A Look at Some of the World’s Toughest Races

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A Look at Some of the World’s Toughest Races

Endurance races aren’t like any other type of competition. Athletes the world over have to manage mental fortitude alongside physical strength and power if they want to succeed—but that’s doubly true for long-distance runners and cyclists. Getting their bodies into shape is only the first step toward success.

When it comes to following the Grand Tours or the New York City Marathon, for example, many fans and analysts zero in on these types of mental challenges. Certain legs of the competition are viewed as more difficult because it’s when the going gets tough for athletes. After all, the more difficult the terrain or portion of the race, the more an athlete must draw on their mental reserves to get their body through a gruelling stint.

It’s something that publications cover extensively as they prepare for a major event—and even sports bettors do too. Those who use free offers from FanDuel to back a runner or cyclist in a race won’t just zero in on an athlete’s stats; instead, they’ll also need to look back at the competitor’s history. How have they fared at previous races? Is this their first time competing in this specific event?

One interesting fact to look at is whether an athlete has competed in one of the world’s more gruelling—if less covered—races. After all, many cyclists and long-distance runners are searching for their next major challenge. And for those with a true taste for adventure, events like the Giro d’Italia or Boston Marathon simply might not be difficult enough. For the athlete without limits, only races like those listed below will offer a challenge worth tackling.


Jungle Marathon

Adventure/stage race

Back in 2003, organizers launched one of the world’s most intense and unforgiving races: the Jungle Marathon, set in the Tapajos National Forest. Athletes must navigate the Amazon Rainforest, tackling challenges like rivers, swamps, and steep elevation—plus one highly challenging night stage.

Only competitors with a strong mindset will be able to handle the obstacles. Aside from the terrain, runners must also contend with high temperatures and high humidity. However, it’s proved popular enough that there’s now a Jungle Ultra race hosted in Peru’s Manu National Park.


Tor des Geants

Endurance trail race

If you’ve followed endurance racing for a while, you’ve heard of Tor des Geants. However, not many have the gall to actually attempt this 330km race. The challenge isn’t the steep trails of Italy’s Aosta Valley nor the elevation. Instead, it’s the fact that runners have less than 150 hours to complete the race. Given this added challenge, only around 60% of competitors finish.

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Iditarod Trail Invitational


Not everyone understands the inherent link between endurance athletes who choose to cycle or run long distances. However, as outlined above, mental fortitude is one element that binds these competitors together. And at the Iditarod Trail Invitational, they’ll compete alongside each other—as well as skiers.

Billed as the world’s longest-running winter ultra-marathon, competitors will follow the historic Iditarod trail through some of Alaska’s most challenging and desolate landscapes. Along the way, they’ll have minimal support from organizers to help them navigate a month-long journey through the brutal tundra.


Self-Transcendence Race

World’s longest footrace

Though not very well known, the Self-Transcendence Race is one of the most intriguing in the world of endurance spots. It started in 1996 as a personal project from a spiritual leader—but it quickly gained attention from racers worldwide. That’s because it’s a 3,100-mile challenge that takes place over several weeks… and takes runners on a loop through the Queens neighbourhood of New York City. 

Sounds intense, right? Competitors loop around a .5-square mile block in Queens, hoping to travel 3,100 miles over the course of 52 days. Runners need to run just under 60 miles daily to finish on time. Many take on the challenge as a way to build and enhance their mental strength. After all, given the race’s setting and its insane demands, the point isn’t just to cross the finish line—but to also overcome any internal blocks holding them back.


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