Best Ultra Mara­thons In Europe: The Ulti­mate European Races 2020

Writ­ten By Jam­ie Sparks

Jam­ie is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. He enjoys ram­bling on about a vari­ety of top­ics; motor­bikes, cyc­ling, adven­ture, and, of course, ultra run­ning.

22 Feb­ru­ary 2020

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Read­ing Time: 7 minutes

In this art­icle we look at the best ultramara­thons in Europe, includ­ing all formats in the ultra mara­thon cat­egory: single stage, multi stage, 100 mile and more. We think the below European races should have a spot on every runner’s buck­et list.

The fol­low­ing events have been graded in dif­fi­culty: access­ible, inter­me­di­ate, hard, and bru­tal.

Right. You’re only here for one reas­on, so let’s get to it!

Ultra X 125 Azores

Ultra X 125 Azores is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar island ultramara­thons on earth. Situ­ated 1,000 miles into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Por­tugal, this tiny archipelago of islands offers incred­ible trails along vol­ca­noes, through amaz­ing green val­leys and past stun­ning lagoons.

Run­ners begin under Pon­ta Delgada’s city gates at 5am on Sat­urday morn­ing and head out of the city and up into the hills. Sat­urday night is spent in a beau­ti­ful camp­site loc­ated at sea level over­look­ing the ocean. On Sunday, run­ners will take on the mara­thon stage before cross­ing the fin­ish line to much fan­fare and a fin­ish­ers BBQ. Prize giv­ing will take place in the city that even­ing. This is the ulti­mate week­end ultra and a great oppor­tun­ity to see a part of the world you may nev­er travel to oth­er­wise, and what’s more, the value for money is excel­lent.

Where: São Miguel, Azores (Por­tugal
When: 25–26 April 2020
Dis­tance: 125km (2 days)
Elev­a­tion Gain: 5,800m
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: Hard
Entry Price: £295

Transylvania 100k

Now look­ing for­ward to its sev­enth edi­tion, this moun­tain ultra crosses one of the most beau­ti­ful and mys­ter­i­ous regions of East­ern Europe. In May 2020, run­ners will assemble on the start line beneath Dracula’s Castle in the vil­lage of Bran, ready for an adven­ture through the alpine scenery of rur­al Transylvania.

Twist­ing single tracks, ancient forest trails, moun­tain plat­eaus and windswept ridges will link togeth­er in the Buce­gi Range, climb­ing and des­cend­ing many thou­sands of metres before fin­ish­ing back at the Bran Castle. For those look­ing for a not-so-well-known race at a great price, this one could be for you.

Where: Romania
When: 16 May 2020
Dis­tance: 100km
Elev­a­tion Gain: 6,444m
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: Hard
Entry Price: 95€

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - transylvania 100

Eiger Ultra Trail

Start­ing in the Swiss alpine town of Grindel­wald, this route passes through the most breath­tak­ing view­points in the area; Grosse Scheide­gg, Bach­alpsee and Wen­gen, before tra­vers­ing the base of the Eiger North Face itself. This event deliv­ers a truly spec­tac­u­lar exper­i­ence.

With a dis­tance of 101km and an elev­a­tion gain of 6,700m, the E101 is a mighty chal­lenge to even the most seasoned of trail run­ners, and the chance of win­ning the Moun­tain Prize at the Grosse Scheide­gg should help provide a little extra motiv­a­tion. The E101 trail must be com­pleted under the par­tial self-sup­port prin­ciple. This event also offers 50km and 35km race options. If this one appeals to you, be sure to throw your name in the hat the moment regis­tra­tions open, as it sells out every year.

Where: Switzer­land
When: 18 July 2020
Dis­tance: 101km
Elev­a­tion Gain: 6,700m
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: Hard
Entry Price: £170

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - eiger ultra trail

Moz­art 100

The Moz­art 100 is a great option; not only for those after great value for money but also for those who want to exper­i­ence the beau­ti­ful scenery made fam­ous in the movie The Sound of Music. Before the race, run­ners should stay in the ancient city of Salzburg situ­ated on the bor­der of Ger­many, with views of the East­ern Alps. It’s also the home of energy drink giant Red Bull, and boy will you need a few of those.

For those who want a more leis­urely run, there’s the Moz­art Mara­thon, the Moz­art Light and the Moz­art Half Mara­thon.

The start and fin­ish area of the Moz­art 100, the Moz­art Ultra and the Moz­art City Trail is in Kapitel­platz Square which has proven itself as a great start­ing and fin­ish­ing area in the city. This beau­ti­ful square, embed­ded between Salzburg Cathed­ral and Hohens­alzburg Fort­ress, cre­ates a won­der­ful ambi­ence.

For those look­ing for a chal­len­ging ultra but not look­ing to put them­selves in hos­pit­al, this is a great race choice.

Where: Aus­tria
When: 20 June 2020
Dis­tance: 108km
Elev­a­tion Gain: 5,000m
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: Hard
Entry Price: 119–179€

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - mozart ultra

Fire & Ice Ultra

This race’s route is planned over many months in order to provide run­ners with the most chal­len­ging and spec­tac­u­lar course. This is the longest race in our art­icle and takes place over 6 stages with each stage offer­ing a dif­fer­ent dis­tance. The longest day is 70km. This is an all-inclus­ive pack­age and run­ners will sleep in tents provided by the race organ­isers each night.

