Running is a sport that compels you to challenge your mental and physical abilities.The feeling that you get when you set a new personal best is priceless, and totally worth the distance. But what will you do if you have to run in knee-high snow or cross swamps to get to the finish line? Here are our Top 5 picks of the World’s Toughest Marathons that only a handful have been able to complete. Tough terrains, choppy rivers, freezing temperatures, and marshy swamps! These marathons are a true test of human endurance.

The Everest Marathon

Considered the world’s highest race, the Everest Marathon requires one to run 17,598 feet above sea level in freezing conditions ( Image : Everest marathon)

The Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon is an annual marathon that takes place at the Mount Everest base-camp. It is considered the world’s highest marathon and requires the participants to stay in Nepal for three weeks prior to the race to get accustomed to the high altitude. The marathon starts from the Everest Base Camp (17,598 ft) and finishes at Namche Bazaar (11,306 ft), which is a Sherpa village. The distance of the course is roughly around 42 km over the treacherous mountain trails. The marathon is of a three-weeks duration and includes a tour of Kathmandu and a trek to Kala Patthar for some scenic views. The route is basically downhill but includes two steep uphill climbs. Temperatures are freezing, so appropriate clothing and gear needs to be carried.​ To know about this marathon log on to  www.everestmarathon.com

The Barkley Marathons

Lazarus Lake, who designed the Barkley Marathons in 1986 lights a Camel, signaling the start of this year’s race (Image Esquire)

The Barkley Marathon takes place deep in the back-country of Tennessee and consists of five loops through the Frozen Head State Park, estimated to be 1160 km long. The runners must ascend and descend about 120,000 feet of elevation in just sixty hours. The current record is held by Brett Maune at 52:03:08. The event is not heavily publicized but people from across the globe throng here to participate in this marathon. Considered as something out of a Mad Max movie, only the fittest survive here. With just two water stations for the entire route and no other amenities, it doesn’t come as a surprise that only 15 runners have managed to complete this course in 30 years. This marathon is a test of perseverance and requires physical as well as mental strength to endure the unpredictable Tennessee climate and the changing game rules. There is no official website for the marathon, so you will have to find your way there.

The Patagonian Expedition Race

This race requires to traverse the wilderness of Chilean Patagonia over a period of 10- days ( Image: Patagonia Expedition)

Set in the wilderness of Chilean Patagonia, The Patagonian Expedition Race is an annual race that includes trekking, sea kayaking, mountain biking. Also known as the “ Race to the end of the world”, the course is a combination of rugged terrain, unpredictable climates and long distances. The Patagonian Expedition Race offers runners a variety of terrain – glaciers, swamp lands, rivers, and forest trails – that any hardcore trekker could ask foe. Teams of four are created and runners need to know basic navigation skills, map reading, and first aid. The route is generally 600 to 800 km, which the runners have to endure within a 10-day timeline. The route details are kept a secret till 24 hours prior to the race start. Head over to www.patagonianexpeditionrace.com for more details.

Spartathlon

Run in beautiful Athens amidst vineyards and the blue Mediterranean sea with the Spartathlon (Image: Flickr)

Sparta was known for it’s breed of tough warrior men. Spartathlon allows runners to relive the history of the route that Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta. The 250 km route will leave you feeling like a titan as you run past vineyards, olive groves and follow the muddy trails as you ascend and descent the 4,000 foot Mount Parthenon at night. The ultra-marathon is held in September( the same month Pheidippides ran to Sparta) and has got a rep because of the history quotient it alludes. This year the Spartathlon will take place on 29-30 September. To register , visit  www.spartathlon.gr/en/

The Jungle Marathon

The Jungle Marathon takes place deep in the Brazilian Amazon and promises a race like no other, complete with anacondas and piranhas ( Image: Jungle Marathon)

Running in the Amazonian rainforests is no joke, especially when you have creatures like the anacondas and flesh-eating piranhas lurking below the murky waters. One wrong step and it could very well spell doom for any runner in Brazil’s Jungle Marathon. Participants have to endure 99 percent humidity and temperatures soaring upto 50 degrees. Add to this decaying swamps and peat bogs that you will have to dodge to finish this race, overshadowed by dense canopies that hide every ray of light. Runners can also choose the four-stage 127K race, or the six-stage 254K race through Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. Though the race website cites that “ only the brave can register”, only a few can dole out the 2,500 pounds registration fee. For more details visit  www.junglemarathon.uk/

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