A- Z of Challenges

I commenced this post in 2012 as a personal A- Z wish list of events to participate in. At the outset some letters were already taken & the events attached to them fixed because of how much I enjoyed them. U for example, can only ever be taken by Ultraman. For other letters I drew on recommendations, reputation & the power of google to complete my list. Since its first draft the list has evolved with the last update being completed in February 2015. Whilst this is a personal list that reflects my interests & the type of challenges I enjoy please feel free to submit your recommendation or nomination for a particular letter.

I will add links to my experiences of the events as I tick them off. Hopefully these accounts & the links to the events themselves will excite & inspire. Toeing the start line of events like this requires a certain level of curiosity but the rewards can be immense.

A: Atacama Crossing 250km, 7 days in one of the driest places in the world

B: Badwater billed as the toughest footrace in the world. This is an ultra run that is 135m long, starts in Death Valley & takes runners to Mount Whitney. The lowest to the highest point in the United States. This is not a pay as & you go event. You have to qualify & the qualification process is stringent. To complete in this event would be amazing. 

C: Canarian Ultras!?!? This is a bit of a 'cheat' but I have now enjoyed taking part in ultra runs on 5 of the Canary islands: El Hierro (Maraton del Meridiano), Gran Canaria (Trans Gran Canaria), Lanzarote (Haria Extreme), La Palma (Trans Vulcania) & Tenerife (Bluetrail). Each island has its very own unique character & each event will present you with a challenging course. All of the events have been exceptionally good value, well marked & well supported islands on which they were held. For a brief overview of each event please visit my blog Project Canary.

D: Davos Swiss Alpine Mountain Marathon The biggest alpine ultramarathon (79.4km) in the world (shorter options are available). I have enjoyed the 42km option but still need to tick off the full distance.

E: Eco Challenge De Paris An 80km trail race that finishes at the Eiffel Tower. (shorter options are available)

F: Furnace Creek 508 This 508-mile bicycle race has a reputation for being a tough but gratifying endurance challenge with its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery, & desolate roads.

G: Goretex Transalpine Run Teams of 2 run for 8 days on the Alps through 3 countries. A truly amazing run which I was fortunate enough to enjoy in 2009.

H: Haria Extreme This is a nother revision to my original list following my participation in the 2014 event. The 'full' version is 57km of trails on Lanzarote with some significant climbs thrown into the mix. I found the organisation on the day to be impeccible & worth the effort of  navigating my way around the website.

I: 'Iron' distance triathlon ... I have included this as a generic entry for any triathlon that comprises a 2.4m swim/ 112m bike/ 26.2m run because of the pleasure & satisfaction I have gained on completing such races combined with the vicarious sense of reward I gain from my athletes whom I coach to compete at this distance. There are now many events for athletes to choose from that cover this distance.

J: Jungle Marathon, Brazil. I completed this race in 2008. The actual course changes each year but what you can expect is a challenging multi- day stage run. The full event is c. 240km. The running is tough & your feet will get wet & sore!

K: Kili[man]jaro I was simply going to put Mount Kilimanjro for K, which would be amazing in itself, but then the wonders of google found me this 'event' which includes scaling Mount Kilimanjaro (not raced), a 2 day 190km mountain bike race & then the Kilimanjaro marathon. How cool would that be!

L: Le Grand Raid Based on Reunion Island. Three race options are available. The big one is won in about 22hrs, the cut off is 64 hours! This is an event I want to do for a lot of reasons, a lot.

M: Mozart100  This race is based in Salzburg. I have now enjoyed this event three times (2012, 2013, 2014) & will be returning for more because it is a well organised, friendly event in a beautiful setting. A range of race distances are available to suit everyone

N: Neolithic Marathon .. Why? What? Quite simply it is a really pleasant trail marathon My first ever marathon & I have returned to it a couple of times. I like it, so its on my list.

O: Otillo swim/ run. This event takes place in Sweden & competitors cover a total of 75kms as they swim between & run across 26 islands (10kms of swimming & 65kms of running) 

P: Pikes Peak Marathon This is NOT just a marathon, it involves 13miles going up Pikes Peak just outside Colorado Springs & then 13miles back down. It is a classic event.

Q: Queen Charlotte Ultra Marathon I thought I might struggle to find an event for the letter Q but this ultra marathon passes through undisturbed lush coastal forest in the Marlborough Sound Area New Zealand.  The route & views look stunning.

R: Ring o' Fire  Anglesey Coastal Marathon This is a 131 mile (3 stage) coastal ultra marathon that circumnaviges the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales. It follows the rugged and spectacular Anglesey Coastal Path. It looks good to me! 

S: Spartathlon I crewed for a friend in this race a few years ago. At that time I said never...., but time affects the memory.  The route follows in the footsteps of Pheidippides who, legend has it, ran from Athens to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. So maybe..

T: TransPyr This is challenging but hugely rewarding multi- stage mountain bike race. The route takes riders across Spain via the Pyrennes & it's is organised by my good friends Oriol & Francesc. There is also a road based option for those who prefer narrower tyres. 

U: ULTRAMAN I was fortunate enough to participate in Ultraman Canada & Hawaii in 2006. It remains the most special event I have ever been lucky enough to be involved in. The event spans 3 days & involves: Day 1: 10km swim, 145km bike; Day 2: 276km bike & Day 3: 84km run, but there is much, much more to Ultraman than these numbers. Do it.

V: Verdon Canyon Challenge, France Regrettably not the best website but there are 3 race distances to choose from, 30, 50 & 100km all set in the Verdon Canyon which looks stunning.

W: Wild Run This is a 3 day ultra run in South Africa that was recently enjoyed by two of my coached athletes. On the basis of their feedback & the images from the event website this looks like an event to enjoy

X: Xtrinacria .. This is a new (2014 will be 1st Edition) long distance off road triathlon set in Sicily. The event is being organised by the Alessi brothers, it will therefore be an amazing event.


Z: Zofingen Switzerland. This is part of the Powerman Duathlon Series. The Long Course event comprises a 10k run, followed by a 150km bike & rounded off with a 30km run. The course is breathtaking (in every way). The crowd support amazing. The organisation superb. A must do.


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