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10 Insane Ultramarathons That Are Worth the Hurt

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

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The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is one of the most famous—and most difficult—ultramarathons in the world. Covering 103 miles and 32,000 total feet of elevation, and spanning three countries (France, Italy, and Switzerland), the UTMB runs around Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. Needless to say, the location offers some incomparable views—that is, if you can make it through 20+ hours of running up and down several peaks equal to ascending and descending Mt. Everest. Sound insane? Kudos to the thousands of runners who tackle it each year, only about half of whom finish the race. (This epic video shows a glimpse of what it's like to run the UTMB.)

Photo: @utmbmontblanc Instagram

Western States Endurance Run

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The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run is the world's oldest 100-mile trail race, spanning a 100.2-mile stretch between Squaw Valley, CA, (at the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games) and Auburn, CA. Over the course of the race, runners tackle golden California canyons, cross the icy Middle Fork of the American River, and cruise down reddish-brown trails in gold country.

Photo: @letswanderphotography Instagram 

Badwater 135 Ultramarathon

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There's a reason "bad" is in the name. The 135-mile Badwater 135 ultramarathon races from Death Valley (the lowest altitude in the country, 280 feet below sea level) to Mt. Whitney, CA, in the middle of July and is touted as "the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet." The course covers three mountain ranges, adding up to a total of 14,600 feet of vertical ascent. Runners are limited to a 48-hour maximum to complete the race. If they do, they earn the coveted "Holy Grail of endurance sports"—the Badwater 135 belt buckle. (What's it really like to run that long in a desert? This woman ran 160 in a Turkish desert ultra marathon.) 

Photo: Getty Images

The Hawaiian HURT 100-Mile Endurance Run

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Make your next beach vaca a racecation instead. The HURT 100-Mile Endurance Run will take you through 100 miles of old pig trails in a semitropical forest on Hawaii's Oahu island. Once you've finished, head down to Honolulu to refuel and park your butt in the sand. (BTW, HURT doesn't just nod to the state your legs will be in after the race—it stands for the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team, the group that hosts the event every year.)

Photo: @hurthawaii Instagram

Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon

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This 34.7-mile ultramarathon wraps around the cape of South Africa—earning its name, the Two Oceans Marathon. With oceanside stretches along both the Indian and the Atlantic, the burn of every mile will surely be worth the stunning views. Not ready for an ultra yet? You can start with Two Oceans' half marathon first. (Or one of these 10 best marathons for traveling the world.) 

Photo: @2oceansmarathon Instagram

Hardrock 100

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The ideal setting for an American trail ultramarathon? Colorado, of course. The Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run covers 100.5 miles and 33,050 feet of ascent (and nearly equal descent) throughout Southern Colorado's San Juan mountain range. Runners cruise above 12,000 feet of elevation 13 different times throughout the race. (That means the oxygen is thin.) Each year, the race is run in the opposite direction, and in order to *truly* finish, runners must "kiss the hardrock" (a picture of a ram's head painted on a large block of stone mining debris). Better than the usual finish line? Definitely.

Photo: Getty Images

Sandakphu 70-Mile Himalayan Race

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The four-day 70-mile Sandakphu race through India and Nepal might be more of a hike than a run at times, considering it's nestled in the Himalayan Mountains and boasts inclines of up to 65 degrees. Logging between 12 and 26 miles each day is worth it—you'll take in views of Mt. Everest and its neighbors while running. (BTW did you hear about the first female climber to summit Everest without supplemental oxygen?!)

Photo: David Sosnow // The Windchasers

Brazilian Jungle Marathon

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Yeah, a marathon through the Amazon in Brazil might seem crazy, but a six-stage 155-mile race? Ultrarunner heaven. Swamps, river crossings, steep climbs and descents, village trails, and fluvial beaches make this much more than a race—it's like the OG jungle Tough Mudder, where there's no opt-out alternative when you're getting tired. Tackle the Jungle Marathon or Ultramarathon, and you're sure to feel like a modern-day Tarzan. (Want to tackle a regular obstacle race first? Here's your OCR training guide.)

Photo: Jungle Marathon, Fábio Andrade / Sport Art

World Marathon Challenge

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Okay, so these technically aren't ultramarathons—but running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days to complete the World Marathon Challenge is just as grueling as an ultra (if not more!). The 2017 series starts on Union Glacier in Antartica, hops up to Chile, Miami, Madrid, Morocco, and Dubai;, then finishes up in Sydney. The route changes from year to year, but runners consistently deal with the same marathon fatigue, jet lag, sleep deprivation, and extreme temperature fluctuations during each year's race around the globe. The man and woman with the fastest combined times from all seven races take home the trophy—and possibly a world record. (Want more beach time? Here are 10 oceanside racecations you'll love.)

Photo: @theworldmarathonchallenge Facebook

The 4 Deserts Race Series

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The 4 Deserts Race Series consists of four grueling races throughout the year: 155 miles through the Sahara Desert (Egypt/Namibia), Gobi March (China/Mongolia), the Atacama Crossing (Chile), and The Last Desert (Antarctica). With only a place in a tent and water provided, these races demand more than just endurance and a love of running; you need survival skills and serious stamina to make it through the diverse desert terrain and weeklong stretches of running. (ICYMI, last year this athlete became the first woman to complete the course.)

Photo: @4deserts Instagram

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