The world’s longest running races

When we talk about endurance, we mean resistance to fatigue. Running is, among many sports, the king of endurance. Running for a long time requires sustaining sustained effort over time, and anyone who has run a marathon knows what we are talking about.

Then, as always, there are those who take it a little further: after marathons there are ultramarathons, which technically are all races over distances longer than a marathon. But what is the maximum length limit? Well, there is none, or at least it’s a long way away.

These are the four longest races in the world, in descending order.

1. Dragon’s Back Race

Photo: Dragon’s Back

Dragon’ s Back gets its name from the fact that it is run on the spine (i.e., ridges) of the mountains that connect north and south Wales.

This is a 6-day trail over the distance of 380 km all at high altitude and self-sufficient. If that doesn’t seem like enough, know that not all of the route is mapped out and that you have to make do with finding your way between checkpoints (usually placed at the top of peaks and where you have to leave a sign of your passage) while keeping weather conditions at bay that may involve poor visibility, rain and wind using only maps or GPS. And if you don’t get to the different base camps by 11 p.m. each day, you can’t run the next day.

The fastest people can usually cover individual sections in 6 hours, but those who are slower (or who lose their way) can take as long as 18 hours.

Two curiosities:

  1. the editions held so far were 1992, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021 while the 2023 edition (can it be said at this point that it is a biennial race?) will be held between September 4 and 9.
  2. Among the organization’s advice is to bring money. And we wonder what you can do with it at altitude.

2. Tor De Glaciers 450

Photo: Tor Des Geants

If next September you haven’t made it by the 9th to close the Dragon’s Back, you can always catch a plane and go run the Tor Des Glaciers, between September 8 and 16. Big sister of the already dreaded Tor Des Geants (simply “Tor” to friends), this is a very special race that will celebrate 10 years of the Tor and will be reserved for only 200 competitors selected for achievement, ability and motivation.

The route is among the most scenic and extreme, running 450 km and 32,000 m of positive elevation gain along the Alte Vie Dimenticate 3 e 4 (The Forgotten High Routes 3 and 4), in total self-sufficiency and with only support points the refuges. Which are set up in crazy but, shall we say, difficult to access locations.

You only need to have completed an edition of TOR330 – Tor des Géants in a time of less than 130 hours to be eligible to participate. Can you do it?

3. 6633 Arctic Ultra

Photo: 6633 Arctic Ultra

The 6633 Arctic Ultra adds extreme weather conditions to the length of the route. After all, it is run in the Arctic Circle, through the Yucon and Northwest Territories regions, in the middle of winter (the last edition in 2023 was held in late February).

It calls itself “the toughest, the coldest, the windiest,” and you have to believe it: temperatures reach -40°C and you can bet that only the most capable can dare the three distances over which it is spread: a relaxed 193-kilometer distance, a slightly more challenging 402-kilometer distance, and the truly extreme 611-kilometer distance.

4. Self-Transcendence: 3,100 miles (of boredom, even)

Photo: Sri-Chinmoy Self-transcendence 3100 Mile Race

Its full name is Sri-Chinmoy Self-transcendence 3100 Mile Race and it takes place at Jamaica in Queens, New York. Those who run it must have extreme physical and mental prowess, and above all (also) some resistance to boredom: the race takes place over a length of 3,100 miles, or 4,989 km around the same block, for a maximum time of 52 days, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Because the caloric consumption to complete the average 60 miles per day is more than 10,000 Kcal, participants often deliberately get there a little overweight, so much so that they know they will need it all, to burn off.

The “transcendent” aspect is related to the altered state to which such a prolonged and repetitive experience can lead. Not surprisingly, it is also called “the most existential race in the world.”

Not a minor detail: the last three editions were always won by Andrea Marcato from Italy, the last one (2022) last October, in 43 days, 3 hours and 20 minutes. With minus 13 kg on arrival.


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