The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges: Multi-Day Madness

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Conversations about ultra-endurance races almost always begin with metrics. How far? How long? How high? From there dialog typically turns to terrain and temperature. How steep? How rocky? How technical? How hot? How cold?

Undoubtedly all these elements play a monumental role in separating winners from losers, finishers from DNFs. But ask any endurance athlete, especially those who dabble in multi-day affairs, and they will tell you that among the most important factors in success is recovery. From one day to the next you must be able to bounce back, battling fatigue and the growing desire to quit.

This need to recover is never more critical than in the many multi-day events that pepper the pages of The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges. Take the Trans Europe Footrace, which as its name indicates, requires competitors to run the length of Europe from the southern tip of Spain to the far northern reaches of Sweden — total mileage a jaw-dropping 2,567 miles.

The 2009 men’s champion crossed the finish line in a mere 352 hours, 3 minutes, and 25 seconds, which works out to nearly 15 days of running. The women’s winner? 529-plus hours, aka more than 22 days.

“There is a huge element of cumulative fatigue involved in racing an event of this kind,” reads The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges. “It simply does not stop. Every day, the race moves forward from village to town, town to city. Those who can’t keep up are simply excluded from the event.”

The daily grind is longer — and arguably more brutal — in Vendée Globe, where single-handed sailors must circumnavigate the earth via the treacherous Southern Hemisphere. “With little land mass stopping the winds from whipping across the ocean, sailors benefit from the prevailing winds, but they are also at their mercy… If anything goes wrong with their boats, if they have any physical problems, or if they capsize they have to be entirely self sufficient until help can arrive.”

Once again, recovery is key…

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