When it comes to the world of ultra running, few events capture the imagination quite like the 100-mile race. Covering vast distances on foot, often in remote and challenging terrain, these races test runners to their limits both physically and mentally. But for those who have the courage and determination to take on the challenge, the rewards can be incredible – from breathtaking scenery to the camaraderie of fellow runners.
So, what are the best 100-mile races in the world? Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic events and what makes them so special.
The South Downs Way 100 takes runners on a challenging 100-mile journey through the rolling hills and stunning countryside of the South Downs National Park in England, starting in Winchester and finishing in Eastbourne. The event requires runners to navigate rocky terrain and steep hills, with a total elevation gain of over 11,000 feet. This event is held in June, and registration typically opens in January.
The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) takes place in Europe, starting in Chamonix, France and crossing into Italy and Switzerland. The race covers 100 miles around the Mont Blanc massif, with a cumulative elevation gain of over 30,000 feet. The stunning Alpine scenery is a major draw for runners, as are the challenging climbs and descents.
The Hardrock 100 takes place in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, with runners tackling a course that includes nearly 34,000 feet of elevation gain and loss over 100 miles. The high altitude and remote terrain make this race a true test of endurance, but the beautiful scenery and supportive community make it a favorite among ultra runners.
The Leadville 100 takes runners through some of the most picturesque parts of Colorado, including the Rocky Mountains, with a cumulative elevation gain of over 15,000 feet. The race has a rich history, dating back to the days of the gold rush, and the tough terrain and high altitude make this event a favorite of experienced ultra runners.
Another U.S. classic, the Western States Endurance Run takes place on the same course as the Western States 100, but in the opposite direction. This means runners face a challenging uphill climb at the start, but enjoy a beautiful descent for the second half. The stunning scenery, legendary course, and strong community make this race a must-do for ultra runners.
Not for the faint of heart, the Barkley Marathons is widely considered one of the toughest ultra marathons in the world. The course is shrouded in mystery, with runners navigating forests, swamps, and steep terrain over five loops totaling 100 miles. Only 15 runners have ever completed the race, making it a major challenge for even the most experienced ultra runners.
In conclusion, these 100-mile races offer a unique set of challenges to runners. From stunning scenery to grueling terrain, they are not for the faint of heart. But for those willing to take on these epic events, the rewards are huge - from the sense of personal achievement to the camaraderie of fellow runners along the way. So if you’re looking for a true test of your running abilities, consider tackling one of these iconic races.
Which one would you do?