Could you finish Asia’s toughest marathons?


A runner climbs a steep mountain with participating in an ultra marathon. Source: Shutterstock

FOR many, the thought of running 42-kilometers on flat terrain sounds like hell.

However, there is no denying a marathon is a huge sense of achievement, often completed to raise money for a charity and reach one’s goals of breaking a personal best.

But would you be surprised to know there is a group of incredible endurance athletes who think the Boston, London and Paris marathons are a walk in the park?

Luckily for these people, there are some extreme marathons to really test their abilities and push their bodies to the physical and mental limit.

Enough to kill an untrained person, these ultramarathons traverse through thick jungles, arid desert landscapes and scale some of the world’s highest and harsh mountains.

Do you think you could complete these ultramarathons?

Japan: Ultra Trail Mount Fuji

Described as an “unparalleled event that challenges the human spirit”, this marathon connects mountain tails, local footpaths, and forest roads. Sounds tricky?

This extreme run is also four times longer than an average marathon at 165 kilometers.

The race begins at Ohike Kouen and trails around the entire circumference of Mount Fuji.

Runners will get to admire the beautiful serenity of Kawaguchi, Fujiawaguchiko-Cho, Yamanashi Prefecture and all the incredible parts in between.

Familiar faces at the race include Sebastien Chaigneau and Julien Chorier. While they have been able to complete it on several occasions, back in 2015, out of 1,363 who started, only 564 finished.

Take a look at the map here and figure out if you could nail this multi-terrain beast of a marathon in the 46-hour time slot.

When: Apr 27 to Apr 29, 2018 (Friday to Sunday).

Mongolia: Gobi March

Recognized as one of the most prestigious footraces in the world, the Gobi March is just one of the four races which make up the 4 Deserts Race Series.

Founded in 2002 by Mary Gadams, a former investment banker and prominent figure in the endurance sports scene.

The first race was across the Gobi, with the Atacama Crossing in Chile, Sahara Race in Egypt, and Antarctica race being added at later dates.

The seven-day event covers 250 kilometers across the world’s largest and most dangerous dessert.

The organizers only give out water along the way, so if you’re thinking of taking part then know exactly how much to pack to keep you going.

Fuel and hydration aside, racers will encounter extreme cold, blistering heat, whipping winds and sometimes even snow along the same route, so you’d need cool and warm gear too.

Even the thought of planning what to pack for this event is tiring us out.

When: July 29 to Aug 5, 2018 (Sunday to Sunday).

Indonesia: Mount Rinjani Ultra

The famously brutal trail from Senaru to Segara Anak Lake and then up Mount Rinjani has just got a whole lot more challenging as organizers have added Sembalun Hills to the route.

The addition to the already rigorous course throws in the new challenge of running across slim ridges and up and down unstable valleys.

The changing terrain means participants must overcome blistering winds, sticky humidity, thinning air at an altitude of 9,166 meters and complete the run in just 36 hours.

Maybe we’ll sit this one out…

When: May 4 to May 6, 2018 (Friday to Sunday).

Thailand: Thailand Ultramarathon

Describing itself as “a friendly boutique race in the beautiful, remote jungle, forest and hill tribes of northwest Thailand” makes it sound like more of a paradise getaway opposed to a 100-kilometer endurance race encountering a section called “heart attack hill”.

The ultramarathon offers two distances – 100 kilometers and 50 kilometers – through a tough, mountainous trail.

The trail winds around Mae Hong Son province close to the Burmese border. Along the way, racers will pass through remote hill tribe villages, whizz through wilderness sanctuaries and see the entrance to a cathedral-like river cave.

If runners aren’t fussed about winning, then they could be forgiven for getting completely distracted by the natural beauty lining the race.

However, with a very lovely US$1,426 prize being offered for the winner of the 100-kilometer run, US$715 for first place in the 50-kilometer run and other amounts for second and third places in both races, we suspect all runners may put their nature-blinkers on a focus on the tough track ahead.

When: Nov 10 to Nov 17, 2018 (Monday to Monday).

Nepal: Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon

This is the highest marathon in the world and perhaps the coldest too.

The Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon prides itself on being not only a marathon for all types of runners but also a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Starting at the Everest Base Camp, the trail crisscrosses the high Sherpa trails of Khumbu Valley.

The race celebrates the historic event of May 29, 1953, when Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, and Sir Edmund Hillary summited Mount Everest together.

Runners must arrive at the Nepalese base camp at least three weeks before the race takes place to acclimatize to the high altitudes and freezing temperatures.

After a 14-day ascent to Everest Base Camp, runners will descend 42.2 kilometers of icy trails and rough and unsteady terrain towards the finish line at Namche Bazaar.

When: May 29, 2018 (Tuesday).

Australia: Big Red Run

Across the arid red Simpson Desert in the center of Australia, runners can take part in a six-day ultramarathon, covering 250 kilometers.

Big Red Run is Australia’s only outback race with runners covering sand dunes, salt lakes, clay flats, open plains and camping under the glistening stars in purposely set up campsites to raise weary runners’ morale after a long day in the open sun.

Taking group fun comradery a step further, runners will be happy to know the race starts and finishes at a pub – the Birdsville.

While you may not swig a cheeky pint before setting out, you’ll totally have earned one by the time you get back.

When: June 26 to July 1, 2018 (Tuesday to Sunday).

The human body is conditioned to survive over long distance running, but do you think you could make it in these extreme conditions?