5 Toughest Indian Ultra Marathons You May Want to Try in 2018-19
India is now home to some of the world’s most challenging ultra marathons.
Some dream of running 42.195 kilometers of a marathon once, but there are some who do it every week. They are a breed of serious runners who ran a marathon, but found that it was just not tough enough to challenge them. So, they decided to take it a step further. Ultra marathon running has been around for over a century, and has successfully attracted participants from varied professions despite being not financially rewarding, or glamorous.
Instead, it demands ridiculous amount of training; gear and race registration cost money and being out there for days at a time, fighting against forces of nature, can take a huge toll.
Despite being the youngest addition to World’s biggest ultra running stage, India has taken giant leaps in the past decade and is now home to some of the world’s most challenging ultra marathons.
While many dream of running extreme races like The Barkley Marathons, Yukon Arctic Ultra, Arrowhead 135 Winter Ultra or Badwater 135 Ultra once in their lifetime, here are India’s five toughest ultra marathons you might want to target in 2018-19. Are you tough enough?
5. Uttarkashi 135
A race dedicated to the holy river Ganga, the Uttarkashi 135 mile is single stage ultra marathon through the lower Himalayas with gross elevation gain of nearly 27,000 ft. The race begins amid the rafts and on-shore camps of Rishikesh and traverses through misty hills and lush green meadows of Tehri-Garhwal and ends in town of Uttarkashi, the home of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering Science and gateway to the Gangotri – the source of Ganga and one of holiest places of Hindu pilgrimage.
The race is staged during peak monsoon and runners have to cross multiple raging streams. The route is exposed to elements like landslides and hence, imposes threat in night. Runners are advised to have mandatory crew support for the distance of 220 km that must be run under 48 hours.
4. Run the Rann
Uncharted territory, exotic birds, white salt desert, and thorns! Run The Rann is easily India's most unique and challenging foot race, that serves a carefully mixed combination of off-trail trekking, bushwalking, GPS navigation and exposure to the heat with no shade on 161 km long unforgiving trail through epic Rann of Kutch.
Set against the white landscape of cracked desert land, salt marshes and ruthless cacti with seasoning of cobras and giant monitor lizard, runners endure India's toughest desert trail circling ancient ruins of Dholavira in Gujarat, one of the largest and most advanced metropolises of 5000-year-old Indus Valley Civilisation. This race is for the endured and fully baked runners. If 161 km is too long, there are options of 101 km and 51 km to give you a taste of hell.
3. Himalayan Crossing
The Himalayan Crossing is a non-stop 338-km long mountain ultra marathon that allows runners 70 hours to finish. While it’s strongly advised to have personal crew, this race – designed to test your skill and endurance – challenges runners at multiple levels with a consistent high elevation above 12000 ft, difficult terrain and ability to acclimatise.
The race begins in Kaza and takes the runners through some of the most majestic Himalayan landscapes of Kinnaur and Spiti Valley, including Kunzum La, Chandra Tal, and finishing just after Rohtang La.
Runners are required to carry special gear, as suggested by race organisers, and must meet minimum qualification for the treacherous trail that sees gross elevation change of over 66,000 ft. If 338 km looks too long, Himalayan Crossing offers other distances of 168 km and 55 km.
2. Hell Ultra
The Hell Ultra is staged in majestic Greater Himalayas. With an average altitude of 12000 ft, 40 percent less Oxygen levels and a ridiculous 480 km distance from Manali to Leh crossing five passes, the race poses some extreme challenges and demands serious training. Organisers warn runners to be prepared for extreme weather conditions, where temperature dips to 10 degrees Celsius below freezing in night.
The Manali-Leh highway is arguably the world’s toughest highway to drive and remains open only for a few months.
With an insane distance to be covered in just 120 hours on challenging but beautiful terrain and life-threatening conditions of high altitude, The Hell Ultra will test the challengers to their limits and only the most prepared will survive.
1. La Ultra- The High
Some races are tough and some are challenging, but only a few are dangerous. Staged in the cold desert of Ladakh and traversing through The Great Himalayan Mountain Range, La Ultra is 333 km long foot race that takes runners through brutal terrain crossing three of the World's highest mountain passes above 17,500 ft.
If you think the extreme distance of 333 km makes it tough, it's not even close to the real challenge. At 50 percent less Oxygen levels, temperature that fluctuate between 40 degrees heat and -10 degrees Celsius below freezing in matter of hours, and ridiculous altitude of the course all pose serious health risks of high altitude sickness, particularly pulmonary edemas. The race allows runners to have personal crew, but only after you survive the first 90 km.
Arguably, La Ultra has earned bragging rights to call themselves the toughest ultra marathon in the World.
Besides 333 km, race features distances like 222 km, 111 km and 111 km relay.
(The author is Gaurav Madan, a weather researcher and has been running ultramarathons for over a decade. He writes a blog named Egonomics about his experiences with running and human psyche. The views expressed above are of the author’s alone and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them )
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