With many of us suffering the luxury of a very comfortable life there has been an increasing trend to find the hardest, longest and most challenging sporting events possible. Often referred to as “Type 2” fun these endeavours are miserable at the time but hugely rewarding in retrospect. If you’re drawn to some extreme endurance challenge then check out the list below for some of the toughest on offer:
Monster Triathlon: Loch Ness to London – 5km swim, 1000km bike, 50km run.
Highlights – a frosty 10 degree swim in Loch Ness. Almost 7000m of climbing over the bike section. A final trail run from Windsor to Richmond. You have up to 7 days to complete this 4 digit race distance!
Himalayan XTRI: 3.8km swim, 175km bike and a 43km run sounds like any other Iron distance race; except it isn’t! Start with a 4am swim in the dark. A tortuous road ride with over 5000m of ascent. Finishing with a mountainous trail run that tops out at ‘breath-taking’ 4000m above sea level. Average time to finish is 20 hours.
Bearman Project 8848: Keeping the Himalayan feel but moving closer to home. This Pyrenean race maintains the Iron distance vibes but includes 8848m of climbing (The height of Mount Everest). Lake swim, road bike section and trail run again here. In 2022 only 3 people finished within the 22hr cut-off time. Average finish time of 70hrs although most don’t get that far.
Arch to Arc: Run, swim and cycle from London to Paris. Start with 140km of running from Marble Arch to the coast and then swim the 30kms+ that is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world before riding almost 300km to finish at the Arc du Triomphe.
Swimrunman Ultra: The combination of 17 runs and 18 swims in the Verdon natural park (France) makes this both beautiful and brutal in equal measures. Technical trails and stunning turquoise water are the highlights of this race. Less than 50% of competitors finish the long distance race.
Iceland Coast to Coast: 6 days to traverse from the North to the South of this rugged island. The land of fire and ice can be both beautiful and brutal but if you’re up for an adventure this could be it. This epic journey combiones mountain biking, rafting, trekking and running.
Race Across America: west to east coast USA over a distance of approx 3000km. This famous event can be completed as a solo rider, in pairs or teams of 4-8 riders. Covering huge mountain ranges and with extremes of weather thrown in too this has a huge following and is on many a bucket list.
Dragon Ride: based in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales. The longest offering (the Devil) is 300km including some 4600m of climbing. Given the unpredictable weather this is one tough day out.
GB Divide: This 2000km route is the newer, less known and off-road version of Lands End to John O’Groats. 55% unpaved and 95% rideable with 27000m of climbing this around a fortnights worth of time for you and your bike to get to know each other.
Transcontinental Race: A self-supported ride/race across continental Europe. Covering approx4000km from Belgium to Greece, Turkey or Bulgaria typically.
Marathon des Sables: Based in the Sahara Desert, Morocco this is one of the most well-known ultra-distance events– 6 days – 251km.
UTMB Mont Blanc: Chamonix, French Alps – 171km of rugged terrain with 9900m elevation gain. Possibly the world’s premier trail race.
Dragon’s Back Race: Wales - Conway to Cardiff. 380km in 6 days.
Badwater 135: USA - 135 miles from Death Valley to Mount Whitney. Temperatures up to 50 dgerees.
Barkley Marathons: USA - 60hrs to cover 5x20mile loops. Hard to describe – watch the numerous documentaries for this one off race event.
Channel Swim – 32kms across one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. Water tempo approx 15-16 degrees.
Windermere end to end: 11miles (north to south) in the heart of the Lake District.
Scilly Swim Challenge: swim between the islands off the Cornwall coast – 15kms of swimming and walking over 1-2 days (swims vary from 600m to 5km).
Strait of Gibraltar: cross continents by swimming between Europe and Africa (Spain to Morocco- 15km) and possibly back again (30+km)
Manhattan Island 20 bridges: approx. 45km within the 3 rivers that surround the island.