Connecticut marathon runner Heber Alonzo Meraz provides a closer look at several of the world’s toughest and most feared endurance races.
From the Peruvian jungle to the Arctic Circle, Texas native and seasoned marathon runner Heber Alonzo Meraz takes a closer look at some of the world’s toughest and most incredible endurance racing events.
“While traditional marathons and obstacle course events have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, the toughest and most enduring runners and athletes are now turning toward the world’s most difficult endurance races in search of new challenges,” reveals Meraz, a keen marathon runner originally from Texas who’s currently settled in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
On the face of it, he says, many of these races seem truly impossible. Yet, each year, the planet’s most enduring runners and athletes travel across the globe to compete in such events, over distances ranging from 100 to more than 3,000 miles.
Meraz first highlights Washington’s Pacific Northwest Plain 100. Each year, just 35 individuals are permitted to partake in the event which sees runners tackle 100 unsupported miles across remote trails and forest tracks. “Since the race began in 1997, only 100 or so people have ever finished,” he reveals. What’s more, on four occasions to date, not a single runner was able to complete the challenge, according to Meraz.
Next, he turns to the five-stage Jungle Ultra, held in Peru. “Over more than 140 miles, runners must tackle the sweltering humidity of the Peruvian jungle, crossing around 70 rivers and streams in the process,” Meraz reveals.
The course descends some 10,500 feet to reach the jungle floor. “Here,” adds Meraz, “in addition to 100 percent humidity and dozens of river crossings, those brave enough to take on the challenge must also face the Peruvian jungle’s abundance of bugs, insects, and other creatures if they wish to reach the finish.”
At the other end of the spectrum is the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Challenge. “Only 15 or so people are brave enough to attempt the annual Alaska Mountain Wilderness Challenge each year,” explains Meraz.
Established in 1982, the challenge entails facing more than 100 miles of the Alaskan wilderness. There’s no route, and GPS is not permitted. Instead, those brave enough to partake must simply trek toward a predefined finishing point, unaided by maps or modern technology. “Race veterans have compared the event to combat,” adds Meraz, “and at least one participant has lost their life undertaking the challenge.”
Heber Alonzo Meraz also highlights New York City’s so-called ‘Self-Transcendence’ race, a 3,100-mile, 52-day undertaking consisting of 5,649 laps around a single city block in the Long Island borough of Queens. “Around 4,000 miles away, meanwhile, the 6633 Ultra,” he adds, “is an 8-day, 350-mile, self-supported race across the Arctic Circle between the Yukon and Northwest Territories which only a dozen or so people have ever finished.”
Meraz, however, intends to stick to less extreme, less life-threatening races, at least for now. “I’ll be running this year’s Eversource Hartford Marathon in Hartford, Connecticut, on October 12,” he adds, wrapping up, “which I’m very much looking forward to.”