5 of the World’s Most Extreme Winter Races

©istockphoto/HalfpointMarathon rac­ing has become some­thing of an epi­dem­ic across the world as of late, with for­mer couch pota­toes and sea­soned ath­letes alike com­pet­ing for glory.
If you’re look­ing for a chal­lenge, then con­sid­er con­quer­ing what the lazi­est run­ners out there won’t even touch: extreme win­ter rac­ing. Here are a few of the most epic, and ardu­ous, win­ter races in the world.

Alas­ka Moun­tain Wilder­ness Clas­sic | Some­where in the Alaskan Wilderness
The Alas­ka Moun­tain Wilder­ness Clas­sic tra­vers­es rough­ly 150 miles across our country’s most rugged land­scape. Run­ners typ­i­cal­ly flank the north­ern foothills of the Alas­ka Range past the awe-inspir­ing peaks of Mount Hayes and Mof­fit, though there’s not a pre­scribed route accord­ing to race orga­niz­ers. Glac­i­er cross­ings, sub-zero lakes and unpre­dictable weath­er are just some of the chal­lenges fac­ing com­peti­tors look­ing to win this race. If you’re not the run­ning type, it also makes for a great mul­ti-day back­pack­ing trip.

Idi­tar­od Trail Invi­ta­tion­al | Knik Lake, Alaska
The Idi­tar­od Trail Invi­ta­tion­al fol­lows the orig­i­nal route of the Idi­tar­od Trail—and is not for the faint of heart. This ultra marathon com­bines foot rac­ing, fat bik­ing, and ski­ing across 350 miles of one of the world’s fiercest cli­mates. If you’re tough enough to sur­vive the frozen tun­dra once, you’ll qual­i­fy for the 1000-mile race. It begins in Knik, Alas­ka and cross­es over the Alas­ka Range into McGrath.

6633 Arc­tic Ultra | Yukon Ter­ri­to­ry, Canada
Imag­ine rac­ing 350 miles non­stop across an icy, snowy land­scape while pulling a sled full of sup­plies behind you as you go. That’s what you get when you tack­le the 6633 Arc­tic Ultra. Now enter­ing its ninth year, this arc­tic endeav­or pits win­ter dare­dev­ils against one anoth­er from the Cana­di­an vil­lage of Inu­vik along the Ice Road to Tuk­toy­ak­tuk. If you can’t hack the dis­tance, they offer a short­er ver­sion that stops after 120 miles.

The Last Desert | Antarctica
In case you think a race with the word “desert” in the title wouldn’t qual­i­fy a win­ter endeav­or, the Last Desert actu­al­ly takes place in Antarc­ti­ca. It’s the final leg of the infa­mous 4 Deserts series that tack­les the Gobi, Ata­ca­ma, and Sahara deserts. In order to com­pete you have to have suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed at least two of the pre­vi­ous events. If you qual­i­fy you’ll find your­self engaged in a mulit-day race across a polar land­scape with min­i­mal equip­ment. The race route is cho­sen based on ter­rain, dif­fi­cul­ty, and views, so you’re def­i­nite­ly in for a treat.

Baikal Ice Marathon | Siberia, Russia
The Baikal Ice Marathon near Irkut­sk, Rus­sia might not be the tough­est race on the list, but it cer­tain­ly is unique. Part of the annu­al Baikal “Win­te­ri­a­da” fes­ti­val, the race takes run­ners across the frozen sur­face of the world’s deep­est fresh­wa­ter lake. With sur­faces rang­ing from snow to slip­pery ice as smooth as a hock­ey rink, run­ning across the ter­rain is tricky and only for the extreme­ly sure-foot­ed. The land­scape is bar­ren and the wind strong, so main­tain­ing your focus and com­plet­ing the race is high­ly depen­dent upon sheer willpow­er and strength of mind.