Over 200 kilometers through the African desert, at an altitude of over 5,000 meters through the mountain passes of the Himalayas or in the middle of Antarctica, these are just some of the toughest and most beautiful ultra runs in the world.

We present you the 20 toughest ultra runs in the world.

What is an ultra run?

Quite simply, any run that goes beyond the marathon distance is an ultra run. That is, if the run goes beyond a distance of 42.195 kilometers, then it is an ultra run. Classic distances in ultra running are 50 kilometers, 100 kilometers and 100 miles (160.9 kilometers). Hour races are also held regularly, for example over 6 hours, 12 hours and 24 hours.

In addition, there are also stage races, where the race is run over several days with breaks. Stage races are held mainly in regions or over distances that are impossible or almost impossible to run in one piece. For example, there are stage races through the desert of the Sahara or in the rainforest of South America.

The hardest and longest ultra races in the world

Note: The order does not represent a ranking.

1) Marathon des Sables

250 kilometer stage race in Morocco

Marathon des Sables

For many, the Marathon des Sables is even the toughest race in the world. The approximately 250 kilometers of running are divided into six stages that must be run within seven days (one rest day). The participants complete an average of one marathon per stage, and that at 40 degrees Celsius in the middle of the Moroccan desert. The longest stage leads over about 80 kilometers through the Sahara.

The run is considered life-threatening. In 1994, for example, an Italian got lost in a sandstorm. 9 days later, he was rescued by nomads in Algeria. The runner had strayed 200 kilometers from the course and, weighing 15 kilograms less, was on the verge of death. More than 1,000 male and female participants nevertheless attempt the "MDS" challenge every spring.

Date and all details of the Marathon des Sables

2) Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon

60 kilometer ultra run in Nepal

It is the highest marathon in the world. It is run at an altitude of over 5,000 meters. However, the longest event of the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon goes beyond the marathon distance. In the 60-kilometer ultra run, the athletes have to overcome no less than five high mountain passes.

The Tening Hillary Everest Marathon is held annually at the end of May. This is also the time of year when attempts are made to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.


Date and all details about the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon

3) Transvulcania

74-kilometer ultratrail in Spain

The Transvulcania is not only one of the biggest ultra runs in the world, but also one of the most challenging. The beautiful route in La Palma on the Canary Islands thus also attracts the top stars of the trail and ultrarunning scene to the Transvulcania every year at the beginning of May.


The breathtakingly beautiful race delivers gorgeous views of the sea. A total of around 4,000 meters of altitude have to be mastered on the 74-kilometer route. Really hard and really beautiful - the Transvulcania should definitely not be missed by nature-loving ultra runners.

Date and all details about the Transvulcania

4) Eiger Ultra Trail

101 kilometer ultra trail in Switzerland

Eiger Ultra Trail

The 3,970-meter-high Eiger is world-famous not only for its impressive north face, but also thanks to its numerous trails around the Eiger and the neighboring four-thousand-meter peaks, such as the Jungfrau and Mönch.

One incredibly challenging trail run is the Eiger Ultra Trail. The supreme discipline of the sporting event, which takes place in July, covers a distance of just over 100 kilometers, plus nearly 7,000 meters of elevation gain. Top athletes plan around 12 hours for this challenging distance. In any case, it's 12 hours of high enjoyment, thanks to a fantastically beautiful Alpine panorama.

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Date and details of the Eiger Ultra Trail

5) Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB)

171 kilometer ultra trail in France

Among the toughest ultra races in the world, of course, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc must not feel.

Only through various qualifying runs you can qualify for the competitions of the UTMB. The longest competition has a route length of over 170 kilometers, including more than 10,000 meters of altitude. It is run around the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc.

UTMB date and details

6) The Jungle Ultra Marathon

230 kilometer stage race in Peru

In 5 stages totaling 230 kilometers, the Jungle Marathon leads through the Manu National Park in Peru. Despite the high challenge, the run is usually completely booked up over a year in advance.

The runners have to deal with river crossings through the rainforest, heavy rain, mud and strongly changing temperatures, among other things. During the overnight stays in research stations, the participants also learn a lot of interesting and scientific information about the region and the rainforest. The race is held annually in June.

Date and details of The Jungle Ultra Marathon

7) Pitz Alpine Glacier Trail

106 kilometer ultratrail in Austria

Pitz Alpine Glacier Trail

Another brutal ultra trail in the Alps is the Pitz Alpine Glacier Trail.

