Toughest Endurance Race”, it takes place in the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil.

Along with having to factor in the dangers that the jungle poses with a hot and humid environment, wild animals and poisonous plants, participants need to have the strength to carry themselves and their provisions too. However, race officials are always on hand and provide water for the duration of the race.

Those looking to take part need a combination of strength, willpower and strong mental tenacity to make it through the swamps, river crossings, steep climbs and trails that the jungle will throw at them.

Get Involved with The Army Cadets’ March in March

From 1st to 31st March 2021, Army Cadet Sports has set up a national walking challenge - the March in March - in partnership with Army Cadets Healthy Minds and Combat Stress, a leading charity supporting veterans’ mental health.

The March in March challenges Army Cadets and Cadet Force Adult Volunteers to walk 10 miles, giving them an opportunity to keep active while building an esprit de corps and raising awareness to Combat Stress.

To register, visit the Combat Stress events page.

At The Army Cadets, we regularly challenge ourselves with training and new experiences and exciting activities that you may otherwise not take part in. If you want to take part in one of these once-in-a-life-time races, find out how becoming a cadet can help you prepare.