An ultra marathon is defined as any running event longer than a traditional 26.2 mile (42.2km) marathon. Apart from that, pretty much anything else goes.
No, really. Aside from the lower limit of its length, there’s no upper limit on the distance, there are no rules on types of terrains, and there are rarely any restrictions in terms of unpredictable weather conditions. This inevitably means that you’ll be in for one of the most unique and taxing challenges of your life, as well as one of the most rewarding.
Running these huge distances also means that you can take in an extremely varied amount of scenery and terrain all in one go. From spiky mountain ridges and snow-topped hills to smouldering valleys and active volcanoes; they’re a great way to get to know a country’s (or countries in the case of the UTMB) landscapes whilst also pushing your mind and your body to its very limits.
Likened more to a life-changing journey than just a race – after plenty of discussion amongst the Outdoors Magic team we’ve agreed on our list of just some of the best ultra marathons around the globe at the moment…
The 10 Best Ultra Marathons Around the World
In no particular order…
- Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, The Alps
- Comrades Marathon, South Africa
- Western States 100, California, USA
- Spartathlon, Greece
- Marathon des Sables, Morocco
- Ultra X 125, Scotland
- Fire & Ice Ultra, Iceland
- Tarawera Ultramarathon, New Zealand
- Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra, Sweden
- Falklands Ultra, Falkland Islands
Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, The Alps
Location: France, Italy & Switzerland
Distance: 110 miles (170km) +
Date: 22nd to 28th August
As one of the most popular hiking trails in Europe, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a bit of a staple on the hiker’s bucket list. Come August, however, the route is home to the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc and becomes an ultra running hotspot, attracting keen runners from all over the world.
Though there are various races throughout this week-long festival, the heart of the event revolves around the 110+ mile race that loops around Mont Blanc, crossing France, Italy and Switzerland along the way. The terrain itself involves crossing rivers, alpine villages and forests, all with the Alps as a breathtaking backdrop.
Most people finish the race in 32 to 46 hours, though the best of the best run through the night and tend to finish in 20 hours. With 10,000m of climbing, it’s no surprise that only 60% of participants finish each year. It’s also worth noting that earning a place on the UTMB is very competitive and you’ll need qualifying points from other trail races to enter the ballot.