If you’re a sucker for pain and have constantly dreamt of pushing yourself to the limits, this is THE list you’ve been looking for.
This list has it all…Not limited to running, it features marathons, ultra-marathons, adventure racing, obstacle racing and more. If it made me say “what the f*ck?!”, it’ll be here and on my personal bucket list.
Starting with the guys flying the crazy flag loud and proud for Singapore, it’s Running Guild’s Craze Ultra. When I first heard about ultra-marathons, I thought big branded events like The North Face 100 had it all.
However, to my surprise the small outfit at behind Craze Ultra are the title holders of longest ultra-marathon in Singapore. An ultra-marathon is classified as a foot race of any distance over 42.195km (marathon). Running Guild’s Craze Ultra has a 100 mile category. That’s 160.934km, which justifies the race’s slogan “Are you nuts?”.
Singapore | Craze Ultra | Facebook
100 miles (160.934km)? Check. Running? Check. Volcanic terrain? Check. With some parts of the course pit participants against desolate ashy terrain. The scenery and terrain definitely make for some epic shots and challenging running.
Another volcano, another race in Indonesia. The Rinjani 100 pits (crazy) individuals against the famed Rinjani’s peak that is 3,726m above sea level, making it the second highest volcanic peak in Indonesia. Now if the elevation doesn’t seem daunting, there’s the terrain to contend with.
If you’ve trekked Rinjani you’ll know what I’m talking about. Expect portions of the trail to be steep, slippery and loose rubble especially as you approach the summit. Now just imagine running around and up this very active volcano.
Tough Mudder Bali was the obstacle racing brand’s first foray into the region. While there have been other big brand races (named after a particular ancient Greek warrior civilisation), they never really lived up to the ones held in the West.
The Tough Mudder brand, however, features obstacles like the electroshock therapy — which requires participants to run through an area of electrically charged tendrils hanging from a frame, waiting to sting on contact.
Indonesia | Tough Mudder Bali | Facebook
With a name like The 9 Dragons Ultra this better (figuratively) kick people in the nuts, or something that yields equal effect. The race gets its name from the eight hills of Kowloon, and the boy Emperor Bing of the Southern Song Dynasty…or so legend has it.
The 82km multi-day trail ultra-marathon doesn’t seem too bad at first glance because remember, there are ultra-marathons out there that are 160km and up. Throw in 4000m of elevation gain and a race that starts at midnight and you’ve got yourself a hell of a race.
The number “4” is inauspicious as it sounds like “death” in Mandarin. Fitting the nature of the Hong Kong 4 Trails Ultra Challenge, which is a brutal 298km with an equally insane amount of elevation gain and descending. Speaking to a friend that participated in 2017’s edition of it, the descents are deceptively killer.
With a 60 hour cut-off timing, this race has been designed to take your soul and crush it. Think you’re a master of pain and endurance? This is the race that’ll probably humble you.
Hong Kong | Hong Kong 4 Trails Challenge | Facebook
The Vietnam Mountain Marathon pits participants against the elements of beautiful Sa Pa, high up in the North of Vietnam. And beautiful as Sa Pa might be, the weather at such altitudes can go from cool and sunny, to gloom, doom and bone chilling misery.
Get off your feet and on a mountain bike to take on the Vietnam Mountain Bike Marathon, which is probably a lot more daunting than racing around the highlands of the Sa Pa region on foot. Almost anyone can ride a bike, but try riding that bike around some crazy technical courses and that’s a different story.
Adventure racing is a sport that’s slowly gaining traction, with participants expected to have a broad skill set that’ll see them through various elements. Trek and run through the jungle, kayak across bodies of water and put your navigation skills to the test.
The Ironman brand is without a doubt the most popular triathlon race in the world. While professional athletes relentlessly tackle the courses like well-oiled machines, most of the races allow anyone to participate, with the exception of Ironman Kona (The Ironman World Championships) that requires participants and athletes to qualify.
Ironman Langkwi then, is where you’ll be able to get into the Ironman action without travelling halfway around the world just to race. And just a fun fact, Ironman is a triathlon and not the other way round.
East Malaysia | Ironman Langkawi |Website
When professional ultra-marathoners like Timothy Olson says “What a gnarly 100k course; the heat & humidity melted my face off, 16,000ft of climbing with another 16k of descent left the legs crushed and the technical terrain kept me always present.” you best believe it.
Deep in the jungle of Northern Thailand, the 100km course is simply described as tough.
Xterra Phuket exists because somewhere, someone decided that regular triathlons weren’t hard enough. So they swapped the road running and biking for the trails. And while it does make things more interesting, it adds a lot more of a challenge.
If you’ve ever competed in a multi-sport, you’ll know how painful transiting from one discipline to the next is. Add in technical off road courses that require you to look out for roots, and loose rock waiting to trip you up? That’s a whole new game.
Another adventure race for those in search of more than just running. The River Kwai Trophy Adventure Race will have you mountain biking, kayaking, swimming across rivers and overcoming mystery obstacles on top of running.
A relatively short and fast trail race, Kushigata Wind Trail makes up for that with the amount of elevation gain squeezed into its longest route of 28km.
A course that is a run around the mountain’s rim, there’s 2500m of elevation gain. Coupled with technical forest trails that make Singapore’s nature reserves look like child’s play, you’ve got yourself a lung and leg busting run.
The Ueda Vertical Race doesn’t fall into the category of an ultra-marathon or even a marathon. With the longest category at 5km, it falls into the extremely niche and painful sport of skyrunning.
Skyrunning sounds therapeutic, almost evoking a dreamy feel. However, skyrunning is described by the International Skyrunning Federation as “running in the mountains above 2,000m altitude where the climbing difficulty does not exceed II° grade and the incline is over 30%”. Or in layman terms, thin air, very technical courses and ridiculously steep climbs.
Beginning at the Oboshi Shrine and finishing atop Mount Taroyama, the 5km race sees 1000m of elevation gain within the route. There’s also an “elite course” that sees another 1000m added to the already challenging course.
A race that makes other ultra-marathons look like fun runs in comparison. It covers the Japanese Alp mountains, with a total distance of 415 km and total elevation gain of 26,662m.
It’s so tough that the race is held biennial, limited to 30 participants and you’re required to speak Japanese as well. So even if you’re a running god, you’re going to need some lessons in conversational Japanese.
Well it’s set in the Gobi Desert where you’ll take on parts of the Silk Road and take in the sights and scenery that the Hami region in Xinjiang province, China has to offer.
The Gobi March will take you through alpine-like terrain, vast grassy plains and mountains — not just barren desert.
The Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon is an event that commemorates the historical ascent of duo Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary. Held around the altitude of the famed Everest Base Camp, I’m already breathless just thinking about the challenge the altitude presents.
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