Nice day for a walkabout, mate: THE TRACK Outback Race is the longest self-supported footrace on the planet. Photo: Courtesy THE TRACK Outback Race
Decidedly not for sprinters, ultras and multi-day stage races push the limits of human endurance. They also go over-the-top on fun, building camaraderie and memories that last a lifetime. Here, we present the most epic events in Colorado, and a select handful from all over the world.
Leadville Race Series
June, July, August 2012
What began as the 100-mile “Race Across the Sky” in 1983, has grown into a series of five running and two biking races, with distances from 10k to 100 miles. For those indecisive masochists, completing the Leadville Marathon, the Silver Rush 50 Bike or Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Bike AND Run and the Leadville 10K Run will earn you the exalted title of Leadman (or woman).
Starts June 8, 2012
Does the concept of no entry fee, prizes, checkpoints or support—seriously none—speak to your purse and personality? Head north to Banff, AB, or south to Antelope Wells, NM, the bookends for this 2,745-mile bikepacking race. You’ll spend about a month pedaling the Great Divide Mountain Bike route, the world’s longest off-pavement cycling path. The winner is the one who finishes first, as determined by online tracking and honor system reporting.
Hardrock 100 Endurance Run
July 13-15, 2012
This course provides 100.5 grueling miles of trail running/survival through the San Juans in southern Colorado, with 67,984 feet of elevation change over rugged terrain, and an average elevation of 11,000 feet. A 40-hour cutoff, more generous than most 100-milers, confirms the seriousness of the challenge, and allows many participants to enjoy two sunsets while racing.
Gore-Tex Transrockies Run
August 14-19, 2012
Step into stage racing with either the 3-day solo/60-mile, or the 6-day team/120-mile option, at this fully supported, gourmet-catered run through the Rockies. Daily swag, awards ceremonies and slide shows, plus nightly campfires make for nonstop fun—not to mention the stunning vistas.
Vapor Trail 125
September 8-9, 2012
Starting and ending in Salida, this 125-mile mountain bike race is so hardcore that it requires a cycling resume for entrance. The thoughtful race directors want to be sure you’re capable of climbing and descending 20,000 feet through ghost towns, abandoned railroad depots and infamous mountain passes. The Vapor starts rowdily at 10:00 p.m., in a county with more 14ers than anywhere else in the lower 48.
Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon (Mexico)
March 4, 2012
This ultra is only 47 miles, but it’s not the distance that makes it epic. It’s the fact that you run deep in the Copper Canyons of northwest Mexico with the indigenous Tarahumara, widely regarded as the world’s greatest endurance athletes, made famous by Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book Born to Run.
THE TRACK Outback Race (Australia)
May 10-19, 2012
After a successful debut last year, THE TRACK is back, a nine-stage ultra that takes runners 520K through national parks and aboriginal lands in the outback of the Northern Territory. It’s the longest self-supported multi-stage footrace in the world, and participants must carry everything they need, including food and sleeping gear.
BC Bike Race (Canada)
June 30-July 7, 2012
The singletrack on this fully supported seven-day stage race in British Columbia is so sweet that the event sells out every year—we’re talking endless miles of tight, twisting, technical singletrack with not a fire road in sight. Plus, a bit of that raucous technical stuff that you would expect from the famed North Shore. The massage therapists, beer tents, beachside campgrounds, ferry rides and tasty family-style meals don’t hurt either.
The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (France)
August 27-September 2, 2012
The impressive Mont Blanc range holds seven valleys, 71 glaciers and 400 summits. You won’t hit them all, but you will cross through three countries, starting in Chamonix, France and passing through Switzerland and Italy. Runners have 46 hours to complete the 166K, which seems ample until you consider the 31,000 feet of elevation gain.
Tor des Géants (Italy)
September 9-16, 2012
Now in its third year, the Tour of the Giants has become the most memorable (read: badass) ultra in the Italian Alps. Covering four of the highest peaks in Europe: Mont Blanc (4,810 m), the Gran Paradiso (4,061 m), Monte Rosa (4,634 m) and the Matterhorn (4,478 m), the race sold out in four days last year. Runners cover 330K over 25 mountain passes for 79,000 —that’s not a typo—feet of elevation.
Himalayan Run & Trek (India)
October 27-November 3, 2012
Four of the five highest peaks in the world are visible during this inspired 100-mile stage race through the Himalayas. Runners pass through small settlements and villages, as well as isolated jungles, pine forests and remote riverbeds. With five stages ranging from 13 to 26 miles each, no time cut-off, and fully catered overnights in rustic mountain huts, the Himalayan Run & Trek almost feels like a vacation.