In its longest discipline, the Tyrolean running event comes to over 100 kilometers and more than 6,000 meters in altitude. It's a high alpine adventure, with athletes reaching an altitude of over 3,000 meters at the highest point of the course. Only about 30 runners actually manage to successfully complete the race. At least 16 hours have to be planned for it, but in some cases even 24 hours and a bit more. Fortunately, there are also numerous shorter distances that require a little less endurance, but promise equally beautiful ambience.

Date and details of the Pitz Alpine Glacier Trail

8) Spartathlon

246-kilometer ultra run in Greece

An absolute fixed place among the hardest ultra runs in the world belongs to the Spartathlon.

Almost 250 kilometers have to be run at the ultra race in Athens. In addition to the distance, the intense heat can also be a spoiler. Due to a tough cut-off time, only the most experienced ultra runners actually manage to finish the race successfully. After 36 hours the Spartathlon is officially over. Too little time for quite a few participants. Almost every year, the finisher quota is well below 50 percent.

Date and details of the Spartathlon

9) Transalpine Run

275-kilometer stage race in Austria, Germany and Italy

Transalpine Run

The Transalpine Run (TAR for short) is unique in many respects. The course leads through several countries in the Alps. In addition, the almost 300-kilometer route is not covered alone, but exclusively with a running partner. This means that each team consists of two male or female athletes (mixed is also possible).

The 275 kilometers and about 17,000 meters of altitude are divided into several daily stages. Ideal to enjoy our beautiful Alps away from the sport. An absolute to-do in the career planner of Ultratrail fans.

Date and details of the Transalpine Run

10) Antarctic Ice Marathon

100 kilometer ultra run in Chile

Running at the end of the world. The Antarctic Ice Marathon leads through the middle of Antarctica. The journey to the race alone is a true experience. The event is based at Union Glacier Camp. It is the only private campsite in Ellsworthland in West Antarctica. The island is located between South America and New Zealand and is surrounded by the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. From Glacier Camp, another plane will take you to the starting point. The cost: At least $17,900 per participant.

The reward: a unique running experience in ice and snow surrounded by snowy mountains. The main event is the 42.2-kilometer marathon. But a half marathon and even a 100-kilometer ultra run are also part of the program.

In Canada, there are similar "Arctic ultra races" with the Yukon Arcitc Ultra and the 6633 Arcitc Ultra. The longest run is over 700 kilometers. Incidentally, the longest winter ultra in the world is the Iditarod Trail, which covers 1,000 miles. Also well-known in North America: the Badwater 135 ultramarathon in Death Valley. However, the race is not run in freezing sub-zero temperatures, but in intense heat.

Date and details of the Antarctic Ice Marathon

11) Comrades Marathon

89-kilometer ultra run in South Africa

Comrades Marathon

The biggest ultra race in the world is the Comrades Marathon in South Africa.

No other ultra race has as many male and female participants as the Comrades Marathon. The almost 90 kilometer long race leads from Durban to Pietermaritzburg or vice versa (start and finish change every year). Due to its high prestige, the race is even broadcast live on national TV, an absolute novelty for ultra runs. Many world-class runners compete in the Comrades Marathon. The top athletes run a pace of 3:40 minutes per kilometer over a distance of more than two marathons, despite sometimes hot temperatures and a slightly profiled course.

Date and details of the Comrades Marathon

12) Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset

100-kilometer ultra run in Mongolia

Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset

The Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset shows the most beautiful regions of Mongolia. For many it is the most beautiful ultra race in the world, but also quite a challenging one.

Because the single trails lead not only along lakeshores, but also over barren mountain passes and wind-swept lowlands. The 100-kilometer ultramarathon involves more than 3,000 meters of elevation gain. The time limit of 18 hours could thus become an obstacle for one or the other participant.

Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset Date and Details

13) Western States 100

161-kilometer ultra run in the USA

The legendary ultra race in the canyons. The 100-mile race was first held in the United States in 1974. In the meantime, it has long since become one of the best-known ultra races in the world. The 160.9-kilometer course leads over 5,500 positive vertical meters through the Sierra Nevada.

But it's not just the distance and altitude that make the Western States 100 a real challenge, but also the wild nature. This is because bears and other wild animals can also provide additional thrills along the course. The world's best athletes take less than 15 hours to complete the ultra run, which is held annually in June.

Another challenging 100-mile race in the U.S. is the Hardrock 100. Even longer is the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, which takes about 45 days to complete.

Date and details of the Western States 100

14) Montane Spine Race

431-kilometer Ultratrail in Great Britain

The winter ultramarathon leads over more than 400 kilometers and 13,000 vertical meters through England and Scotland. The start is in Edale in England, the finish is reached via the Pennine Way finally in Kirk Yetholm in Scotland.

The runners have a maximum of seven days to successfully complete the Winter Ultra.

