Adventure Survival Races: 7 of the Toughest Survival Races Around

You think you are pretty tough? Even the burliest of dudes out there fall short in these adventure survival races. Think running a marathon in jungles, mountains, through rivers, in the wilderness, and then doing that continuously all day every day for a week straight. Depending on how much you like pain you can choose to run in the Arctic and brave the katabatic winds or in the Amazon face the snakes and piranhas.

Each year people from all across the world gather to these events to see what kind of stuff they are made out of.

Most of these races see only a handful of people finish each year. If that isn’t enough to deter you then read on at your own risk.

7 of the Toughest Adventure Survival Races on Earth

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1. Alaska Mountain Wilderness Challenge

Alaska. Think grizzly bears, giant mosquitos, bitter cold and deep wilderness.

“The original adventure race” as it is touted first held in 1982. 

“If you can’t get off the couch right now and do an ultra-marathon, you shouldn’t even think about doing this race,” stated an article for the event race.

Only 10-20 people attempt the race a year, as there is no route, nor GPS, and racers are left to traverses the Alaskan Wilderness over a 6-day event, though usually the first place finisher completes the course in just over 3 days. The course changes every year, so as to keep runners on their toes and to make sure that no one gets too comfortable. What makes this race so challenging is the unforgiving Alaskan terrain as you are left to map out your own course with a compass and find your own way through the back country.

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2. 6633 Ultra

Often touted as “the toughest, coldest, windiest footrace on the planet,” the 6633 Ultra is a self-supported 350-mile race from the Yukon going all the way to the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees, 33 minutes. Only around two dozen people run it at a time and it takes place just once a year.

Temperatures can get as low as 25 below zero, but no surprises there as it is the Arctic. Just being in the region exposes you to an impossibly long list of surprises along the way. Think freezing temperatures, polar bears, wolfs, crazy winds, cold nights and unforgiving landscape. Did we mention that you have to bring all your own food and gear with you? Sorry, no refills along the way, just what you can carry.

Just a measure of how grueling this race is, only about half of the runners each year actually finish the race. So ya it’s tough.

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3. The Jungle Marathon

The Jungle Marathon takes place in one of the most extreme places on earth – the Amazonian jungles of Brazil. Not only will you be running in 99% humidity but will have to deal with all of the poisonous plants, animals and insects that go with it.

Racers will expect “suffocating jungle undergrowth, river crossings and cloud-shrouded mountain valleys. Runners should expect choking humidity; the body pouring sweat in an effort to stay cool. There will be deep mud and heavy rain. There may also be periods spent running in darkness, following the marked route by head torch,” states a website for the event.

Oh, and did we mention that you will have to not just run one marathon, but five–straight? That’s right you read correct, the Jungle Marathon is a 125-mile race over six days that goes through rivers, across valleys and mountains. It’s so intense that the course organizers put you through mandatory special forces training for a week before the event so you have at least a minimal threshold of survival skills so that the Amazon doesn’t eat you alive.

If you have to be trained by special forces for a race, you know we aren’t kidding when we say tough.

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4. Jungle Ultra

The Jungle Ultra runners have to face similar jungle territory as the Jungle Marathon, this time it’s in Peru where athletes have to run, walk, climb, crawl 150 miles. It’s entirely self-supported meaning, you get no help and you have to carry everything you are going to need with you.

Runners should expect choking humidity; the body pouring sweat in an effort to stay cool. There will be deep mud and heavy rain. There may also be periods spent running in darkness, following the marked route by head torch,” says a website for the race.

Racing long periods in the jungle is incredibly draining. There is constant chafing, blistering, and swelling of the body due to wet conditions. It’s likely for the entire week you will not be dry. The continual wading through creeks, humidity and rains will be sure of that. Two words, foot rot.

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5. Patagonia Expedition Race

If none of the above races sound enough for you, how about the Patagonia Expedition Race considered the mother of all adventure races or The Last Wild Race that has everything from trekking and biking to climbing and self-navigation.

The Patagonian Expedition Race comes to you from the Chilean Antarctic region where teams come together to compete in the nine-day event. The route is only given a day before the event to prevent anyone from getting any unfair advantage.

What makes this race particularly challenging is that you race in teams. Running alongside team members can be incredibly supportive but also challenging when ego’s get in the way.

This is a truly wild frontier that few places on earth can match. Expect brutal conditions and then you won’t be surprised.

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6. Iditarod Trail Invitational 1000

You have probably heard of the famed Iditarod dog race that runs some 1000 miles through the rugged Alaskan backcountry. This is the same 1000 miles, but you won’t be riding on the back of some dog sled you will be running, biking or skiing over the gnarly 3 week race. The Iditarod Trail Invitational gives minimal outside assistance and racers have to carry all of their survival gear with them. Being in Alaska you can expect any manner of challenges including facing temperatures of -50F.

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7. North Pole Marathon

The North Pole Marathon is about as difficult as it sounds. The website states that the North Pole Marathon is the “only certified marathon that is run entirely ‘on’ water, the frozen water of the Arctic Ocean.” That means you will be running the entirety of the race on pure ice. Despite the harrowing conditions the fastest time comes in at an incredible 3hrs 23 mins. Think you can beat it?


There are a ton of ways you can test your endurance. There is nothing quite like pushing your body and mind to the brink of collapse. Everyone has their limits. What’s yours?

If you think you have what it takes to win one of the toughest races on earth then congratulations, you are tougher than we thought.

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