Poll – the hardest ultra in the world?

Well?  Whaddya think? 

The Badwater Ultra Marathon describes itself as “the world’s toughest foot race”. It is a 135 mile (215 km) course starting at 282 feet (85 m) below sea level in the Badwater Basin, in California’s Death Valley, and ending at an elevation of 8360 feet (2548 m) at Whitney Portal, the trailhead to Mount Whitney. It usually happens in July, when the weather conditions are most extreme and temperatures over 120 F (49 C) in the shade are not uncommon. Consequently, very few people — even among ultramarathoners—are capable of finishing this race.

The Marathon des Sables  is a six-day, 254 km (156 mile) ultra, which is the equivalent to five and 1/2 regular marathons. The longest single stage (2009) is 91 km (55 miles) long.  The event is held every year in the southern Moroccan desert.  Competitors must carry all personal belongings and food for the entire event in their backpack. During the 1994 race, Italian police officer Mauro Prosperi lost his way during a sand storm and wandered lost for more than 9 days, losing over 13 kg (30 lb) of body weight.

The Sri Chinmoy 3100 Mile Race is the world’s longest certified race. Competitors seek to negotiate 5649 laps of a .5488 of a mile course (883 meters) in New York,  in the timespan of 51 days; this requires an average of over 60 miles a day.

The Barkley Marathons is a 100 mile race essentially composed of five 20-mile laps. With almost 53,000 feet of climbing and descent, all on what can only be marginally called a trail.   Since the race started in 1986, only 6 out of over 600 runners have ever finished the course.

Very interested to hear the views of other ultra runners, particularly those who have completed some or all of the above.  Also interested to hear the views of those who have not run one, and maybe don’t run at all – to understand what peoples’ perceptions are!

I’m sure I have left out some tough races – so click “other” if you think there is one which tops the list!


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5 Responses to “Poll – the hardest ultra in the world?”

  1. Denis Says:

    The Sri Chinmoy 3100 Mile Race just seems like a sick joke. For me, and I imagine other distance runners, half of the appeal of running is seeing how FAR you can go and seeing new things along the way. This race just seems like a hamster wheel of monotony.

    My uneducated answer would have to be Barkely’s just based on the 1% completion rate.

  2. Shashi Says:

    I’d think Sri Chinmoy race would be tough mentally having to run a Ultra everyday for 50 days on a tiny oval. Physically I’d have to go with Barkley after reading a few race reports. Badwater while extremely tough is a supported race and a higher percentage of finishers.

  3. run4change Says:

    I don’t think that the barkely’s are even meant to be finished. I think it is more of an event where ultra-runners get together to tell their wild and fantastical stories.

  4. Cleo Says:

    The MDS is easy, I did a similer race and there were plenty of people there with minimal running experience who still finished.

    • Tom Says:

      I have never done a multi stage race… let alone come third (Cleo!). But I would tend to agree.

      My personal vote goes to Barkely – simply because only 6 people have ever managed to complete it. Badwater would probably come a close second.

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