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6 Most Gruelling Races In The World

Conor O'Leary
By Conor O'Leary
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Some of us find it tough just to run laps of a football field but for others the thrill of running can take them on the most mindboggling races around the planet. Scientists are arguing these days that humans are biologically wired to be excellent endurance athletes so, in theory, we all have the potential to complete on these races.

Have a read and see if any tickle your fancy.

1. Marathon des Sables

Because for some people, one marathon isn't enough. The Marathon des Sables is six back-to-back marathons in the Sahara Desert. You know things are serious when there is a maximum speed in a race. Runners aren't allowed to run faster than 14km/h to make sure that they survive running in the desert heat.

It also was the stage of one of the most insane stories you will ever hear. Italian police officer Mauro Prosperi was competing in the 1994 event when he made one wrong turn and got lost. Prosperi got disoriented, and ending up running hundreds of kilometres off course into Algeria.

He ran out of food and water after 36 hours, and attempts to find him were leading to nothing. After nine days alone in the desert, Prosperi fell upon an oasis where a little girl found him and got help. He was taken to an Algerian hospital after being found 299 km off course, and he had lost 18 kg in body weight. Prosperi only survived by eating bats, and drinking his own urine.

Read more of his extraordinary story here.


2. Badwater 135

Imagine just being in 52 degree heat. It's not something that Irish people handle very well - never mind doing light exercise in it. But for some people - Death Valley is the scene for one of the toughest foot races of all time.

Every July, when the temperature is hottest - runners have 48 hours to run the 135 miles from Badwater Basin in Death Valley to Whitney Portal.

Not only do you have the heat, the cumulative elevation change of 4,000m just adds to the challenge.


Runners are advised to run with support, with either pacers or support vehicles that contain everything that a runner needs.

40% of people who run the race fail to finish, but fortunately there have been no fatalities as of yet.


For more great training tips visit Avonmore Protein Milk’s training hub here

3. Enduroman Arch To Arc - London to Paris

The incredible Arch to Arc sees competitors start from London's Marble Arch and finish at the L'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It includes a 140 km run to Dover, swimming the English channel, before a final 2980 km cycle through the French countryside to Paris.


When only 23 people have ever completed the challenge - you know it must be tough.

4. 6633 Ultra

While the Badwater and Mds challenges you in the heat, the 6633 does the opposite. The race within the Arctic Circle (66 degrees, 33 minutes), is another self-sufficient foot race.


The 350 mile race with temperatures of minus 50 degrees, and 80 m/h crosswinds isn't for the faint of heart. In fact, a whopping 88% of all runners don't actually finish it.

Before this year, only 11 people had ever finished the race in seven years. But a large number of eight (from 21) finished the 2015 edition, including three Irish runners Daithi O'Murchu, Gavin Hennigan, and Jonathan Davies.

5. Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile

Not every foot race is grueling because of the harsh conditions. There's a race run at one small block of Queens in New York that is possibly one of the most grueling experiences you could ever imagine.

Runners have 52 days to complete the 3,100 mile challenge of running around a single block in Jamaica, Queens 5,649 times.

Can you imagine the mental torture of running around the same block 5,649 times? Runners have to cover on average 60 miles a day, meaning that for 52 consecutive days that they would have to run the same block over 108 times a day.

Even if it was across the river in Manhattan it might be a little more interesting in one of the most fascinating cities in the world, trying to dodge the multitudes of pedestrians, but that sounds like mental torture.

Only 37 people have ever completed all 52 days in the history of the 18 year event.

The idea of the race is to serve "as an inspiration for people in all walks of life to ‘go the extra mile’ or reach their own highest potential in whatever they do."

The supreme secret or goal will be to transcend our own capacities. We will not try to defeat others.  We will try only to constantly transcend ourselves. We must try to develop universal goodwill. When transcending ourselves, we will not fight with ourselves.

6. 11-Cities SUP Tour

There we go! All the athletes are on their way to Sloten!

A photo posted by SUP11CityTour (@sup11citytour) on

It's a summer stand-up paddle version of Holland's winter ice-skating event, using your arms to propel you through water gets tiring after several minutes - so imagine travelling through all 11 of Holland's main cities in one go on a paddle board.

Only eight paddlers have ever completed the non-stop version of the event that stretches 220km through Holland.

For more great training tips visit Avonmore Protein Milk’s training hub here

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