Aficionados of cold water swimming claim

Tough Guy Challenge, is the original and toughest test of its kind anywhere in the World. Run on the last Sunday in January, you will need every last ounce of mental and physical strength you can muster to rise to this challenge. Your fear of heights, tight spaces, fire, water and electricity will be tested to the max. The Tough Guy Challenge is the ultimate endurance test and has the reputation of the most dangerous in the world. It’s been established for over 23 years, and now attracts over 6,000 willing athletes ready to give it a go and earn some money for charity.

The 13km army style assault course starts with a 10k cross country run, followed by a stretch of over 20 different obstacles including high dives into freezing cold lakes. Participants then climb up 20 foot cargo net towers, crawl through mud beneath barbed wire and conquer the dreaded under water caverns. The phenomena of Tough Guy has now evolved into cult status with mythical legends to a world wide audience and competitors from every continent join in to try to conquer the course. Each year a new theme is built into Tough Guy to ensure that it remains the world’s safest, most dangerous taste of mental and physical endurance.

It is the only one in the world which boasts over 100 man made assault and tree clambers.

* Behemoth is 200 ft x 50 ft x 24 ft high rope crossing.
* Sky Walk is 200 ft x 50 ft x 40 ft high.
* Gurkha Grand National
* Fiery Holes Battle of the Somme
* Stalag Escape Razor Wire.
* Anaconda.
* Vietcong Tunnels of Fear.
* Viagra Falls.
* Underwater Caverns Tour.

You’ll need to be in good physical condition, and be prepared to receive some broken limbs, torn flesh, bruises, cuts and infections. Last year, there was 1 broken neck, a dozen broken or dislocated bones and 600 people struck down with hypothermia! On the Tough Guy website, they ask you to sign a waiver. It reads:
“I confirm that if I should die on the Tough Guy route in 2009, that it is my own bloody fault for coming.” The prize is a free funeral and full honours worth £5000 exchangeable for cash in the box.

Tough Guy 2009 : overall winner was James Appleton who was overtaken just before the finish by Vito Graffagnino, but Vito was later disqualified for cheating.

Testimonial from Rob: “I would like to thank….. those marshals and St John’s ambulance staff who rescued me so efficiently from the bottom of Viagra Falls (where it turned out I had fractured my fibula) and took care of me afterwards. Despite the fact that I will be in plaster for the next 6 weeks I don’t regret it for a second and will be back to compete again soon.” (2009)

For more information and registration details visit :
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2. The Death Race
Death Race, Vermont

Death Race, Vermont

Photo :, Jamie from Montreal’s photostream

Riverside Farm, Pittsfield, Vermont, USA.
June, 2010

The Death Race is a true test of physical stamina and inner determination…. only about 10% of the competitors actually get to cross the finish line. It’s the brainchild of Joe DeSena, whose farm serves as both a base camp for the competitors and site of several of the 14 challenges along the 9.8-mile race route.

At the start of the race, each competitor must have a mountain bike, a shovel, a bucket (later filled with water or rocks), and an axe. However, the bike is not ridden for the first part of the race – the frame has to be carried….. as well as a tree stump!

Competitors aren’t given a race itinerary; they’re simply told to go from one task to the next, and all 14 challenges must be complete within 24-hours.

* The Death Race festivities actually start the day before, when Racers hike up the Riverside Hill with their bikes, but return only with their frames, leaving the wheels and chains behind.
* 4am on Race Day, competitors must find a tree stump (identified by their race bib), hack it out of the ground, and carry it with them the entire day.
* They must pick up their bike frames and, after negotiating two barbed-wire sections, jog a mile upstream in the Tweed River.
* Next is the wood-chopping station, where Racers must split 20 logs, then hike a mile uphill.
* They must find a raw egg, create a fire from scratch, boil water, and eat the egg. Only then can they retrieve their bike wheels.
* A volunteer then tosses their bike chain into the river, and the racers must dive in, find the chain, and reassemble their bikes.
* After a brief 300-yard pedal, they exchange the bike for a 40-pound bucket of rocks, which they must drag 1,000 feet straight up Joe’s Hill through “the ravine.’’

Death Race 2009 had co-winners – Richard Lee, a 27-year-old former British Royal Marine Commander, and Tom Worthington, a 22-year-old Second Lt. of the United States Marine Corps. Somewhere in the Labyrinth, the two Marines had agreed to cross the finishing line together. Their winning time was 11 hours 31 minutes.

