The number of ultra trail runners is increasing annually. The amount of organized ultra trail running events has grown over the past few years throughout the world. The International Trail Running Association (ITRA) was founded in 2013 and was first recognized by the IAAF in 2015. Distances vary from 5 to 160 km (sometimes even more). Runners often cite less impact stress compared to road running, as well as the landscape and non-urban environment, as primary reasons for preferring trail running. This move to nature is also reflected in a large increase in competitors in non-traditional/off-road triathlons and adventure racing over the past years.
Highlights of most famous Ultra Trail Running races
[21 km] Paul Mitchell XTERRA Trail Run Series is held in the beginning of December in Oahu, Hawaii, at Kualoa Ranch. Its length is 21 kilometer, and the trail is run along lush green mountain ridges and through dense rain-forest and open valleys on single- and double-track trails and dirt roads.
[21.1 km] The Paine To Pain Trail Race is a giant single loop that winds its way through the woods and trails of five different lower Westchester parks. It starts and ends in New Rochelle near Manhattan. Its length is 21.1 km. Many animals can be seen along the trail. It is held in October.
[37.5 km] The Yorkshire Three Peaks Race is located in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire, England. It is held at the end of April, its length is 37.5 kilometers.
[38 km] The Mount Cameroon Race of Hope is a trail race held in Cameroon in January or February. The course runs a distance of 38 kilometers. Dating since 1995, this event has very long tradition. This event attracts lots of people.
[50 km] The Rut is run in September, in Big Sky, Montana. This is an amazing choice thrill-seeking runners. Its distance is 50, 28 or 11 kilometers. The trail is very difficult and technical.
[52 km] The Rhodes Trail Run is a 52 km trail run that takes place in the southern Drakensberg of South Africa. The event starts at an altitude of 1800 m and climbs to 2677 m at Lesotho View (on the Lesotho border) running along the Ben MacDhui snowfields before returning to the starting point on the Rhodes. This is one of the most difficult trail runs in Africa, due to heavy oxygen deficit and big altitude. Runners may even see three seasons while running this fantastic trail.
[60 km] The Kepler Challenge Mountain Run is the premier mountain running event in New Zealand and follows the 60 km Kepler Track through the Fiordland National Park. Around 450 competitors took place last year. It is established in 1988, with the trail record of 4:33:37. It takes place in December. The track is mostly gravel, or it can be muddy if it rains.
[60 km] The Kokoda Trail or Track is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs 96 kilometers overland – 60 kilometers in a straight line – through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. The trail difficulty is hard. The fastest trail time is 16 hours 34 minutes. The trail has an extremely difficult part when going through the isolated rain forest of Papua New Guinea, with multiple dangers along the trail. The trail has even taken few lives.
[73.3 km] Transvulcania is a long distance race, considered the hardest mountain ultra marathon in the Canary Islands and one of the most important in Spain. The total route has a length of 73.3 km. An altitude gains and losses make this trail extremely cruel and difficult. It takes place on the island of La Palma since 2009.
[80 km] Ice Age Trail 50 Endurance Runs takes place in La Grange, Wisconsin. It is held in May, and the longest distance is 80 kilometers. It is run on cross-country ski and single-track trails along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and through the diverse, primal landscape of the Kettle Moraine Forest. One of the oldest races in the USA.
[80 km] The Peninsula Ultra Fun Run, known for short as PUFfeR, is an ultra trail running which has been held annually in Cape Town, South Africa since 1995. The distance is around 80 km, and it is run through Table Mountain National Park. An entry is limited to 180 runners.
[80 km] The North Face Endurance Challenge is held in Sausalito, California, every December. Extremely difficult trail stage, competitors have the opportunity to face an extreme mixture of sun and strong winds. The trail length is 80 km.
[80 km] UTTP (Ultra Trail Torres del Paine) is a trail running event that takes place in Chilean Patagonia, Providence of Última Esperanza, in the surroundings of Torres del Paine National Park. Its distance is 80 kilometers, and it takes place in September.
[80 km] The Transylvanian Bear Race is held in Transylvania, Romania, at the beginning of June. Its length is 80 km. Runners follow gentle trails through ancient Saxon villages, virgin forest, ruined castles, meadows and rural village pathways, culminating in Sighisoara, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe and the birthplace of Vlad Dracul.
[100 km] Fish River Canyon Ultra Marathon is located in Namibia. This trail stage has its length of 100 kilometers. The highest point is located at 840 meters and the lowest point on 220 meters. This stage is an ultimate test for runners, due to a combination of hard temperature, cruel terrain, steep descents, rocks, slippery river crossings, and animals. Apart from the 2-kilometer descent west of Hobbs and some optional shortcuts, the trail generally follows 88 kilometers of the Fish River through to Ai Ais. There are over 20 river crossings, which makes the trail more difficult, despite it is classified as “medium”.
