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Tighten those Laces and Mark Your Calendars for 2018’s Most Extreme Races

Road marathons and triathlons are wildly popular and most tend to attract large numbers of participants (and spectators), while obstacle races and mud runs have skyrocketed in recent years. But, what happens when you already have the 26.2 and 140.6 window decals and feel like you need to do more? Why not try pushing the levels of human endurance next time by entering an extreme race.

So, what constitutes an extreme race?

Put simply, it’s a race where the distances are longer, the terrains tougher, and the stakes higher. For some, it’s a grueling distance, extreme geography, low success rate, the toughest, or a combination of all of the above. In some of the most extreme races, just crossing the finish line safely can be a victory in itself.

The list list below has something for everyone, even if it’s just to daydream from the comfort and safety of your favorite recliner.

Patagonia Expedition Race 

Photo by Christian Miranda
Photo by Christian Miranda

When: November 17-30, 2018
Returning for its 13th edition, the “adventure at the end of the world” (it’s actually in Patagonia and not sponsored by the company) may be one one of the hardest races on the list. Teams of four (with at least one member of the opposite sex) are presented maps just 24 hours before the race start. Each team must navigate the treacherous terrain at the bottom of the world engaging in disciplines such as sea kayaking, orienteering, mountain biking, fixed ropes (abseiling and rappelling), and trekking, and must complete the race within 10 days.

Marathon des Sables

marathon des sables
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When: April 6-16, 2018
What began as one man’s attempt to cross an uninhabited expanse of the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco has become one of the world’s most iconic suffer-fests. Since the first event in 1986, over 13,000 participants have endured the hot sun and sand in this 154-mile trek. Each racer must carry their own backpack with all mandatory equipment. There are multiple stages over the course of the event and over 1,000 competitors toe the line each year to endure temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

DECAMAN (The Classic DECA)

Image used with permission by copyright holder

When: November, 2018
What’s tougher than an IRONMAN triathlon? An Ironman triathlon every day for 10 consecutive days. The DECA is coming to the U.S. this November and those seeking to participate will bike, run, and swim the classic IRONMAN distances daily, times 10. And the guys bringing the event to the U.S. also participate in these events, so they know what they’re signing up for each time.

Untamed New England

Image used with permission by copyright holder

When: July 24-29, 2018
The inaugural event took place 10 years ago and is returning this summer with the Abenaki Pursuit edition. This non-stop, four-day expedition race will take competitors across more than 250 miles of rugged New England wilderness. Historically, only about 20 percent of the teams have completed the full Untamed New England race course. Like other traditional adventure races, teams travel together and must use topographic maps to navigate between checkpoints via trekking, mountain biking, orienteering, and paddling. The 2018 edition will be the Abenaki Pursuit edition honors the first people to explore these mysterious mountains, forests, and waters.

Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon

Image used with permission by copyright holder

When: May 29, 2018
When is a marathon not just a marathon? When it starts at Everest Base Camp (EBC) and labels itself as the world’s highest and most adventurous marathon in the world, of course. The full marathon course starts at over 17,000 feet above sea level at EBC, which is also the starting point for those seeking to summit the world’s highest peak. The course follows the historical route pioneered by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary and participants will cross the finish line at Namche Bazaar. And, if a full marathon isn’t enough to get your adrenaline rushing, there’s also a 60 km event.

World’s Toughest Mudder

Image used with permission by copyright holder

When: November, 2018
We would be remiss if we didn’t include this imposing obstacle course challenge. The five-mile circuit will feature four to five obstacles per mile, meaning that the course will entail 20-25 obstacles in total, with some never-before-seen and a few that only appear at this event. The man and woman that complete the most laps on the course in a 24-hour period will be crowned the champion and the Toughest Mudder on the planet.

Tour Divide

Highlights from the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

When: June 2018
There is no entry fee or prize purse for the winner and the 2,745 mile route takes riders from Banff, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. The “race” is self-supporting and competitors are primarily in competition with themselves as they navigate the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the longest off-pavement cycling route. To finish, riders must spend weeks of 16-plus hour days in the saddle. The route is unmarked and requires navigational expertise, intervals between services can be in excess of 100 miles, an international border to be crossed, and remote backcountry conditions to overcome. Sign us up!

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Clay Abney
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Clay Abney is a PR guru and freelance writer living in the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia, where he spends his…
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