For more information and registration details visit :

3. The Barkley 100 Trail Race
The Barkley 100 Trail Race

The Barkley 100 Trail Race

Photo :

Frozen Head State Park, Near Wartburg, Tennessee, USA
March/April, 2010

The Barkley race motto is, “The race that eats its young.” This is a true purist’s ultramarathon. There are no aid stations, no fans, hardly any trail and tons of elevation, briars and insane weather. It has 52,900 feet of climb (and 52,900 feet of descent), which is more than any other 100 mile race.

The Barkley was started in 1986 as a 50 mile race, but there were no finishers until 1988. In 1995, it was extended to a 100 mile race, which now consists of a 20-mile (32 km) loop with water stations at two points along the route. Competitors must run this loop five times, with loops three and four being run in the opposite direction, and loop five being runner’s choice. The cut-off time for the 100 Mile race is 12 hours per loop.

The route consists of grim-sounding obsticles such as Coffin Springs, Rat Jaw, Leonard’s Butt Slide and Little Hell, Testicle Spectacle, Danger Dave’s Climbing Wall and Pig Head Trail. In addition to running, competitors must find between nine and 11 books (varies per year) and remove a page from each book as proof of completion. All this must be completed in rain, snow, sleet, and sometimes fog.

Only eight runners out of more than 650 have completed the 100 Mile race within the official 60 hour cut-off:
1995 Mark Williams,
2001 David Horton and Blake Wood
2003 Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer
2004 Jim Nelson and Mike Tilden
2008 Brian Robinson (course record 55:42:27)
2009 Andrew Thompson

Best woman achievement is Sue Johnston’s 66 miles (106 km) in 2001.

The race is limited to 35 runners and usually fills up quickly the day registration opens. Potential entrants must complete an essay on “Why I Should be Allowed to Run in the Barkley.”

For more information and registration details visit :
More info at :

4. Raid Gauloises
Raid Gauloises - Oman 1992

Raid Gauloises - Oman 1992

Photo : Frederic Noel’s photostream

Anywhere on the Planet!
Any time, any place

The Raid Gauloises or The Raid is considered by many to be the first modern advanture race and was first held in 1989. Its creator, Gerald Fusil, took the existing concept of long distance endurance races, and focused on the team aspects, requiring each competitor to be part of a five person, co-ed team. The Raid is not merely an endurance contest, as the course forces competitors to use their natural resourcefulness, knowledge and technical skills, as well as testing their stamina and mental toughness. Indeed, setting out on the Raid Gauloises adventure means creating a project, putting together a team, being physically ready, getting the equipment together, and going all the way to the finish line.

The Raid features various disciplines depending on the terrain present in the given course. These can include:
kayaking, hydro speed, in-line skating, snow shoeing, mountain biking, orienteering, canoeing, horse riding, camel riding, skiing, canyoning, caving, mountaineering, rafting, glacier traversing ,cycling, trekking sea, kayaking.

The rules are quite simple. There is a start and a finish, with a few checkpoints usually located at difficult spots. Each team has two helpers who will only meet them at checkpoints determined by the organizers. They are in charge of transporting food supplies, as well as a complete first aid kit and other equipment required for the event. The winning team is the one that finishes the race in the shortest amount of time.

Original Raid Gauloises events:
1989 – New Zealand
1990 – Costa Rica
1991 – New Caledonia
1992 – Oman
1993 – Madagascar
1994 – Malaysia
1995 – Argentina
1996 – not held
1997 – South Africa
1998 – Ecuador
1999 – not held
2000 – Tibet, Nepal
2001 – not held
2002 – Bac Ha, Vietnam
2003 – Kyrgyzstan

“The Raid” (since 2004)
The current format is a series of events called The Raid World Cup culminating in a world championship event called The Raid World Championship.

The Raid World Cup:
- The only global circuit of adventure racing events, with identical rules, format and management
- 50 co-ed teams, in each regional event, covering over 200km of mixed terrain
- 30 teams qualify for Raid World Championship

The Raid World Championship:
- An equitable global qualifying system
- The World’s 30 top teams
- An innovative and technical race course
- A stunning and challenging venue

Final Raid World Championship events:
2004 – Argentina
2005 – France / Italy / Switzerland
2006 – Canada
2007 – Not held

For more information visit :

5. Ironman
Ironman - Perth, Australia 2009

Ironman - Perth, Australia 2009

Photo :, im.obrien’s photostream

Hawaii, USA
October 2010

The idea for the original Ironman Triathlon arose during the awards ceremony for the 1977 “Oahu Perimeter Relay”. Among the participants were numerous representatives of the Mid-Pacific Road Runners and the Waikiki Swim Club, whose members had long been debating which athletes were more fit, runners or swimmers. As a result, the Ironman Triathlon was born! It became the first major competition to develop the triathlon into an extreme endurance event.

