November 1, 2008

Five Toughest Races in the World

Discovery has a new show called Iditarod: Toughest Race on Earth, which raises the obvious question - is it really? "Toughest Race on Earth" is quite a bold claim. What's really the toughest race on earth? Let's break down the contenders.

Honorable Mention - Le Mans 24 Hours

Sure, driving a car for 24 straight hours is tough, but this event doesn't really compare with some of the other races on the list. For one, the drivers operate on teams, so each driver may only race for a few hours in a stretch. Also, the race is only 1 day. There's some endurance involved, but nothing like the real toughest races on earth.

5 - Tour de France

Three weeks of cycling over the largest mountains in Europe is not an easy race at all. Around 180 riders start the race each year, but last year only 145 finished. It's a grueling race, but the setting means it can't be called the toughest in the world. The riders are crossing the French countryside and get to sleep in either a hotel or a tour bus every night. Not exactly "tough" living conditions.

4 - Marathon des Sables

I hadn't heard of this race before researching this post, but the Marathon des Sables (marathon of the sands) is definitely one of the toughest races on earth. The race is 156 miles on foot over six days through the Moroccan desert. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to run this race through some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world, carrying gear for 50 miles over sand dunes in 100 degree heat.

3 - Volvo Ocean Race

Nine months. 39,000 nautical miles. No motors. The Volvo Ocean Race is the greatest test of sailing skill and endurance on the planet. This year's race started in Spain on October 4, and isn't expected to finish until the end of June.

The boats sail through some of the most difficult stretches of open ocean in the world, all under wind power. Support boats trail them, but for the most part they're only their own for weeks at a time during the legs of the race.

2 - Iditarod

It may not be the "Toughest Race on Earth," but it's a close second. The Iditarod is a 1100 mile sled dog race across Alaska. It takes competitors over a week to complete, and is so tough on the mushers and their dogs that there is a mandatory 24-hour rest period that the teams must take at some point during the race.

Weather, terrain, and unpredictable dogs are some of the challenges teams must face to complete the race. It is definitely the most lonely race on the list, as mushers are alone with their dogs for the majority of the race.

1 - Dakar Rally

Although running through the desert for a week, sailing around the word, and piloting a dog sled across Alaska are all tough, I think it's more difficult to ride a motorcycle through the desert for 5000 miles over 2 weeks. Riders are essentially on their own for daily stages that stretch over hundreds of miles. If they have mechanical problems, it can be hours before they're found by someone who can give assistance.

The Dakar Rally wasn't held this year, but it's due to make a comeback next year in South America. The race was canceled because a family of tourists was killed along the route by an al-Qaeda sleeper cell. In 1982, Margaret Thatcher's son went missing for 6 days on the course before being found. Ummm, that's a tough race.

9 Responses:

Anonymous said...

You're selling the Race Across America a bit short, I think.

Anonymous said...

let us not forget the Yukon Quest......or the Quest canoe race...which I can't remember the name of it at the moment....

Pants said...

I have to argue with you about your yachting element. While the Volvo races are much more popular, they don't hold a candle to the Vendee Globe; single handed, nonstop, around the world. Probably the most popular way for millionaires to unintentionally commit suicide.

Brien said...

Yeah, I definitely overlooked some obscure (but really tough) races. I probably should have laid some ground rules about how popular the race needs to be. Although the Marathon des Sables isn't all that well known.

Pants said...

That's the great thing about having your own blog, you can make the rules!

J-Red said...

1) Inuit 2) !Kung 3) Basque....

Oh, that kind of race.

Dewey Hammond said...

Great post... but you're #1 is terrible, B.

Dewey Hammond said...

@ J-Red


Anonymous said...
jaquars,swamps,anaconda,tarantulas,135 miles in 6 days ect.... self sufficient 340miles self sufficient. its the coldest and longest ultra through a section of the artic.

Mt Everest Ultra you have to wait 30 days just to acclimatise b4 the race starts.

the 96 stage bike race through africa takes 6 months...

I did the MDS 2006 the year with sandstorms all day every day in 125degrees. It was hard. Did the Jungle as well. There are other races each one a different animal. Each one is grueling & both a mental & physical challenge with great rewards.

Keep up the race coverage, you might inspire someone to try one:D

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