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The top 10 extreme challenges

By Jellyfish Team | January 6th, 2014 | Department: Atlantic Row 2013 | Categories: News

There are lots of extreme challenges out there, all as treacherous as the others. We have compiled our list of top 10 extreme challenges.

10. The Tough Guy

The Tough Guy is a seven-mile foot race, but don’t let the short distance lure you into a false sense of hope. The course was created in 1987 when Billy Wilson thought that nature couldn’t provide a challenging enough racetrack. He has built a series of obstacles at his farm in Wolverhampton that combine aspects of American Gladiators, the Vietnam War and SAS training. Contestants climb up Colditz log walls, shimmy up behemoth poles to slide across high ropes, run across fire pits, navigate through flooded torture chambers, wade through a chest deep swamp and crawl under battle of the Somme barbed wire whilst smoke bombs and flares go off around them. Plus it takes place in the freezing winter conditions of mid-January.

The event attracts up to 5,000 entrants every year, they must sign a ‘death warrant’ before taking part as many entrants suffer from cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, electric shocks, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones, there have also been two fatalities in the history of this challenge. This challenge has inspired marathon and summer spin-off events.

9. The Barkley Marathon

The Barkley Marathon is a 100-mile run through the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, and that’s not the hard part! What gets contestants is the 16,500 metre climb up a thorn covered track with fallen trees and rivers blocking the way made even more treacherous by the torrential rain. Since its inception in 1986, of the near 1,000 entrants only 14 have finished within the cut-off time of 60 hours. The course record is 52:03:21 which was achieved in 2012.

The challenge was designed by Gary Cantrell after he was shocked that Martin Luther King Jr’s assassin escaped from prison and only got 8 miles after running for 55 hours, he thought he could run 100 miles in that time, although at 59 he hasn’t completed the race within that time.


8. The Marathon Des Sables

The Marathon Des Sables isn't a marathon, it's six! Known as the toughest foot race on earth, it takes contestants across the rocks and sand dunes of the Sahara desert in southern Morocco through inhospitable climates maxing 50oC, all whilst carrying their kit on their backs.

The total distance covered is roughly 150 miles, with a record completion time of 19.5 hours. The marathon was created in 1986 by Patrick Bauer. Entrants coming from all over the world including fellow Atlantic rower and adventurer James Cracknell.

7. The Everest Challenge

This isn’t just a climb up Everest, it’s a 206-mile Californian bike race over two days taking contestants up a vertical climb of 9,144 metres. There is barely a flat point over the race with grades of up to 20% making it comparable to the Barkley Marathon, however this race has an average completion time of about 14 hours. The Everest Challenge is run by AntiGravity Cycling who put on bicycle races and fun runs in California.

6. The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge

The Simpson Desert Bike Challenge is the biking equivalent of the Marathon Des Sables. Contestants spend five days cycling across 366 miles of remote southern Australian outback across sandy dunes and rocky plains, the only relief from the scorching sun comes in the form of rain, however these create bogs which slow contestants down as they are incredibly difficult to go through. The challenge takes an average of about 40 hours to complete.


5. The Yukon Arctic Ultra

The Yukon Arctic Ultra is a race through the arctic covering 435 miles. Contestants can compete on either bikes, skis or if they really want a challenge they can compete on foot! This is in addition to carrying their kit on their back in temperatures between -20oC and -50oC with risks of blizzards and avalanches. There is a strict time limit of 13 days to make sure nobody freezes to death, although most end up retiring long before that.

4. The Red Bull X-Alps

In true Red Bull fashion this challenge pushes the extremes. Known as the world’s toughest adventure race, it starts in Salzburg, Austria and winds through the alps to Monaco, by foot or paraglider. This is around 621 miles as-the-crow-flies. Contestants are only allowed to travel between the hours of 05:00 and 22:30 with one ‘night pass’ available allowing athletes to travel by foot though the night. Contestants compete solo and are accompanied by a two-man support team to help with food, logistics and moral support.


3. The Patagonia Expedition Race

The Patagonia Expedition Race takes teams of four through previously unknown lands in the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile. Contestants receive minimal assistance as they traverse the region by trekking, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking covering plains, mountains, glaciers, forests, swamps, rivers, lakes and channels.

Entrants come from all over the world to compete in an exploration of one of the most untouched and isolated places in the world. The land is diverse, the challenge is real, this Patagonia Expedition Race really changes lives.

2. The Iditarod

The Iditarod is easily the most famous event on our list. It's a 1,160 mile dog sled race across Alaska. The 16-dog team that does most of the work but the whiteout conditions, blizzards and a wind chill of up to -70oC makes this challenge tough for the drivers as well. The record completion time is just under nine days, but can take up to 15 days for some entrants to finish.


1. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

Of course the number one extreme challenge is the 3,000 mile row across the Atlantic Ocean. Starting in La Gomera in the Canaries and finishing in Antigua in the Caribbean, contestants compete in four different classes: solo, pairs, fours and open. The challenge takes about three months to finish and is the equivalent of going from London, England to St. Petersburg, Russia and back again.


We can safely say that we won’t be taking on any of these challenges anytime soon, but we have great admiration for anyone willing to do so, it takes a lot of guts and determination to even consider attempting one of these, we would love to hear about anyone crazy enough to attempt these or any other extreme challenges, you can contact us at

Tags: Atlantic Row, Atlantic Challenge, Barkley Marathon, Everest Challenge, Extreme Challenge, Marathon Des Sables, Patagonia Expedition, Red Bull X-Alps, Simpson Desert Bike Challenge, Tough Guy, Yukon Arctic Ultra