“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life”

The Ironman World Championship has been held annually in Hawaii since 1978. Originally held on the island of Oahu, the race was moved to Big Isalnd in 1981. The race consists of:

* The swim in Kailua-Kona Bay
* The bike ride across the Hawaiian lava desert to Hawi and back
* The marathon along the coast of the Big Island, from Keauhau to Keahole Point, to Kailua-Kona, finishing on Ali’i Drive.

The “Kona Ironman” is held in conditions which are uniquely punishing for endurance racing: the Hawaii water is warm enough that helpfully buoyant wetsuits are not allowed; though the cycling hills have only moderate gradients they are normally crossed by strong and gusting winds; and the marathon leg of the race is usually extremely hot.

Other races have their own difficulties, characteristic of their setting and season. The Ironman race starts at 7am and all finishers must complete their marathon by midnight. All Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race. Qualification into the The Ironman World Championship is decided though a series of 21 Ironman events held around the world, leading to the World Championship race in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Anyone completing one of these races within the time limit is entitled to call themself an Ironman (the term being gender-neutral).

The current Ironman Hawaii course record was set in 1996 by Luc Van Lierde (Belgium), whose winning time was 8 hrs 4 mins 8 sec. Chrissie Wellington (Great Britain), set the women’s course record in 2009 with a winning time of 8 hrs 54 mins 2 sec.

Ironman Triathlon races throughout the world:
USA : Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Lake Placid, New York, Wisconsin, Kentucky
Europe : France, Germany, Switzerland, UK, Spain, Austria
Asia : Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, China
Other countries : Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Mexico

The sport of Triathlon became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, but as a shorter distance race (1,500-metre (0.93 mi) swim, 40-kilometre (25 mi) cycle, 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) run).

For more information and registration details visit :
More info at :

6. The Jungle Marathon
Amazon Rainforest

Amazon Rainforest

Photo :, dschmidts’ photostream

Santarem, Brazil
October, 2010

Competitors from around the globe will once again battle it out on tracks and trails through the Jungle in Brazil. The Jungle Marathon will take place in the area of Santarem in the state of Para, Brazil, in October 2010. Due to the isolated location and extreme conditions of this race, places are limited. Be a part of this incredible adventure!

The total distance to be covered is 200km in 6 stages over 7 days. Difficulty on the Jungle Marathon is not measured by distance, but by terrain. The stage distances are approximately as follows:

* Stage One – 16.3km
* Stage two – 24.5km
* Stage Three – 31.1km
* Stage Four – 18.4km
* Stage five – 87km – non stop overnight stage
* Stage Six – 24.8km finish

The course route is along pre-existing paths, trails and tracks through primary jungle. There will be natural obstacles to pass including streams and shallow rivers. The route will be well marked using coloured tape, paint markings and the use of landmarks to find your way. The night stage will be clearly illuminated and along easily navigable routes. Competitors are required to be self-sufficient from their arrival in Brazil until the finish at the end of the 200km stage. Runners are required to carry their foods and provisions during the race. The organisers will provide bottled water at designated checkpoints.

Jungle Safety:
Prior to the race, there is a detailed briefing given to runners by a military jungle specialist who will highlight dangers in the jungle and how to avoid them. This includes encountering wildlife, dealing with the terrain, dangerous and poisonous plants to avoid and your action plan if you are lost. There is a medical team at base at all times, ready to be deployed in the case of medical emergency.

Important Jungle Info:
Officially, October is the dry season in the Amazon, but you can expect showers every day. Competitors must take plenty of mosquito repellent, and practice how to hang a hammock and mosquito net so that no insects can find their way in.

For more information and registration details visit :

7. XPD Australia
Jen Segger, XPD Australia, 2007

Jen Segger, XPD Australia, 2007

Photo :

Cairns and Tropical North Queensland, Australia
May, 2010

XPD is Australia’s own expedition length adventure race, and is held every 18 months in remote and exciting locations across Australia. Organisers plan to take competitors through the Great Barrier Reef and nearby islands, the rich and diverse rainforests of the wet tropics, over waterfalls and cascades that feed crystal clear rivers, across lakes of the tablelands and through eucalypt woodlands of the Eastern savannah country.

The 2010 XPD Adventure Race will bring over 200 national and international athletes to Australia. 50 teams of 4 competitors will push themselves to the ultimate limits of human endurance in this world renowned expedition. These adventurers will race day and night over a 700km course, in harsh and remote environments, and in all weather conditions. It will be “as much an expedition as a race”.

