obstacle racer’s bucket list – the top 10 extreme races you should attempt

By SOLO

Dear obstacle racing junkie,

So you’ve been riding the endurance train for the past couple of years. A 12-hour event doesn’t really seem “that long” anymore; and you’ve been known to use expressions such as:

“the worse it is, the better it is”,
“whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”,
“hurts so good”, and
“embrace the suck”

death race

… this list is for you. Each of these events takes months (or years) of training, lasts for hours (or days), and pushes you to the limit (or to insanity).

1. Spartan Ultra Beast

The crown jewel in the sport of obstacle racing, the Ultra Beast is the Spartan series championship held in Killington, Vermont. You can expect to cover at least a full marathon distance. All uphill. Expect to carry stuff, jump over stuff, swim through stuff and crawl under stuff.

2. World’s Toughest Mudder

A masochistic twist on a favorite – 24 hours of chilly fun! Pack a wet suit for this one, or maybe two, as participants will set out to complete as many laps of a Tough Mudder course as possible. Last year’s winners covered over 90 miles.

3. Spartan Death Race

You know those long consent forms you have to sign before a typical obstacle race? Well, not here. Participants simply state: “I understand that I may die”. If that sounds appealing, you will need to contact Andy, “the Undertaker” to register. Obstacles are unknown, specific distance is also unknown. Only 15% of those who start finish. The race can go on for 30 hours. Or 48. Or 72. You better take a week off work.

4. Canadian Death Race

What? There is ANOTHER Death Race? This 125 kilometre ultra has been taking place in the Canadian rocky mountains since 2000, thus preceding the DR we all know and love. “It’s a killer”, says the cheerful website. And yes, the logo also includes a skull, so surely this will appeal to the most extreme of the obstacle racers. It is considered to be one of the toughest race courses on the planet, passing over three mountain summits, and including 17,000 feet of elevation change.

5. Goruck Selection

You better be wearing your ruck, as you are reading this. Selection promises “48+ hours of good livin’”. Expect endurance running, and push-ups. Lots of push-ups. Oh, and misery of epic proportions, of course. Only 16 crazies have finished this challenge to date. Will you be #17? (Probably not).

6. Ironman Triathlon

Don’t forget about this oldie, but goodie. Three sports, back to back – swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a full marathon (26.1 miles) as a cooldown. “Brag for the rest of your life” is part of the Ironman’s trademark. Hell, it’s worth it just for the tattoo. Yes, you will need to train for this one. Let’s be honest here, you probably suck at swimming.

7. American Ninja Warrior

Part obstacle race, part popularity contest, part reality TV, this event is a spin-off of a Japanese television series. Hundreds of candidates audition to get their chance to win $500,000. Unlike other events in this list, ANW tends to be a short and fast event, featuring ladders, steep ramps, spinning logs and other delightful objects. Completing the course requires strength, flexibility and incredible agility of all the contestants. And if you fail an obstacle, you are out – no burpee option here.

8. Survival Run: Nicaragua

Those with a healthy travel budget, may want to consider the 75km Survival Run. What obstacles can you expect? Pull out your geography textbook – you are headed into the rainforest of Central America. Running with chicken, carrying firewood, and climbing coconut trees, all the while trying not to fall into a volcano. Race organizers remind participants that if they get lost, hurt or die, it’s their “OWN damn fault”. Only the fittest survive – it’s a jungle out there.

9. Sahara Race (Egypt)

This is a 7-day, 250km self-supported footrace through the scorching sands of the Sahara Desert. According to the organizers, a typical competitor is a high achiever. Yeah, no kidding. This event probably takes the cake for the most scenic finish line, wrapping up at the ancient Pyramids of Giza. Just please wear sunscreen.

10. Barkley Marathons

This 100 mile run (and an optional 60 mile “fun run”) first took place in 1986. Since then, over 800 runners have attempted the course, and only 14 finished. No women. To save you the math, that’s 1.75% completion rate. To apply, send in $1.60, a license plate from your home state, and an essay on “Why I should be allowed to run the Barkley?”. Send where, you ask? That’s the wrong question. Figure it out.

Whew.

It looks like I better stock up on energy gels, and start training.

YOUR TURN:
What am I missing? What other extreme races would you recommend to an obstacle racing junkie?

Signing off,
Solo

*This article has been written for Obstacle Racing Magazine UK – just a little teaser to their second issue due to come out in the next few weeks! 

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Posted July 24, 2013

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