Are you tough enough? Discover the top 10 hardest running races in the world

runner in a desert
Where or what is the toughest race on earth? (Image credit: Getty)

A scientific study claims to have discovered the toughest running races in the world.

Research from virtual running challenge brand Rokman has analysed a host of information, including distance, elevation gain, temperature and energy expenditure to create a list of the 10 hardest foot races on earth. 


Races, such as the Moab 240, were assessed for distance, elevation and heat (Image credit: Getty)

Ultra running races analysed

Toughest running race by distance

The six-day 380km (236 miles) Dragon’s Back Race in Wales and the non-stop Moab 240 are top of the league for long-distance running races. Meanwhile, in third place is the Wild Horse 200, which is another non-stop long-distance race of 200 miles that also takes place in Wales.

Toughest running race by elevation

The Tor des Geants is a mountainous French race, whose name translates to “Tours of Giants”. Runners on the non-stop course have to climb a massive 78,740ft (24,000m) of total ascent.

The Dragon’s back Race has a total climb of 57,086ft (17,400m) and comes in second in the elevation league table, while  the infamous Barkley Marathons has 60,000ft (18288m) of ascent if runners complete it.

Toughest running race by temperature

Races were accessed for high temperatures. The Badwater 135 has a reputation for being hot, as does the Marathon Des Sables, while the Everest Marathon also records some very high temperatures. 

Toughest running race by energy expenditure

The researchers looked at calorie burn overall and listed the top three as the Tour de Geants, The Dragon’s Back Race and Moab 240.

nicky spinks and Paul Tierney

Nicky Spinks was third female in one of the world's toughest races, the Tors des Geants  (Image credit: Sarah McCormack)

tour du mont blanc

The Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc was rated as sixth toughest race in a top 10 in the world (Image credit: Getty)

Top 10 world’s toughest running races

In the end, the analysis focused on calories burned per mile to access the world’s toughest foot races. While not the longest race, The Barkley Marathons causes an average calorie burn of 162 per mile. Next came the Tor des Geants, followed by Badwater 135 in third place. 

1) The Barkley Marathons (162 calories per mile)

2) Tor des Geants (153)

3) Badwater 135 (149)

4) Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run (136)

5) Hurt 100 Trail Run (129)

6) Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (128)

7) Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon (128)

8) Dragons Back Race (117)

9) The Plain 100 (114)

10) The Eastern States 100 (113)

Rokman founder, Terry Rosoman, said: “Obviously, this is just a theoretical data study, however, it's great to get some way towards finding the world's toughest race once and for all. 

“I hope it sparks a dialogue between people to further discuss their thoughts, feelings and experiences on which race they believe is the toughest in the world.” See Rokman for more information.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.