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21 Most Extreme Racing and Adventure Runs in the World

As if long distance running wasn’t challenging enough, with the months of training, the sweat and cramps, the aches and exhaustion, try throwing in a few other intense components like extreme temperatures, other worldly terrains, and challenging environmental factors!  A little sub zero temperatures here, some scorching heat there, unending miles of incline, and courses that weave through settings including swampy jungles, wildlife inhabited savannahs, or even man made giants like the Great Wall!  Some of the most extreme racing and adventure running events combine all of these ingredients into a truly unforgettable and rewarding running adventure!  If you are looking to really up your “runcation” game, travel to exotic locations, and conquer a one of a kind adventure race, check out this list of the top 21 extreme racing and adventure running events around the globe!


Most extreme racing and adventure runs in the world


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Most Extreme Racing and Adventure Runs in the World



Running can open many doors, from health benefits, to personal accomplishments, to active travel.  One of the most exciting aspects of running, is the chance it gives you to see the world!  Extreme racing and adventure running is one way to see the world, from a very unique perspective.


You can run just about anywhere, as this list will prove, from the frigid, frozen corners of the world, to the the highest peaks, to steaming jungles and volcanoes.  You can run during the day, or in the middle of the night!  You can run with nothing but the wind to keep you company, or you can run with lions!


Crossing the finish line of one of these races is not easy.  It requires grit, determination, persistence, and creativity!  But the payoff is worth it.  Get ready to run the courses that few in this world have, and accomplish an extraordinary feat, in some of the world’s most formidable, untouched, and rewarding locations!


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Iceland Volcano Marathon – Iceland

Organized by one of the leaders in extreme racing and adventure running, Albatross Adventure Marathons, this newly formed adventure run is held in July in Iceland.  As you can tell from the name, this adventure run encompasses a very obvious environmental factor.  This course runs directly along one of the Iceland’s active volcanic zones, a course filled with geysers, lava, black sand, craters, and glaciers!
Iceland Volcano extreme racing



Polar Circle Marathon – Greenland

Greenland is a magical island, and one of the most unspoiled places you can find to run.  The unique Greenland culture is weaved seamlessly into this running tour, which is held in October in the small coastal town of Kangerlussuaq, with time to see local sled dogs, the Northern lights, and unique wildlife like reindeer and Arctic foxes!  But the highlight undeniably is the course itself, which is comprised of several miles run directly on the world’s second largest ice sheet, expanses of frozen tundra, the longest “paved” road in the whole country, and a finish line in quaint Kangerlussuaq.  Get ready for freezing temperatures, unpredictable icy surfaces, and gusty Arctic winds along this course! And after the race, be sure to check out the top 9 things to do in Kangerlussuaq!
Extreme racing in Greenland
Extreme racing on the polar ice sheet in Greenland!

North Pole Marathon – North Pole (Russia)


Held annually in April, this extreme event’s claim to fame is the chance to stand at the exact geographic North Pole.  Be prepared to run over frozen water and ice floes, coupled with sub zero temperatures in one of the most remote places in the world!

Big 5 Marathon – South Africa

Get ready to combine an African safari experience with an adventure running event!  That is the essence of the Big 5 Marathon, held in South Africa in June.  It may be one of the few times in your life that you can claim to have run among some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife, including elephants, rhinos, buffalo, and lions!
Most extreme racing and adventure runs in the world
 Extreme racing with extreme animals!



Jungle Ultra – Peru

Battle miles of remote jungle trails, as you run through Manu National Park, nestled in Peru’s untouched Amazon.  This race is held in June, and is brimming with challenges, including humidity, heat, mud, and multiple river crossings.

Grand to Grand Ultra – Grand Canyon, Arizona


This self supported, multi day ultra marathon is held in September in one of the grandest, and most intimidating, natural wonders of our world, the Grand Canyon.  Running from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the summit of the Grand Staircase, runners will face the harsh realities of the region’s famed environment, including the technicalities of Grand Canyon’s terrain, the notorious summer sun and heat, and the physical requirements of running in such an environment for multiple days!  The payoff, however, is getting to see a side of the National Park that very few people ever will be rewarded with.  Looking to run AND hike in the Grand Canyon?  Check out this guide to hiking the epic Rim to Rim hike, from the North Rim to the South Rim of Grand Canyon!
An adventure run in the Grand Canyon

Everest Marathon – Nepal

Billed as the “highest” marathon event in the world, this race held in May is characterized by high altitude running set among the highest glaciers, forests, and moraines in the world.  There is even a mountain monastery along this course!

Antarctic Ice Marathon – Antarctica

This is the most southern marathon you can run in the world, and the only official marathon run on the mainland of Antarctica!  This brutal course runs only several hundred miles from the South Pole, the farthest and most remote reaches of the planet.  You can’t run a marathon on all 7 continents without conquering this one!
Extreme racing in Antarctica
Extreme racing in an extreme climate!



Petra Desert Marathon – Jordan

Be transported back in time for this race!  The setting is the ancient rock city of Petra, hidden inconspicuously in the middle of the Wadi Rum desert, hewn straight from the red rock ridges.  Impressive rock monasteries (think Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), amphitheaters, and caves dot this formidable course, which is run each year in September!  Get ready to face off with the Jordanian elements on this race, including the desert heat and sand!
An adventure run in Petra Jordan

Pike’s Peak Marathon – Colorado, USA

Hailing from one of the most recognized and prominent peaks in the high altitude heavy state of Colorado!  This mountain is a challenge to hike, so imagine having to trail run it!  You will be rewarded with some obviously stunning views from those heights, if you can survive the altitude and intense uphill elements!  This race is held annually in August.
Extreme racing at Pikes Peak Colorado
Extreme racing at extreme altitudes!