[100 km] Gorge Waterfalls 50K/100K takes place in Cascade Locks, Oregon. It is an excellent trail for the lovers of a waterfall. Its length can be 50 or 100 kilometers, through the wonderful nature. It is held in April.
[125 km] Fruškogorski Maraton is a yearly ultra running marathon held on the last weekend of April or the first of May on Fruška Gora, Serbia, on the outskirts of Novi Sad. The race length is 125 km. It is held since 1978.
[160 km] The Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run is an ultra marathon that traverses the Wasatch and Bear River Ranges west of Bear Lake, from Logan, Utah to Fish Haven, Idaho. The trail length is 160 km, and it is very extreme since competitors have to cross Rocky mountains and fight with unpredictable weather. The trail limit is 36 hours, and the trail record is 17:50:15.
[160 km] The Leadville Trail 100 Run is held on trails and dirt roads near Leadville, Colorado, through the Rocky Mountains. The time limit is 30 hours, trail length is 160 km. The trail is run between 3,100 m and 3,850 m of altitude. It is established in 1983.
[161 km] The Western States Endurance Run, known commonly as the Western States 100, is a 161 km ultra marathon that takes place on trails in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains annually on the last full weekend of June. Established in 1977, this is one of the oldest trail races in the USA. Its limit is 30 hours. The stage record is 14:46:44.
[161.7 km] The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is an ultra marathon, 161.7 km long. The race is held on a loop course on 4WD roads, dirt trails, and cross country in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range, USA. It is established in 1992, with the track record of 22:41:33. An average elevation is 3,400 m and this makes this trail extremely difficult due to constant lack of oxygen. The cut-off time is 48 hours.
[166 km] The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (also known to as UTMB) is a single-stage mountain ultra marathon. It takes place once per year in the Alps, through Italy, Switzerland, and France. The stage length is 166 km. The best runners are able to finish within 20 hours. This is extremely difficult stage due to possible hostile weather conditions and danger of hypothermia. The race was first held in 2001.
[168 km] The Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji takes place in Shizuoka prefecture, Japan. Its total length is 168 km, it circulates around Fuji mountain. The time limit is set to 46 hours. In the year 2015, 914 competitors started the race. Amazing mountain trails, footpaths, and roads link up for a fantastic course. Very difficult stage, due to many altitude changes.
[217 km] The Badwater Ultramarathon is thought to be “the world’s toughest race”. Its length is 217 km, it starts in Badwater in Death Valley, California (85 m under sea level), and finishes at Whitney Portal, at 2548 m of altitude. It takes place since 1987, in July. Weather conditions are extremely hostile – temperature might go even over 50 °C.
[230 km] The Jungle Ultra takes place in Peru throughout the Amazon rainforest and Andes Mountains. The race is extremely difficult and dangerous due to hostile weather conditions, wild animals, and heavy humidity. The competitors must cross over 70 rivers. Its length is 230 kilometers, and the time limit is 6 days.
[240 km] Marathon des Sables has a distance of 240 kilometers and presents an ultimate challenge for any runner. The temperature in Sahara desert may be extremely high. The time limit is 6 days. It is thought to be the toughest ultra marathon race ever, taking place in southern Morrocco.
[246 km] Spartathlon is an ultra marathon taking place in Greece in the glory of ancient Spartans and their courage. Its distance is 246 kilometers, and a time limit is set to only 36 hours.
[250 km] The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is a self-sufficient run over seven days, covering an approximate distance of 250 km. It is held in Kalahari desert in the proximity of the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. It follows the most extreme surround a man can be. Temperature differences are extremely big and this may cause serious damage to the trail runners.
[330 km] Tor des Géants is an endurance trail race which takes place in Aosta Valley, Italy, in September. The trail length is 330 km, and it usually lasts 3-4 days for the best competitors. The race has to be completed within 150 hours. Sun, rain, wind and snow are regularly changed. Very dangerous race, which even took one life in 2013. It is held since 2010.
[415 km] Trans Japan Alps Race (TJAR) is a 415 km ultramarathon that takes place on trails in the Japanese Alps mountains. The biggest danger here is hypothermia due to altitude changes, the wind, and rain. The maximum of 30 competitors is allowed. The race starts at Toyama Bay in the Sea of Japan at midnight and ends at Suruga Bay in the Pacific Ocean. Runners must cross three Japanese Alps, the Hida Mountains, the Kiso Mountains, and the Akaishi Mountains.
[431 km] The Montane Spine Race is the longest non-stop race in the United Kingdom, and it all happens along the Pennine Way on the National Trail in Britain during the middle of winter. Its length is 431 kilometer, a time limit is 7 days. Competitors face ice, mud, snow and extreme winds.