7 crazy races from around the globe

Think mud races are an odd way to get to the finish line? You haven’t seen anything yet. We’ve collected seven unique races from the around the world that are guaranteed to push your body and mind.

While some are wackier than others, they all make for a good story to tell your grandchildren.



Every September, distance runners from around the world gather in Greece to run on the trail of the ancient runner Pheidippides, who in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after his departure from Athens. That means he ran 250 kilometers — that’s 155.343 miles — in one day. The Spartathlon, which retraces the steps of Pheidippides, is one of the most difficult ultra-marathons in the world. It covers rough and muddy terrain, crosses over vineyards and steep hills. The kicker: the 1,200-meter (or 3,937-feet) ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night. The next race is Sept. 27 to 28, 2013. For more info, visit Spartathlon.gr.


The World Wife Carrying Competition

Strengthen your body and your relationship at the World Wife Carrying competition in Finland. The objective is for the guy to carry the girl through a special obstacle track in the fastest time. The length of the official track is 253.5 meters (831 feet), and the surface of the track is partially sand, partially grass and partially gravel. The track has two dry obstacles and a water obstacle, about one meter (3 feet) deep. Several guys can carry their wives piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder) or Estonian-style (the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist). The next race is July 6, 2013. For more info, visit Eukonkanto.fi/en.


The Everest Marathon

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Everest Marathon in Nepal is the highest marathon in the world. The good news is that it’s mostly downhill with only two steep uphill sections to battle. The start line is at Gorak Shep 5,184 meters (17,000 feet), close to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. The finish is at the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar at 3,446 meters (11,300 feet), and the course is 42 kilometers (26.2 miles) over rough mountain trails that include boulders, grass, sandy scree, stone staircases, trails through forest and exposed paths, which contour the mountain sides.

Warning: The race course is not marked, and it is the responsibility of each runner to learn the route on the trek up. The best part of this event is that it is a 26-day “extreme” vacation. Runners get to naturally acclimate to the high altitudes by combining sightseeing in the capital, Kathmandu, a 15-day trek to the start (under medical supervision), ascents of Gokyo Ri (5,483 meters, or 17,988 feet) and Kala Pattar (5,623 meters, or 18,448 feet) for the best views of Everest. The next race is November/December 2013. For more info, visit Everestmarathon.org.uk.


Man Versus Horse Marathon

In Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, over 300 runners compete against about 20 horses in a grueling 22-mile cross-country race in the Welsh mountains. Humans even get a 15-minute head start, but beast usually beats man. Actually, it took 25 years before a man finally beat a horse: Huw Lobb won in two hours and five minutes, beating the fastest horse by a whole two minutes! The next race is Aug. 6, 2013. For more info, visit Green-events.co.uk.


Siberian Ice Marathon

Like cold-weather running? Check out Russia’s Siberian Ice Marathon. The event is held during the extreme weather conditions of the Siberian winter and has the unofficial status of the coldest race in the world — the lowest temperature recorded was -39° Сelsius in 2001. Good thing it’s only a half-marathon at 21.1 kilometers, or 13.1 miles. The next race is Jan. 4, 2014. For more info, visit Runsim.ru.


Marathon des Sables

There’s nothing like a brisk run through the Sahara. The Marathon des Sables is an endurance race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco, coined the “toughest foot race on Earth.” It covers 243 kilometers (151 miles) run over six or seven days, which is equivalent to five-and-a-half regular marathons. Mid-day temperatures can be up to 120° Fahrenheit. The terrain includes uneven rocky, stony ground, as well as 15% to 20% of the distance being in sand dunes.

Competitors have to carry everything they will need (apart from a tent) on their backs in a rucksack (e.g., food, clothes, medical kit and sleeping bag). Water is rationed and handed out at each checkpoint. On the fourth day, runners will set off across the barren wilderness to complete a 45-mile to 50-mile stage. This is followed by the 42-kilometer (26.2-mile) marathon stage. Mental stamina is a must! The next race is April 5 to 15, 2013. For more info, visit Darbaroud.com.


U.K. Backward Running Competition

Tired of running forward? Try backward! The U.K. Backward Running Championships in Manchester’s Heaton Park is only 1 mile long but quite challenging since you are racing backward. Also, the terrain starts out on flat land then heads uphill. At the top, there are two small ramps and another turn before heading back down hill. There’s a final turn and then a sprint toward the finish line. The next race is Aug. 11, 2013. For more info, visit Reverserunning.com.


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