Montane Spine Race date and details

15) Le Grand Raid Reunion

164-kilometer ultra run in France

In the field of ultra trails, the Grand Raid is one of the toughest races in the world.

After all, there are almost 165 kilometers and 10,000 meters of altitude that stand in the way of the athletes between the start and finish. And yet, every fall, 2,000 endurance professionals attempt the great challenge of La Grand Raid Reunion.

Le Grand Raid Reunion date and details

16) Großglockner Ultra-Trail

110 kilometer ultratrail in Austria

Grossglockner ULTRA-TRAIL

Another extremely challenging ultra trail in the Alps is the Grossglockner Ultra Trail. This trail run leads around the highest mountain in Austria. In total, there are 6,500 meters of altitude that the participants have to overcome in addition to the more than 100 kilometers of trail.

The starting signal is at 10 p.m. in the evening. So the race will also be run during the night. Rapidly changing weather conditions, as is common in the high mountains, can make the task of the Großglockner Ultra Trail even more difficult. Participation is also possible as a two-person relay.

Date and details of the Großglockner Ultra Trail

17) Barkley Marathons

Secret 100-Mile Ultratrail in the USA

For many ultra runners in North America, it is the toughest race in the world. And yet the "mysterious" Barkley Marathons is hardly known.

The main 100-mile event has a finisher rate of less than one percent (!!!) due to the brutally tough course and time limit (60 hours). Almost the entire course is on unmarked trails through the forest. There are five laps to complete in the 100-mile race. The fact that some of the races have to be run at night does not make the challenge any easier, nor does the 16,500 meters of elevation gain. In 55% of the races, there was not a single athlete who successfully completed the race.

The course record is 52 hours. If there are winners, however, they usually stay only one or two hours under the cut-off time.

Barkley Marathon date and details

18) Tor des Geants

330-Kilometer Ultratrail in Italy

Tor des Geants

The ultra race in the Aosta Valley has a course length of more than 300 kilometers. Record in the Alpine region for a non-stop ultratrail. Just like the 24,000 meters of altitude.

In total, the course leads to 25 mountains, which are located at over 2,000 meters. Breaks are allowed, but on a voluntary basis. The Tor des Geants is therefore not a stage race. Whoever completes the 330 kilometers the fastest is the winner. However, it takes at least around three days to do so. Don't worry: the time limit is a good 6 days. So there is still some time to enjoy the Alps even with a few hours break.

Date and details of the Tor des Geants

19) Dragon's Back Race

380 km stage race in Wales

There are also spectacular and tremendous trails on the island. The best example is the Dragon's Back Race.

The 6 stages have an average length of 63 kilometers, one and a half marathons per day. In total, that's 380 kilometers and 17,400 meters of elevation gain. So the athletes cope with about two times the height of the highest mountain in the world (Mount Everest). Not only the length of the course is a great challenge, but also the route itself. Some sections lead over mountain ridges. A misstep can lead to nasty consequences on the unmarked course. However, if you pay close attention, you will be rewarded with a unique running and mountain adventure.

Dragon's Back Race date and details

20) Grand to Grand Ultra

275-kilometer Ultratrail in the USA

Grand to Grand Ultra

The Grand Canyon has some exciting sporting events to offer. Really tough is the Grand to Grand Ultra over 170 miles.

Sections are run over sand, which doesn't make the challenge any easier. And a few thousand vertical meters (> 5,000) are also added. If you want to discover the Grand Canyon in a sporting way, the Grand to Grand Ultra is guaranteed to be the right choice - provided you have above-average stamina.

Date and details of the Grand to Grand Ultra

Once again for overview - the 20 toughest ultra runs in the world with link to the event:

  1. Marathon des Sables
  2. Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon
  3. Transvulcania
  4. Eiger Ultra Trail
  5. Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB)
  6. The Jungle Ultra Marathon
  7. Pitz Alpine Glacier Trail
  8. Spartathlon
  9. Transalpine Run
  10. Antarctic Ice Marathon
  11. Comrades Marathon
  12. Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset
  13. Western States 100
  14. Montane Spine Race
  15. Le Grand Raid Reunion
  16. Großglockner Ultra-Trail
  17. Barkley Marathons
  18. Tor des Geants
  19. Dragon's Back Race
  20. Grand to Grand Ultra

More Running:


Dienstag, 18. Juli 2023 17:05
Ultra-ultra: 3100 Miles roadrace in N.Y. - cut-off 52 days (running only from 6am - midnight)
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Kurt Conradie
Sonntag, 16. Juli 2023 22:47
Comrades marathon has a cut off time of 12 hours in which you have to complete sometimes 90 kilometers. NO rest days, NO 7 stages.
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