Norseman As triathlon spreads around the world, so does the desire for some athletes to tackle harder and longer challenges. The Norseman is widely regarded as being one of the toughest long distance triathlons in the world. To begin, athletes jump from the back of a ferry into a freezing fjord before swimming 3.8km to the shore. They then cycle 180km through the Norwegian mountains before running a marathon. There are strict cut-offs on the run, and only the fastest athletes are allowed to finish on top of the 1880m (6200ft) Gaustatoppen mountain. Nxtri.com. Photo: Kai-Otto Melau / Nxtri Yak Attack Racing through the peaks of the Himalayas, the Yak Attack is a 400km (248 mile) test of mountain biking endurance and nerve. As part of 12,000m (390,000 ft) of vertical climbing, riders will tackle the highest mountain pass in the world, ride along routes with sheer drops on one – or sometimes both – sides, and race over terrain not always navigable on two wheels. Throw into the mix physical fatigue, frostbite and snow blindness and it becomes clear why the Yak Attack is one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet. Yak-Attack.co.uk Photo: John Edward Huddart Red Bull X-Alps The Red Bull X-Alps is a biennial event challenging competitors to traverse the length of the European Alps, from Salzburg in Austria to the Principality of Monaco – using just a paraglider and a pair of legs. Along the way competitors have to cover around 550 miles (880km) passing a number of turn points that are frequently located on some of the most inhospitable mountain terrain in Europe. Paragliding experience is a must, as is the ability to run anything up to 80km carrying all of your paragliding equipment. Redbullxalps.com Photo: Vitek Ludvik/Red Bull Content Pool Race Across America Taking in massive distances (4828km / 3000 miles), a ridiculous amount of vertical meters covered (51,800m / 170,000 feet), sleep deprivation and an aggressive cut off time, the Race Across America can understandably lay claim to being one of the world’s toughest cycle races. The race begins in Oceanside, Calif. and crosses 12 states en route to the finish line in Annapolis, Md. Teams of up to eight people have just 12 days to cover the distance – although there are numerous solo entrants (and finishers) at every race. Raceacrossamerica.org. Photo: Chris Milliman 4 Deserts Four deserts, four races. All last seven days and take place over 250km (155 miles) of the world’s most demanding terrain. The 4 Deserts Ultramarathon race series is widely regarded as one of the toughest in the world for good reason. Races in the Gobi Desert, the Sahara, the Atacama and Antarctica push athletes to their physical limits in some of the world’s most inhospitable climates. Athletes carry their own food and equipment, with limited assistance offered along the way. It is a true test of human endurance. 4deserts.com Photo: www.racingtheplanet.com Patagonian Expedition Race Patagonia is a true wilderness. Straddling Chile and Argentina, it is a land that few people get to see, and one where even fewer live. The weather is unpredictable and the terrain inhospitable. That’s what makes the region the perfect stage for one of the toughest adventure races in the world: the Patagonia Expedition Race. Taking place over 372 miles (600km) teams of four can expect to run, bike and kayak at the very least over multiple grueling days. < ahref=http://www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com>Patagoniaexpeditionrace. Photo: Luis Bertea Jungle Marathon Poisonous trees, territorial jaguars, swamps, mountains and a breathless heat push competitors to the edge of human endurance in a bid to conquer one of the most unforgiving environments on Earth in the Jungle Marathon. Taking place over seven days, competitors have to cover 220km of inhospitable – and at times perilous – Amazonian terrain. Athletes are self-supported, although there are plenty of medics on hand should things like blisters or bites threaten to throw an athlete off course. Junglemarathon. Photo: Gil Serique / Jungle Marathon Western States 100 The weather, altitude and trails of the Western States 100 are enough to get the better of all but the toughest ultra-distance runners. With a starting point in the Squaw Valley, which sits at 1900m (6200 feet) above sea level, competitors will climb more than 5500m (18,090 feet) and descend 7000m (22,970 feet) over the 100 mile course. What’s more, they have to do the whole thing in under 30 hours. Ws100.com. Photo: Joe McCladdie The Extreme World Races South Pole Race Temperatures of −40°C (−40°F), hurricane-force winds, blinding snowstorms and a trek across the infamous Antarctic Polar Plateau make the EWR South Pole Race a true test of human endurance. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Scott and Amundsen athletes race across a bleak, unforgiving environment in a bid to reach the Pole. The cold is intense, the demands severe and not everyone is tough enough to overcome the challenge. Extremeworldraces.com. Photo: Extreme World Races La Haute Route A seven-day stage race across the Alps, La Haute Route starts in Geneva and finishes in Nice. Although the route varies from year to year cyclists can expect to ride around 730km (453 miles) during the week, tackling up to 17,000m (56,000 feet) of vertical climbing en route. Along the way, competitors tackle classic climbs ridden by legends of the Tour de France, and traverse cols that push the best riders in the world to the very limits of their endurance. Hauteroute.org. Photo: La Haute Route Cape Epic One of the original goals of the Cape Epic was to show off the untamed South Africa. It does that time and time again. With a course that changes year after year, teams of two tackle anything up to 966km (600miles) of terrain, climbing up to 16,000m (52,500ft) over six challenging stages. The demands of the race are huge, as are the rewards for those who are both skilful and strong enough to overcome one of the world’s toughest mountain bike races. Cape-epic.com. Photo: Gary Perkin / Cape Epic Ö TILL Ö A unique race in a unique environment, the Ö TILL Ö sees teams of two racing together from one end of a Swedish archipelago to another. The teams swim 10km in total and run 54km in total over the course of 14 gruelling hours. Over the course of the day athletes can expect to enter and exit the water 38 times, with most choosing to swim in their shoes (while wearing a rucksack), and run in their wetsuits. Otillo.se. Photo: Malcolm Hanes
With stunning photography, comprehensive information, and interviews with athletes who have completed these races, “The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges” is a testament to what people can achieve when they push their limits.
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The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges profiles 50 of the most extreme marathons, triathlons, bike rides, climbs, open-water swims and other iconic endurance events from around the world.