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Six of the World's Most Extreme Races From Antarctica to Morocco

By Kristen Rodman, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer.
April 7, 2014; 3:58 AM ET

While most avoid or take refuge when the weather is too hot or cold, some athletes actually thrive on the challenge of tackling extreme temperatures and weather conditions.

Battling temperatures down to minus 40 F, as high as 120 F and with as much as 100 percent humidity, below is a list of some of the toughest running races in the world due to weather extremes.

The Antarctic Ice Marathon

A typical 26.2-mile marathon, this race takes place at the South Pole in November. Over the course of the competition, runners deal with average temperatures between 0 and 10 F.

However, November temperatures in this region are known to drop as low as minus 30 to minus 40 F, according to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Eric Leister.

While it's typically dry during this time of the year, generally about 5 inches of snow fall throughout the month. However, the most unusual element that participants must cope with is the 24 hours of daylight that the South Pole experiences during this time of year. As this may be beneficial during the actual race, it can alter sleeping patterns before race day.

Marathon des Sables

Known as the "Marathon of the Sands," this April event encompasses approximately 150 miles of desert as competitors race through the largest desert in the world, the Saharan Desert, in Morocco.

Aside from April temperatures in the mid- to high 80s during the day and the 50s at night, athletes have to survive sandstorms, snakes and other potentially poisonous creatures.

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Run in six stages, the competition requires each entrant to provide his/her own food and sleeping bag, as well as the race's mandatory kit and equipment list, which includes a compass, lighter, knife with a metal blade, an anti-venom pump, salt tablets and a distress flare.

Since its inception, some runners have been put to the ultimate test of staying alive, running far off the marathon course and into the vast, parched landscape. During the 1994 race, Italian racer, Mauro Prosperi, got lost after a sandstorm, placing him miles off the course. Before finding a group of nomads traveling through the area, Prosperi ate bats and scorpions to stay alive, according to an article on Men's Running.

The Jungle Marathon

Hosted in the Tapajos National Forest in the Amazon, on the banks of Rio Tapajos of Para, in northern Brazil, this October competition offers three distances for racers to chose from. Ranging from a normal marathon distance to nearly 157 miles, the race is measured by terrain opposed to miles.

With morning humidity around 100 percent, competitors have to withstand average temperatures in the 90s, all the while avoiding falling on slippery, muddy terrain and getting bite and stung by various Amazonian animals and insects.

Although water is provided at checkpoints, athletes must ration out their food and provisions for the entirety of the race. Rationing must be done carefully as RealFeel® temperatures can reach between 120 F and 130 F, putting athletes at risk for various heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration and heat stroke.

Badwater Ultramarathon

It's another hot and sunny day in Death Valley National Park, Calif., in April 2013. (Photo/Kristen Rodman)

Allowing only 90 runners in total, this July's 135-mile ultramarathon begins in the lowest and driest area in North America, Death Valley, Calif. With the starting line at Lone Pine, Calif., the selected athletes run over three mountain ranges ascending more than 19,000 feet over the course of the race.

Finishing at the trailhead of Mt. Whitney, athletes struggle through intense summer heat averaging between 115 and 120 F in the middle of arid, desert valley. Although average July temperatures usually average around 117 F, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in the world with a record of 134 F, set on July 10, 1913.

The North Pole Marathon

Taking place in April at the top of the world and known as the "World's Coolest Marathon," this race forces runners to tackle sub-zero temperatures while racing to the finish line.

Racing atop frozen water, athletes are exposed to average temperatures of minus 12 F and low temperatures of minus 20 F. However, the lowest April temperatures in this area have been recorded as low as minus 42 F.

The 4 Deserts

A series of four separate seven-day footraces, known as the 4 Deserts, brings athletes approximately 115 miles across the world's largest and forbidding deserts in the world, according to the race's website.

As competitors travel throughout the year to each race, athletes travel to tackle the Atacama Crossing in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Saharan Desert in Jordan and Antarctica. Each competition requires participants to support themselves on their journey, carrying their own food and equipment the entire time.

With the upcoming race in China, June 1 to June 7, 2014, athletes will not contend with the typical desert landscape as the Gobi Desert consists of rocky terrain and grasslands. Ranging in elevation from under 3,000 feet to over 9,000 feet with high temperatures in the 80s, this desert presents various challenges to its contestants due to rapid changes in elevation.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kristen Rodman at Kristen.Rodman@accuweather.com, follow her on Twitter @Accu_Kristen or Google+. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.

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