World’s Most Extreme Marathons

Extreme Marathons

Are You Tough Enough for These Global Races?

A normal marathon is a long distance running race, just over 26 miles. To many of us, this seems like one hell of a long way! Well, for distance runners standard marathons seem to be a walk in the park. Tougher races are run all over the world, some of them in uniquely challenging conditions. These are the ultra-marathons – this page covers the most extreme marathons from around the world.

Below you will see details on four of the toughest races on earth. I have included videos to give you a real taste of the action. These are publicly available from YouTube, and the people who made them are not associated with Fitness Review (other than having my complete respect!). Take a look and see if you think you have what it takes to compete in any of them.

The Jungle Ultra – Peru

The jungle ultra is a mammoth 230km ultra marathon that sees participants racing through the Amazonian rainforest. The race has five different stages. It
begins 10,000 meters above sea level. Those brave enough then trek through the Peruvian Jungle.

Humidity is up to 100% in the dense jungle. The runners will go through tribal villages, untouched rainforest as well as mountainous terrain. Participants are expected to carry all supplies like sleeping bags, hammocks  and food. Clean water is made available at various checkpoints.

Altitude + Humidity

If you want to tackle the Jungle Ultra then you really need to be in phenomenal shape. It certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted due to the altitude, distance and humidity. If you are lucky, you could even come across animals including jaguars, monkeys and tapirs while making your way through the jungle.  I understand the native tribes are friendly!

I love the video below. This was shot by a runner – Thomas Minyi – as he and a friend tackled the 2015 Jungle Ultra. This brings out the spectacular scenery, and the grueling stages too!

Marathon des Sables – Morocco

The Marathon des Sables dates back to 1986. The idea was born in 1984, when 28 year old Patrick Bauer decided to trek a 250km portion of the Sahara desert. He had only a 35kg rucksack with all of the food and water he needed. It took Patrick 12 days to complete the journey.

In 2014 over 1,000 individuals took on the challenge. Organisers suggest each participant consume 3-4000 calories per day and advise a high energy snack every 20-10 minutes. Water is distributed at each different stage, which participants must manage themselves from that point on.

Age No Barrier

The Marathon des Sables really is one of the toughest tests of mental and physical endurance. In the past we have seen participants as young as 16 and as old as 79 – so age really is not a barrier.  You’ll need to make sure you are well prepared.

Navigation is a must, a sudden sandstorm could be disorienting – and getting lost in the scorching heat of the Sahara desert is no laughing matter.

You’ll get a real flavour of this event from the ‘movie’ of the 2016 running.

You can find out more (and even register for the next event!) at

Spartathlon, Greece

The Spartathlon is one of the toughest extreme races of them all. The race began back in 1984 and participants are required to recreate the steps of Pheidippides who was an ancient Athenian runner. The runner was required to help the Greeks in the war vs the Persians and he is said to have arrived in Sparta, which is 250km away the very next day.

Some research was done and it was decided that it is possible to run 250km in two days and thus the Spartathlon was born.

Only about a third of the runners who begin the race will complete it and end up in Sparta. Every 5km participants will find aid stations and there are time limits imposed at 75 of these stations. If you don’t make the station on time you are eliminated from the race.

36 Hours

So, if you want to be a modern day Pheidippides, you are required to complete 250km in 36 hours and the route covers vineyards, olive groves, hillsides, paved roads, and a nearly 4,000 foot tall mountain, Mount Parthenio

The Spartathlon is immersed in history, you will pass through some amazing ancient Greek cities and if you can complete it then you can consider yourself a serious running machine!

This video is a promo from the organizers for the 2017 event… a wonderful mix of impressive scenery, grueling effort and real emotion. You can find out how to enter, and rad more about the history of this event at the official website here:

The Great Wall of China Marathon, China

One day of each year this huge man made monument is filled with a special kind of tourist – the ultra marathon runners. The race has a cut off time of 8 hours and consists of 51364 steps.

The marathon starts in the centre of the Ying Yang square and leads the participants up the many staircases on the great wall of China. You will then make your way through the lower valley, through the surrounding villages before making a final loop around the great wall.

There is an 8 hour time limit on the race and anyone who hasn’t completed it by then will be disqualified. The event has proved very popular in recent years, with as many as 2500 participants.

This video is a montage of scenes and comments from runners – some amazing views!

Tips on Prep for Ultra Marathon

These races really are like no others on earth, which means they’re very tough to prepare for because it is close to impossible to recreate the conditions. However if you are thinking about giving any of these a go then they are a few things you can do.

First up, start training whilst carrying a load to replicate what it will be like to be running with food, water and any other essentials you may need. Secondly try and train with some extra layers on super hot days to get accustomed to the intense heat you will be feeling in many of these locations. Finally do your best to replicate the terrain, run on sand, gravel, through woodland areas where possible. Basically just look to practices on as much rough terrain as possible.

Joining a specialist running club – where you will meet more experienced runners is a great starting point. Oh, and while you are participating in these extreme events – remember to stop and take in the view!

Here are some online resources to check out: