Written By KIT O CALLAGHAN
Kit is a recent Broadcast Journalism graduate and our newest placement student. An outdoor enthusiast, he gets stuck in to all things sports media; most recently covering mountaineering, American football, and ultra running.
THE TEN BEST 100 MILE RACES IN THE WORLD
Running 100 miles to most people, seems like an impossible challenge. Whether by a lack of motivation to keep going, injury, or simply a lack of training, many fall short of this ambitious goal. However, when an event is truly incredible, it provides everything someone will need to reach that
mythical finish line. Here is your list of the very best of the best. The top 10 100 mile races on planet Earth.
Western States Endurance Run
Home to many of the best ultra marathon’s in the world, including the newly launched Ultra X Nevada, we start this list in the USA. First up is the world’s oldest 100 mile trail race (and possibly the best 100 mile race in the US), The Western States Endurance Run. The route, unchanged since 1986, takes you from Olympic Valley, California all the way to Aubern. On the way you’ll experience the majestic high country of Emigrant Pass and the Granite Chief Wilderness, vast canyons made famous from the gold rush, a freezing cold dip in the icy waters of the Middle Fork of the American River, and finally the historic reddish brown trails that led many travelers, including gold prospectors, to Auburn. Such is the prestige of this event, a ballot must be entered in order to gain a place on the start line, and only around 10% of first time entrants are successful.
The Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc (UTMB World Series Finals )
Regarded as the most competitive trail ultramarathon in the world, the UTMB World Series Finals has to make the list. The race features nearly 3000 runners, most through a ballot, as well as the world’s best ultra runners, including Jim Walmsley, who smashed the course record this year, and Ultra X’s World Champion, Tom Joly, who finished 1st Brit and 16th overall. It takes in the very best of the Alps, following the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc, and is the pinnacle of ultra running for many of those who dare to undertake it.
Everest Trail Race
Take everything I said at the start about how the best races provide you with what you need to finish, and forget about it. This race is one of the hardest 100 mile races; it is BRUTAL. With 28,000m of elevation change over the course (equivalent to climbing Everest from sea level over 3 times), and reaching altitudes of above 4000m, this is truly a test of mental and physical fortitude. To add to the challenge, competitors must carry their sleeping bags and clothing with them over the whole course, while the organisers help with their tents and food. The one remedy to the extreme difficulty, is that just like Ultra X Nevada, this event is multi-stage. Competitors complete the course over 6 days, with the longest stage usually around the 37km mark.
Heading back to the US of A for the Vermont 100. Located on the other side of this vast country, this race includes both horses and runners! The route includes a mix of dirt roads, horse tracks, and even crosses over 30 pieces of private property that only give permission to use over the race weekend, meaning you’ll have an exclusive course! It also features no major climbs, or technical trail. If you’re looking for the best 100 mile races for beginners, this race is probably the most beginner friendly on our list. One of the best features of this race is its inclusivity, and it is the first trail race to formally recognize visually and mobility impaired runners in their own awards category: Athletes with Disabilities (AWD).
Grand Raid de la Reunion
If exotic locations are your thing then these next two races are for you. Starting with the Grand Raid De La Réunion which takes place on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The race attracts over 2000 people across its 3 distances, and the 100 mile course includes 10,000m of elevation gain. It is certainly not one for the faint of heart though, and the race has sadly seen 3 deaths since its inception, including 2 in 2002.
The Hurt 100
Organised by the Hawaiian Ultra Running Team (HURT) and taking place on the island of O’ahu, runners face 5 laps of tropical trails in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet. Sadly, the race is limited to just 135 runners each year so getting a spot in the ballot is no easy task. For those lucky enough to gain an entry place, you’ll face semi-tropical rainforest, 20 stream crossings, and around 7,500m of vertical elevation gain.
Ultra Trail Snowdonia (UTS)
The only UK event to make the list, UTS takes in all the best parts of Snowdonia National Park over a lopped course starting and finishing in Llanberis. Another race with around 10,000m of vertical elevation gain, and very technical climbs, it presents a good challenge for those looking to get into more technical trails. Run by UTMB, finishing the 100 mile ultra marathon will also earn you 4 race stones that can be used to enter the ballot for the UTMB World Series Finals.
Ultra Tour de Monte Rosa (UTMR)
Founded and organised by Lizzy Hawker, a multiple UTMB World Champion, this race offers an entirely different, and truly authentic experience whilst still taking in the breathtaking scenery of the Swiss Alps. This race starts and finishes in Grächen, Switzerland, and unlike UTMB, has a maximum of just 300 runners. This allows for a truly majestic mountain experience without the noise of competition.
Chicamocha Canyon Race
Arguably the best 100 mile race that South America has to offer, the Chicamocha Canyon Race has something for everyone. Over 106 miles you will experience towering canyons, river crossings, historic towns, and both arid and tropical areas. It is still Colombia’s only 100 mile race, and the perfect place to quench your thirst for adventure!
Hardrock 100 Endurance Run
One final stop in the USA for the notorious Hardrock 100. Set in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the Hardrock 100 is dedicated to the memory of the miners who settled in the area and built the mining trails which much of the race is run on. To add to the challenge, the race is run at altitude, with the ‘lowest’ point, Ouray, at 7,680ft and the highest point, Handies Peak, at 14,048ft. It’s not uncommon for there to be snow and ice on route, and runners will often fall foul of altitude sickness and have to withdraw.
You may also like…
Looking for the ultimate challenge on incredible terrains? From desert, to mountain to the salt pans of Botswana we list the top 10 ultra marathons in Africa.
Sam is one of the work placement students here at Ultra X. He is an International Business student at Loughborough University and loves all things sport, recently trail running and rugby. He has always had a keen passion for the outdoors and loves being at our events!...
We’ve compiled the best ultra marathons and ultra races in the UK for 2024. Everything from beginner ultra marathons to seriously advanced races. A deep dive into dates, distances, and terrains!