New Year is typically the time we all set ourselves goals and challenges, but what if you’ve already run a couple of marathons? Or perhaps you climbed Ben Nevis last year and fancy trying something different? If so, 2018 is the year for thinking big and we’ve got just the thing for you: our pick of the seven most extreme endurance challenges – all set in different corners of the globe and certainly not for the faint-hearted.
From back-to-back marathons in the desert to a triathlon that scales England’s highest peak, we’ve got it all. Without further ado, here are Invision’s top picks…
The only caveat with signing up to this challenge is that you might have a tough time explaining to your mates exactly why you would want to put yourself through it! The infamous Marathon Des Sables is a six-day race (with one rest day), covering 254 kilometres in the Sahara Desert. Battling temperatures of around 50°C, participants complete one ‘stage’ of the race each day, the longest of which is 88 kilometres long. Each evening, after contestants have completed a stage, they sleep in tents provided by the race organisers and shared with other runners.
There is one rest day in the race which comes after the longest phase – however many participants spend much of that ‘rest’ day still completing the hellish 88 kilometre stint. Contestants must also carry all of their own food for the week in a backpack, and can only consume a rationed amount of water. If a runner drinks more than the rationed amount a time penalty is incurred.
The next Marathon Des Sables takes place from 6-16 April 2018 in South Morocco and you can either race as an individual or a team. Six months is the recommended preparation time and you can check out their website for more information.
Billed as the world’s toughest triathlon, we present to you the gruelling 226-kilometre Triathlon X in the Lake District, England. The triathlon is split into two different races, the full X and the half X.
The full X comprises a 3.8-kilometre swim in Lake Windermere, followed by cycling 181 kilometres along the famous Fred Whitton cycle route, with an ascent of 12,000 feet up into the mountains of the Lake District. The race finishes with a run of 42.4 kilometres ascending a further 5,000 feet.
If that wasn’t enough, competitors also have to scale England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, during the run. Participants are advised that it is not the mere distance that makes this feat so tough, but the altitude that you have to climb to complete it. The 2018 race is due to take place on Saturday 16 June, starting at 4:30am. For more information visit the Triathlon X website.
You can probably guess what this event is all about! If only the race were as simple as its name, however. SwimRun began in 2016 in Wales and is an endurance race in which you swim some parts and run others – meaning you are in a wetsuit and trainers at all times!
Currently there are two flagship races to choose from. The first is an exhausting 16 kilometre course, comprising 12.5 kilometres of running and 3.5 kilometres of swimming through Padarn Country Park, Llanberis, in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.
The distance is divided into four swims and four runs which interchange, so you have to run whilst wet and swim directly after running, constantly! You can either compete as an individual, or if you want to share the experience with someone you can also compete as a team of two. The 2018 Llanberis event takes place on 23 June.
The second is Love SwimRun’s Holy Island race in Holy Island, Anglesey, North Wales. The fearsome 18.35 kilometre course is made up of a 2.74 kilometre swim and a 15.61 kilometre run through the beautiful Welsh coastal countryside and comprises six runs and five swims. A little longer than its sibling race, it is due to take place on 29 September 2018.
For more information visit the SwimRun website.
The Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc (UTMB) really has something prestigious about it – and is considered to be the holy grail of trail running. Beginning in Chamonix, France, the trail crosses three countries (France, Italy and Switzerland) over an exhausting 171 kilometres that must be completed in a maximum of 46:30 hours.
Each year, around 2,000 runners compete in the race, which starts in Chamonix on the French side of the Mont Blanc mountain and continues through the mountain range in Italy and Switzerland before finishing again in France. Throughout the race there are places to stop to take on some food and in just three of these stops there is a place to sleep.
As testament to the prestige and difficulty of the race, you have to qualify just to earn a place. To qualify you must accumulate 15 points, which are awarded for completing other serious trail races. The number of points available from each qualifying race varies between one and six depending on the severity of the trail and you have a maximum of three qualifying races.
The 2018 UTMB is due to take place from 31 August-2 September. For more information visit the UTMB website.
The 4 Deserts race is a truly unique experience. The challenge involves completing four separate races on foot across, you guessed it, four different deserts around the world, all in the space of a year. Each race is as follows:
The challenges can be taken on separately, however to become a member of the illusive ‘4 Deserts Club’ competitors must complete all races. The Last Desert can only be undertaken if you have completed two other desert races.
Following the structure of many other extreme distance challenges, competitors must bring their own food and supplies, but are given a place in a tent to sleep on each night of the challenge.
For more information visit the 4 Deserts website.
This 3,000 mile race (30% longer than the Tour De France) begins in California and finishes in Annapolis, Maryland. It crosses the whole of the US, from west to east, and traverses three major mountain ranges (Sierra, Rocky and Appalachian), four rivers (Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio) and the Great Plains.
The race can be completed alone or in teams of two, four or eight people. To compete alone, however, you must first qualify. Qualification can take the form of completing a previous Team RAAM event, or finishing a variety of other qualification races.
Racers will climb a total ascent of 170,000 vertical feet over a maximum of nine days for team riders and 12 days for solo entries. The next RAAM begins on 12 June 2018. Interested to know more? We spoke to 2016 RAAM participant Tim Robert to find out what it’s really like.
This mammoth mountain bike race is set in one of the most biodiverse corners of the globe – Costa Rica. The 228-kilometre route spans tropical rainforests, beaches, mountains and even volcanoes – and is for only the most serious of riders. The allocated time to finish the race is three days – stopping each evening for some crucial rest.
It takes its name from the Spanish conquistadores (conquerors) that carried out a 20-year journey through the Costa Rican mountains in the mid-1500s. What took them two decades you will have to complete in just three days using only pedal power. Around 200 riders take part in the challenge each year which traverses the country from coast to coast, from the Pacific to Atlantic Ocean. The next Ruta de los Conquistadores is due to take place from 1 until 3 November 2018 and you can visit the La Ruta de los Conquistadores website for more information.
So – those are our top extreme fitness picks for 2018. Some seem easier than others – but none are a walk in the park, and all would be massive achievements. We’re off to start our extreme challenge bucket list now.
The reflective capability of our REFLECT360 material helps other road users to identify a runner or cyclist’s position on the road at night.