The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And those who are into extreme marathons are up for every one of those steps. These are the folks who participate in extreme physical challenges around the world to complete the most physical of tests. Okay, maybe not the test of 1,000 miles, but certainly the mental equivalent.
The market for mega marathons has gone global, with countries on every continent creating challenges more extreme than the next. It seems every year the courses and qualifications become that much more intense, and that much more attractive to those looking for their next conquest. It’s actually pretty remarkable what humans can do when the put their minds to it, and you won’t believe some of the marathons mankind has made in this day and age.
If walking 154-miles on concrete ground wasn’t hard enough, try doing it on sand. Every year for six-days a group of marathoners set out on a physical and mental challenge in the Sahara desert. The sand in southern Morocco is so fine that it consumes the foot’s momentum, and the temperatures during the April marathon reach well over 100 degrees. This route is in fact so dangerous that three runners have died on the route. To this desert journey we say: enter at your own risk.
From hot and dry to cold and icy, the Polar Night Half Marathon poses different kinds of challenges. For starters, the entire half-marathon is done in darkness. The event takes place in January during the Polar night-period, when the sun never rises above the horizon. Yes, that is a real thing. And If that wasn’t quite intense enough for you, the course is only lit by torches. It’s safe to say the Polar Night Half Marathon is no joke.
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Does a 142.6 mile run through the Peruvian jungle sound like a good idea to you? For Jungle Ultra marathon lovers, it’s more than a good idea, it’s something to look forward to all year. The five-stage, self-supported race will take you on a 10,500 feet drop to the jungle floor and over more than 70 rivers and streams. Which you will probably need to jump in considering the humidity levels that are known to reach 100 percent. If you’re ready to get your Rambo on, this could be the run for you.
Running through nature can be overrated, so why not a run through history? One of the world’s largest and most famous monuments sets the stage for this 26.2 mile marathon. The Great Wall of China Marathon takes you on a journey through a structure so large it can be seen from space. Climbing up 5,164 steps has become so popular that it sells out each year, allowing an impressive 2,500 to take part per marathon.
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May the odds be ever in your favor. Welcome to the real-life Hunger Games-esque marathon. Modeled after the journey that Pheidippedes ran in 490 BC, the 153-mile course spans from Athens to Sparta. The only difference between runners and Pheidippedes is that they only have 36 hours to complete the course; and if they fail to make it to one of the 75 control points in time, they’re out. Spartathalon allows a mere 350 competitors to enter the race, and only the fittest will actually cross the finish line.