Teams are provided a course booklet and maps 24hrs before the start. The course booklet contains the location of each of the race checkpoints. To complete the course teams must navigate through all the checkpoints and arrive at the finish line at Race HQ. There will be no support crews and no outside assistance permitted at any stage. It is expected that the winning team will complete the course in 4-5 days. All other teams will be permitted up to 10 days to complete the course.

Teams must have good navigation skills. The course is not marked and teams are required to navigate their way (using map and compass) through all the checkpoints to the finish. Teams must carry and know how to use a Global Positioning System (GPS) in case of an emergency. At all other times the GPS will be sealed.

Teams will need to be competent trekkers and have good outdoor skills. Trekking will be over diverse terrains including tracks, cross country, coasteering, mountains and much more.

This may take place on inland rivers and lakes, on the ocean, or white water if the location suits.

Mountain Biking
Competitors should be prepared for a range of riding including fire trails, steep hills, unsealed roads, cross country, sealed roads and single track.

……. each edition may include additional disciplines applicable to the location.

For more information and registration details visit :

8. World Winter Swimming Championship
Winter Swimming - Aleksandrs Jakovlevs, Latvia

Winter Swimming - Aleksandrs Jakovlevs, Latvia

Photo :

Bled, Slovenia
January, 2010

There is no better place to host the Winter Swimming Championships, as the waters of Lake Bled are usually frozen in January. This means the temperature is just perfect for Winter Swimming! Athletes can test their mettle in some pretty jaw-locking, head-splitting, teeth-chattering races.

Aficionados of cold water swimming claim it gives them the ultimate high, making them feel invigorated, even euphoric. Swimming in the depths of winter is popular in Russia, China and Scandinavia. Finland has held the Winter Swimming Championships for several years, and these competitions attracted thousands of entrants who willingly plunged into pools carved from the ice, while the air temperature plummeted to as low as minus 45C.

The 2010 World Championship will include more then 700 winter swimmers from almost 20 countries. There will be 25m / 50m individual races, the 4 x 25m relay, and the endurance swim competition.

The rules of cold water swimming dictate that competitors can only wear normal costume or trunks, along with a hat and goggles. The only permissible stroke is head-up breast-stroke, as the head may not be submerged at any time.

For more information and registration details visit :

9. Marathon des Sables
Crossing the Sahara Desert

Crossing the Sahara Desert

Photo:, AlastairHumphreys photostream

Sahara Desert, Morocco
April, 2010

The “Marathon of the Sands” is regarded by many as the Toughest Footrace on Earth. It is a six-day, 254 km (156 mile) ultramarathon, which is the equivalent to six regular marathons. The longest single stage (2009) is 91 km (55 miles) long.

600 competitors from about 30 countries on six continents take part in this annual event. Competitors will traverse across the Sahara Desert of Morocco over seven days while carrying all their food and gear. Only a ration of nine litres of water and an open-sided Berber tent will be provided daily to competitors.

During the 1994 race, Italian police officer Maura Prosperi lost his way during a sand storm and wandered lost for more than 9 days, losing over 13 kg (30 lb) of body weight. Since 2007, two competitors have died during the race. Therefore, carrying a survival kit is important. This must include:

* A Distress flare
* Salt tablets
* luminous signal stick (non-stop stage)
* Anti-Venom pump (insect poison remover)

The 25th Marathon des Sables in 2010
James Cracknell, from Great Britain, will be the first Olympic Gold medalist at the starting line.
- 29 woman
- 246 men
- Age of youngest competitor : 16
- Age of oldest competitor : 71

For more information and registration details visit :

10. Namibian 24h Ultra Marathon
Namibian 24h Ultramarathon

Namibian 24h Ultramarathon

Photo :

Namib Desert, Namibia
April/May 2010

If you like extreme challenges….. then don’t miss the second edition of the Namibia 24Hour Ultra Marathon. This race is of such extreme nature that it will be a serious undertaking to train hard enough to cope with the onslaught of the Namib on your body. This 24 hour ultrmarathon takes the participants through one of the oldest deserts on earth, the Namib Desert, where temperatures can reach above 45 degrees Celsius during the day, and drop as low as 0 degrees Celsius at night. During the 2009 race, many runners felt the extreme heat was just too much with runners pulling out mainly due to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Participants in this gruelling race must cover 126 km, a distance equivalent to three marathons, in 24 hours. Contestants will be completely self reliant from the start of the race till the end, and will need to carry their food and equipment on their backs. Water stations and medical tents will be provided at 20km intervals along the route.