Tromso Midnight Sun Marathon – Norway

If you’ve ever wanted to run in the middle of the night, then this is the race for you!  Push your physical limits as you run in a land where the sun does not set during the summer months, in the Arctic reaches of Norway!  This race is held annually in June.

Great Wall Marathon – China

This man made feat packs in 5,000 different challenges!  Unknown to many, the Great Wall is not a uniform, consistent series of small steps.  This adventure race is 5,000 steps of awesome over rough hewn, uneven, boulder sized steps that climb and descend on often steep and challenging grades.  Consider this extreme racing event, held annually in May, to be a brutal combination between long distance running, and intense stair climbing, making this race as much of a vertical adventure run as it is a horizontal adventure run!
Extreme racing and adventure runs



Patagonia International Marathon – Chile

Chile’s Patagonia is home to some of the most raw and rugged landscapes imaginable.  Running the Patagonia Marathon, while challenging, is a visual overload of sights that cannot be seen anywhere else, including pristine valleys and jagged mountain peaks! Held in the southernmost portion of Patagonia, this race is held in September in Torres del Paine National Park.
An adventure run in Torres Del Paine National Park



6633 Ultra – Canada

This extreme racing and adventure event is billed as one of the toughest in the world, and for good reason.  Held in the frigid winter month of February, in the remote region of the Yukon, this self sufficient adventure running course is offered in two lengths, either 120 or 380 miles.  Runners will actually cross the Arctic Circle in their quest to conquer the remote reaches of the Yukon.

Runfire Cappadocia Ultra Marathon – Turkey

Turkey possesses some of the most other worldly terrain out there, and what better way to see and experience it than to run it on your own two feet!  Get ready to tackle the alien plateaus, valleys, towers, and hills of this striking, yet challenging, region, held annually in October.
An adventure run at Cappadocia Marathon in Turkey



Australian Outback Marathon – Australia

Get ready to see the famous formations of the vast and wild Australian Outback, including Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta!  Though the course is mostly flat, there are several inclines, sand dunes, and bush trails to traverse, characteristic of the Outback.  You can experience the best of the iconic Australian spirit on this race held annually in July!
Ayers Rock Australia



Baikal Ice Marathon – Siberia, Russia

There are races that are held on frozen tundra and ice, and then there is this adventure run that is held on a frozen lake!  Baikal Lake in Siberia, is in fact the world’s deepest lake, and the course of this race extends from opposite shores of this frozen monolith.  The other unique thing about this marathon, held in March, is that it is part of a larger festival, which includes other accompanying events like ice fishing, ice golf, and ice skating events!
Frozen lake

Zermatt Marathon – Switzerland

This adventure event sports challenging climbs, through the deepest valley and tallest mountains in Switzerland!  The ascent is not for the faint of heart, but the mountain views are legendary!  This race is held annually in July.

Icefjord Midnight Marathon – Iceland

Run through one of the most picturesque and remote regions of Iceland, populated by icebergs, glaciers, and icefjords!  All of this, plus a start time that highlights the magic of Iceland’s “midnight sun”, a fully illuminated, nocturnal race, that is held in the balmy month of June.
Extreme racing in Iceland



Inca Trail Marathon – Peru

Follow the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, through mountains passes up to 13,000 feet tall, to cloud forests, to archaeological wonders you can only find in Peru!  Included in this running tour is time spent locally in the Peruvian city of Cusco.  Unfortunately, June 2021 will be the last year this race is offered!
Inca Trail Marathon



Spartathlon Ultra Marathon – Greece

True to tradition, this race takes place in historic Greece, and recreates the journey from Athens to Sparta, a whopping 250 kilometers.  This race pays homage to Pheidippides, one of the first long distance runners, who completed his historic run from Athens to Sparta millennia ago, in his quest to obtain wartime assistance.  This longstanding race is held each year in September, the same month it was reportedly completed by Pheidippides himself.

What Gear Do You Need for These Extreme Racing and Adventure Runs?


No matter where your adventure racing takes you, there are a few crucial items you will need!


  • a good running shoe! The extreme races and adventure events listed here occur on many different surfaces, including ice, mud, gravel, dirt, and pavement. Depending on your running surface, you will either need a superb road running or trail running shoe (what’s the difference between road and trail running anyway?).  Road running shoes are best for even surfaces, like pavement, and road trail running shoes are better for inconsistent surfaces that require more traction, like rocky surfaces.


Grab the road running shoes that propelled me over the Great Wall of China!


Get the trail running shoes that carried me over the frozen tundra of the Greenland’s Polar Circle!


  • speaking of feet, shoes aren’t the only vital necessity you need for an adventure race!  I’m talking about pampering your hard working feet with a pair of breathable, anti blister, performance socks!  I used to get blisters badly on all my long distance races, until I discovered Hilly Twin Skin socks!  The “twin skin” is what helps to prevent the friction that can cause blisters, and there is nothing that can derail an excellent adventure run quicker than a blister, so don’t take any chances and run in Hillys!


Grab the best performance sock for adventure runners!


  • Don’t forget about water during your running adventure events!  You are going to need it, and luckily, you have a couple different options depending on your preference.  Just be sure to run your race with whatever you train with!  If you are running a well stocked race with frequent aid stations, you may be good to go with just a running hydration belt and bottles, for quick and frequent fill ups.  Or, if  you want on the go hydration with more carrying capacity, check out this Camelbak hydration vest equipped for water hydration bladders, plus the perfect amount of storage for your personal items and snacks.  My personal favorite water hydration bladder is this wide mouthed Platypus model.  The wide mouthed opening makes filling, emptying, cleaning, and drying a cinch!


Itching to Cross the Finish Line of One of These Extreme Racing and Adventure Events?


Most extreme racing and adventure running in the world
Most extreme racing and adventure runs in the world

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