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.
Ultra marathons are any events longer in distance than a marathon (42.2km). However, as there is no upper limit, the range in event can vary significantly. Whilst there are now some insanely challenging races held across the globe, there are also many much more accessible events also classed as ultra marathons.
In this series, we’re looking at all events under the ultra marathon category: single-stage, multi-stage, 100 mile and more, to consider which are the best ultra marathons in the world in 2021 and which events need to be on every runner’s bucket list.
In this article, we take a look at the best races in Asia.
Ultra X Sri Lanka
20-27 March 2021
250km (5 days)
How else could we start this list other than showing off Ultra X Sri Lanka?! Now in its second edition after the cancellation of the 2020 race due to Covid-19. This five day multi-stage ultra marathon is the only event of its type in a country nicknamed ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ and it takes competitors through tea plantations, 10,000 year old rainforests and down rushing rivers.
During this week competitors will get to experience in full the place, the people and the beauty of this iconic country, steeped in rich history and colour.
Note: since the publication of this article, the 2021 edition of Ultra X Sri Lanka has been cancelled. The next race is due to take place on 19-26 March 2022.
Ultra X Jordan
2-9 October 2021
250km (5 days)
Ultra X Jordan (previously Wadi Rum Ultra) takes place in the land of Lawrence of Arabia, the vast Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. The mystical desert course takes competitors past historic sites, into dramatic wadis and over magnificent sand dunes.
Wadi Rum’s nickname is “The Valley of the Moon” and participants will quickly see why. Its landscape, characterised by unique towering rock formations, is truly mind-blowing, as is the challenge. As locations go, this place is unrivalled in its beauty.
Everest Trail Race
Set against one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring backdrops on the planet, the Everest Trail Race ranks as one of the most unique multi-stage ultras in the world. The ETR is a partially supported multi stage ultra marathon, with a change in altitude of more than 28,000m!
Runners carry their clothing and sleeping bag over the course, whilst the organisation supports them with food, accommodation and logistical support throughout the race. Entry doesn’t come cheap at £2,570 (without flights), but for breathtaking views of not only one, but several, of the world’s tallest mountains it might be considered a snip to some…
18-27 June 2021
250km (7 days)
This seven day footrace covers 250km across the world’s largest and most dangerous desert. Competitors will weave their way across wide Mongolian steppes, sand dunes and great rock valleys as they cross the varied course. The race makes its way across the battlefield of Genghis Khan towards the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of the Orkhon Valley and further to the ancient city of Karakorum, and, at times, competitors will sleep in traditional Mongolian Gers.
If that’s not enough to get your heart pumping, runners must deal with extreme temperature fluctuations, braving the heat of the desert as well as extreme cold, wind, and even snow — all on the same route!
Hong Kong is rammed full of exceptional ultra marathons. With so many to choose from, we have decided to give you a selection of the best.
The Vibram Hong Kong 100 Flex replaces the regular Vibram Hong Kong 100 which has been cancelled due to Covid-19. The organisers have put on a virtual race to keep their competitors running. Racers need to complete a 100km run in one hit or in stages with prizes for the fastest runners.
9 Dragons Ultra had their 2020 event cancelled but will be up and running for 2021. The 9 Dragons Ultra encompasses three races over one weekend, with the winner of at least two of them crowned the ninth dragon. If you are looking for a race with something different about it, this is the race for you.
The HK4TUC takes place over Lunar New Year, at which temperatures are ideal for ultra running. The race takes runners over the four best trails in Hong Kong — the MacLehose, Wilson, Hong Kong and Lantau trails. This is an unsupported race with no checkpoints. If you actually manage to get to the end within the 60 hour cut-off, you are deemed a “finisher”, and if you finish in under 72 hours, you are a mere “survivor”.
Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji
23-25 April 2021
The Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour and is a hit with well-known ultra runners. Starting out at Ohike Kouen, the race covers the entire circumference of Mt. Fuji through undulating mountain trails, local footpaths and forest roads. In order to complete the race, runners head counter-clockwise into Kawaguchiko, Fujikawaguchiko-cho, and then into Yamanashi Prefecture.
The race can accommodate up to 1,400 runners, but it’s a serious task. In 2015, when over 1,300 started, only 564 finished. This is not a race for first timers! Having said that, the 360-degree view of world heritage site, Mt. Fuji, available from the trail is enough to tempt anyone to enter.
Special Mention: Gaoligong by UTMB
Gaoligong by UTMB is the ‘daughter race’ of the ‘Olympics of trail running’ Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, (UTMB), itself a global festival of the sport held in the Alps around Chamonix in France. The event is based around one of most famous Taoist mountains in China in the Sichuan province and the gateway to Tibet.
Finishing the 100 mile distance gives runners a guaranteed entry to the coveted UTMB — a dream for most trail runners. So, if that is your goal, why not combine it with a trip to China’s most popular tourist destination?
Note: this race is a ‘special mention’ as the 2021 edition has been postponed until 2022.
Special Mention: Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA)
13-16 May 2021
In the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales this 100km course is an absolute belter. In a country that boasts some of the world’s most spectacular scenery and wildlife, the Blue Mountains National Park is the most beautiful region of the lot. The World Heritage Area makes for a stunning ultra marathon, steeped in rich aboriginal history.
Now the largest trail run in the Southern Hemisphere and third largest globally, UTA has developed over its 14-year history into an inclusive and iconic trail running festival across four incredible days.
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