Testimonial from Nick, 20/04/09
“Team Men’s Fitness” post-race blog :
“When I started the Namibia Ultra, I was still thinking of it as just a running race. By the end I was under no illusions – this was the most brutal physical challenge I have ever experienced and one that will live with me forever.”

For more information visit :

11. Extreme Sports Week, Norway
Voss - Josh Neilson racing on the Brandseth

Voss - Josh Neilson racing on the Brandseth

Photo : Marit Stensby,

Voss, Norway
June/July 2010

Ekstremsportveko is the biggest sport and music festival of its kind, hosted every year in Voss, Western Norway. Thousands of people travel to this world famous extreme sports week. There are competitions in kayaking, rafting, mtb-bmx, kiting, skydiving, paragliding, hanggliding, multisport, free-ride, big air, climbing, BASE and longboarding. Events, competitions, demonstrations and activities also take place throughout the week, with live music and parties each evening, making this one of Norway’s coolest events.

Unique to Ekstremsportveko is the “Horgi Ned” (Lønahorgi Down). This is an untraditional version of a triathlon, where they´ve swapped running with downhill skiing, road biking with downhill biking and swimming with white water kayaking.

Part 1- Skiing
The competition starts at Lønahorgi (1400 metres above sea level), one of the highest mountains around Voss. The first part of the competition is downhill skiing from Lønahorgi down a marked track to Afdalsstølen. This part of the competition takes approximately 10-15 minutes.

Part 2 – Biking
After you´ve finished skiing at Afdalsstøen (800 metres above sea level), you have to quickly change your gear and jump on a mountain bike. From here you have to bike a medium technical track, a gravel road and up a sealed road to Villmarksleiren (Wilderness Camp). This takes approximately 10-15 minutes.

Part 3 – Kayaking
Get into your smelly kayaking gear at Villmarksleiren. The kayaking section starts here and ends by the rapid “Kåre”. At a medium water level the hardest rapids on this section is grade 4, thus you have to be an intermediate/expert kayaker with a reliable roll. This takes approximately 7-10 minutes.

Due to lots of logistical problems, there are only places for 20 teams and 20 individual athletes….. so register early for “Horgi Ned” to avoid disappointment!

For more information and registration details visit :

12. Everest Marathon
Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp

Photo :

Mount Everest, Nepal
November, 2011

The Everest Marathon is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest marathon in the world. The start line is at Gorak Shep 5184m (17,000 feet), close to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. The finish is at the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar at 3446m (11,300 feet) and the course is a measured 42 km (26.2 miles) over rough mountain trails. It is the world’s most spectacular race and has been held twelve times since 1987.

There may be snow and ice on the upper part and there is considerable exposure along much of the route. For this reason the race is only suitable for runners with recent experience of cross country, fell or mountain running and endurance events. Experience of rough terrain is essential and road marathon experience is not sufficient.

The terrain is also very varied: boulders, grass, sandy scree, stone staircases, trails through forest and exposed paths which contour the mountain sides. The trails will seem quite good to experienced mountain or fell runners, but there are additional hazards by way of narrow suspension bridges and yak trains. The race course is not marked and it is the responsibility of each runner to learn the route on the trek up.

There are aid posts approximately every 3 miles each staffed by a marshal who can provide refreshments. Doctors are also available at some aid posts to provide medical cover. In order to acclimatise naturally to the high altitude, the race is preceded by a 16 day trek in the Everest region. This allows time for high altitude training under medical supervision.

For more information and registration details visit :

13. Arctic Circle Race
The Arctic Circle Race

The Arctic Circle Race

Photo :

Sisimuit, Greenland
April, 2010

The Arctic Circle Race was created in 1998 and is now one of the regular annual events on the international sporting calendar for cross-country skiing enthusiasts. It’s been called the world’s toughest ski run, and is an extreme physical challenge. The race takes place through the magnificent countryside around Sisimiut on Greenland’s west coast approx. 65 km north of the Arctic Circle.

The total race distance is 160 km, which takes place over 3 days. Good physical fitness, mental strength and a real spirit of adventure are the most important qualities for competitors. At night the skiers sleep in tents in the middle of the Arctic wilderness, whilst during the race itself they are accompanied by dogsleds for safety reasons.

Survival in arctic areas
The wind-chill factor increases the cold effect drastically, which can cause hypothermia, local frostbite, and snow blindness. In case of a sudden storm and white out, competitors should be able to take care of themselves for at least 24 hours until rescue personnel can reach them. Therefore, each skiier should always have a first-aid kit, and an emergency ration of food for at least 24 hours. Thankfully, a doctor will be on the track to take care of injuries during the race.