Top Trail Running Races Around the World

Photo credit: Nike
According to a recent report, there are nearly 6 million trail runners in the U.S. The number of trail runners has been constantly increasing over the past few years and so have trail races. There are hundreds of yearly races in North America alone and thousands around the world.

These races vary from 5 miles up to 100 miles. While most races are single-stage, where the final time includes stops and resting time, there are multiday races with support included for the athlete. Let`s have a look at some popular races across the continents.

North America
Badwater UltramarathonDescribed as “the world`s toughest foot race” the Badwater Ultramarathon has a total length of 135 miles. It starts bellow the sea level, at the Badwater Basin in California`s Death Valley. The finish line finds the runners at an elevation of over 8.000 feet at Whitney Portal.

Marshall Ulrich became the first runner to complete the race without any exterior help or crew in 1999. He used a trolley to carry his supplies, ran in stages and eventually reached the finish line in just 77 hours. The first woman to complete the course was Lisa Bliss. She reached the finish line without any crew help in 2011.111

The Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run
One of the most scenic trails races in the world, The Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run is a true ultra-marathon. With an average elevation of 7.700 feet, it takes runners from Logan, Utah, to Fish Haven, Idaho. The race has a 36 hour time limit.

South America
The Jungle Marathon
Naming itself as “the world`s wildest eco race”, The Jungle Marathon is a spectacular race that can be both 127km in 4 stages and 254km in a 6 stage run. It comes with everything you would expect from a jungle experience: swamps, river crossings, fluvial beaches and a combination of heat and humidity specific to the Amazon Jungle in Brazil. 1

Tor des Géants
Every September the Aosta Valley in Italy hosts the 205 miles race. This must be completed in less than 150 hours. However, runners have over 40 refreshment points that include eating, sleeping and medical care. The difficulty of the race pushes athletes to their maximum capacity. Just 60% of runners actually finish the race and in 2013 a runner unfortunately lost his life falling on rocks. The weather is also challenging, with sun, rain, wind and even snow. The complexity of the race is also seen in the altitude levels. The minimum altitude is 985 feet and the highest altitude is 10.800 feet.

Fruškogorski Maraton
This ultra-marathon is held every April in Serbia`s Fruška gora. It boasts over 18.000 participants and it lasts for two days.

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
No trail running race list can be complete without a French race. But Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is much more. It takes runners through 3 countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. The 103 miles race is one of the most popular options in Europe, with a combined participation of 10.000 runners. 

Most runners finish the race is less than 45 hours. Refreshment points are available every 10-15 km and some even offer massages. The event is very popular and if you want to book a place you have to move fast. In 2008, 5 months before the race, 6.000 runners registered in less than 10 minutes.

The Fish River Canyon Marathon
Set in a harsh and unforgiving environment, The Fish River Canyon Marathon has two main options of 65 and 100km. Starting in Windhoek, Namibia`s capital city, the race is expecting runners to finish in 24 hours. 

Checkpoints are organized through the race but runners are expected to be of above average quality due to the demanding environment.

The Peninsula Ultra Fun Run
Held in the scenic South African city of Cape Town, The Peninsula Ultra Run has a total length of 80km. The race goes through the Table Mountain National Park and expects runners to be self-sufficient.

Trans Japan Alps Race
The demanding Trans Japan Alps Race has a total length of 415km. Runners are expected to be self-sufficient but most drop due to hypothermia or bad weather conditions. 

Unfortunately international runners are not allowed to participate and thus the race stays relatively minimal in popularity, with 20-30 participants.

The Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji
With a total length of 168km, the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji takes runners takes runners around Japan`s Mount Fuji. There is a time limit of 46 hours. The race is a sister event of Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, mentioned above.

The Kokoda Challenge Race
Held in Papua New Guinea, The Kokoda Challenge Race has a total length of 96 kilometers. It starts at Owers Corner and has the finish line in Kokoda. The race sees 70 runners at the starting line, 20 of which are internationals. 

There are manned checkpoints throughout the race. The current record time for the race is held by Brendan Buka, who managed to finish the race in 16 hours and 34 minutes in 2008. Advanced competitors do not sleep through the race, all the rest they get is at checkpoints as they continue through the night.

Some of the most spectacular trail running races around the world are also very demanding. There are many options available with or without checkpoints. In some races runners have to prove previous experience due do the dangers and hazards along the way. However, these races have managed to gain popularity over the past years.

About the Author
Dan Chabert is a husband, entrepreneur, and ultramarathon distance runner (in order of importance). He spends most of his time on, & and has been featured on some of the most popular runner blogs around the world.