The land­scape is no doubt beau­ti­ful and accord­ing to the race web­site you will have the oppor­tun­ity to view things you can’t any­where else in the world. Steam­ing lava fields, ash covered moun­tains and the most power­ful water­fall in the North­ern Hemi­sphere to name a few. Multi-stage races are more adven­tures than any­thing else and we have no doubt that this event will be a won­der­ful exper­i­ence for all those involved. After all, once the memor­ies have faded, it will be the friend­ships which last the test of time.

Where: Ice­land
When: 31 August 2020
Dis­tance: 250km (6 days)
Elev­a­tion Gain: “Not too much” (accord­ing to the race web­site)
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: Inter­me­di­ate
Entry Price: £2,600

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - fire and ice ultra

UTMR (Ultra Tour Monte Rosa)

The spec­tac­u­lar Monte Rosa mas­sif, boasts 10 sum­mits over 4,000m and lies on the Swiss Itali­an bor­der. UTMR fol­lows the wildly beau­ti­ful trails of the Tour de Monte Rosa and takes run­ners on an epic adven­ture. For those tough enough to take on this beast of a race you will not be dis­ap­poin­ted with your sur­round­ings. The Monte Rosa mas­sif has inspired not only moun­tain­eers, but also poets, writers and explorers — it will inspire you too.

As well as the single stage UTMR there are two oth­er race options: a 4 day stage race which splits the course into four, more man­age­able, 30–50km days and a 100km ultra, but this sill has 6,420m of elev­a­tion gain.

Where: Switzer­land & Italy
When: 3 Septem­ber 2020
Dis­tance: 170km
Elev­a­tion Gain: 11,300m
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: Bru­tal
Entry Price: 298€

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - ultra trail monte rosa utmr

UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc)

This one takes place every sum­mer in the French moun­tain resort of Chamonix and is widely regarded as one of the most dif­fi­cult ultramara­thons in the world. It’s also one of the largest, with more than 2,500 toe­ing the start line in August.

UTMB takes place over 7 days and hosts four oth­er events, ran­ging from a 50km ultra to a 350km team event. The races have strict entry and qual­i­fic­a­tion require­ments. Hope­ful par­ti­cipants must accu­mu­late enough race points to qual­i­fy, gained in oth­er trail races over the pre­vi­ous two years. As of 2020, you need a min­im­um of 10 UTMB points (which must come from only two races) to enter the bal­lot for the main event.

While the best run­ners com­plete the loop in just over 20 hours, most run­ners take 32 to 46 hours to reach the fin­ish line. Most run­ners will also have to run through two nights in order to com­plete the race.

Where: France, Italy and Switzer­land
When: 28 August 2020
Dis­tance: 171km
Elev­a­tion Gain: 10,300m
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: Bru­tal
Entry Price: 262€

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - ultra trail du mont blanc utmb

Spart­ath­lon

The Spart­ath­lon relives the story of Pheidip­pides, an ancient Atheni­an long dis­tance run­ner who, in 490 BC (before the battle of Mara­thon), was sent to Sparta from Athens to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Per­sians. Accord­ing to the ancient Greek his­tor­i­an Hero­dotus, Pheidip­pides arrived in Sparta the day after his depar­ture from Athens (he clearly got his hands on a horse).

In 1984, the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­ation “Spart­ath­lon” was foun­ded, which, since then, has con­tinu­ously organ­ised the race each Septem­ber. The choice of this month is because that is the time repor­ted by Hero­dotus for Pheidip­pides’ run to Spartan.

The race’s aid sta­tions are placed every 3–5km apart and are pro­vi­sioned with food, water and oth­er refresh­ments as well as the run­ners’ per­son­al sup­plies. The race is very demand­ing, not only because of the dis­tance, but also for the cut-off require­ments and weath­er con­di­tions.

Each of the 75 race check points (yes, you read that cor­rectly) has its own cut-off. Should a run­ner arrive later than the offi­cial clos­ing time he or she will be elim­in­ated from the race.

Where: Greece
When: 25 Septem­ber 2020
Dis­tance: 246km
Elev­a­tion Gain: Unknown
Ter­rain: Road
Dif­fi­culty Level: Bru­tal
Entry Price: 600€

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - spartathlon

Tor des Géants

Accord­ing to the race web­site the Tor des Géants is the first non-stop race of its kind to cov­er an entire region. The route runs along spec­tac­u­lar alpine trails, through the Gran Para­diso Nation­al and Mont Avic Region­al Parks.

Start­ing and fin­ish­ing in Cour­mayeur, Italy, the 2020 race will see over 2,000 com­pet­it­ors from 76 nations attempt to cov­er the 205 miles/330km, whilst stay­ing ahead of a cut-off time of 150 hours.

This trail is not only a com­pet­it­ive sport­ing event, but also a means of pro­mot­ing tour­ism for the Aosta Val­ley and the muni­cip­al­it­ies involved.

Oh, and if the 330km race doesn’t seem enough for you, the organ­isers have recently intro­duced a TOR450 to mark the 10th anniversary of the race. It’s 450km and has over 32,000m of elev­a­tion. Stand­ard.

Where: Italy
When: 13 Septem­ber 2020
Dis­tance: 330km
Elev­a­tion Gain: 24,000m
Ter­rain: Trail
Dif­fi­culty Level: We’ve intro­duced a new cat­egory for this one. It’s called ‘Stu­pid’.
Entry Price: 750€

Best Ultra Marathons in Europe - tor des geants

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