Written By Jasper Johnson
Jasper is a new member of the Ultra X team. A keen middle distance runner who is looking to up the distance to an ultra marathon, Jasper enjoys writing about all things running.
In this article we are looking at the best ultramarathons in South America. Known for its extreme and varied climates, South America provides ample opportunity for fantastic ultra running.
Although South America has fewer ultramarathons than some other major continents, participation rates are growing fast. It also contains some of the world’s richest and most diverse landscapes, from tropical rainforests to deserts, mountain ranges, beaches, and jungles, making it a perfect playground for adventurous ultra runners.
So, which are the best ultra marathons and races in South America? Let’s take a look.
26 September – 2 October 2021
250km (7 days)
Another desert race established in 2004 as part of Racing The Planet’s 4 Deserts Series, the Atacama Crossing takes competitors across the Atacama Desert in Chile, the driest place on earth (it is 50 times more arid than California’s Death Valley!)
Runners get to explore the desert’s uniquely bumpy terrain. However, it’s the heat that will get to you in this race: with peak daytime temperatures pushing 40°C – combined with an altitude of 2,500m in some parts – this is one tough physical challenge.
In true Racing The Planet style this is a self-supported, 250km race over seven days in one of the most remote yet culturally rich locations on the planet. Runners travel through chilly canyons, over sand dunes and onto flaming hot salt flats, truly experiencing the range in climates!
It’s not the cheapest race around, but Racing The Planet offer some of the most unique experiences of a lifetime.
The Jungle Ultra
6-10 June 2021
230km (5 days)
Another well-known race, The Jungle Ultra forms part of the Beyond The Ultimate series. It’s described by the organisers as “a 230km race split into five stages of suffocating jungle undergrowth, river crossings and cloud shrouded mountain valleys.” So, there you go.
Set deep in the Manu National Park within the Amazon Rainforest, arguably one of the last places on earth that hasn’t been changed by human interaction. This is a unique event as runners explore the untapped wilderness of the Amazon Rainforest. The route covers an unspoilt expanse of boiling jungle and breath-taking cloud forest, which is only accessible in parts by boat, making this one of the least accessible areas on the globe.
Runners will travel through rainforests, over the Andes mountains, and to the Madre de Dios River. Deep mud and plenty of river crossings alongside a not-so-well-trodden path come with the territory of this race, so make sure you are up for it. If you are, this is a memory that will stay with you for your entire life.
14 January 2021
The Brazil135 Ultramarathon is a “sister race” of the infamous Badwater 135 in Death Valley, California (featured in our best ultramarathons in the US article).
Brazil135 takes runners down the Caminho da Fé (Path of Faith), on one of the more challenging sections. Similar to The Jungle Ultra, competitors get to explore a unique part of the Amazon Rainforest. The route crosses the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains which have the Andes to one side and the only extensive coastal rainforest in southeast Brazil on the other.
The route is marked with yellow arrows, so no need to worry about getting lost. The terrain is varied with stretches of dirt roads, forests, waterfalls, asphalt, trails within farms, and railroad tracks.
The race was first started in 2006 with 10 competitors of which just four managed to finish – a sign of how hard the organisers were willing to make this race. While the event is still small, with most years only attracting 70 racers, it is still a unique race with much to offer.
23 April 2021
136km (2 days)
Ultra Fiord is an international trail running event situated at the southern tip of the Chilean Patagonia. Competitors compete in single-stage races or over two days with the option to choose between a variety of distances from 21km to 136km.
Whatever distance you opt for, you caneexpect some serious racing with some serious elevation!
Runners will get to see some of Chile’s most impressive fjords (long, narrow inlets created by glacier erosion over thousands of years). Competitors travel up and down the mountains and between the fjords, making for some varied terrain with the course traversing mountain passes, rivers, peat bogs, rocks, and glacier crossings.
Chicamocha Canyon Race
15 June 2021
The Chicamocha Canyon Race was Columbia’s first internationally recognised ultra marathon. Now in its eighth year, there are a selection of distances available from a half marathon up to the big 100 miler, the latter of which attracts over 800 runners.
The race starts with competitors heading north into the ravines and forests before entering the Chicamocha Canyon, with its historical towns and ancient road to explore.
Since 2019, new trails and roads have complemented the beauty and harmony of the route with a high technical difficulty, and the inclusion of arid zones, forests and endemic flora species of the canyon, such as the pot-bellied ceiba.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to join, perhaps six shiny UTMB points for anyone who finishes the full distance will.
Special Mention: The Falklands Ultra
9-19 April 2021*
While the Falklands aren’t quite in South America, we wanted to include this new ultramarathon as it is the first of its kind on the islands.
The 2021 race will be the first edition of this brand new single-stage ultra, offering marathon, 100km and 100 mile distances. Competitors get a week-long experience of the islands, following the route taken by British armed forces to retake the islands. The route winds its way through the main island, from east to west, covering famed sites such as Goose Green and the capital port Stanley. Runners also get some great views from the top of Mt Osborne, the highest point in the Falklands, at 705m above sea level.
This adventure does come at an expensive £5,450. However, it is an all-inclusive event from flights, to accommodation and food, so no need to worry about anything other than completing the race.
*Since publication, this event has unfortunately been postponed and will now take place on 18-28 March 2022.
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