Bekannte Ultramarathon Trailläufe

Well known ultra marathons

What makes a well-known Ultramarathon (short: Ultra) unique? Is it the number of participants, the unique atmosphere or the number of DNFs (“did not finish”), because it is super technical? Is it the landscape, the difficulty of the route or the climate in which the event takes place? 


You realise there are many possible criteria for how to classify an ultra. We once tried to collect the ultras that come in our mind relatively quickly when it comes to well-known and extraordinary events. We are aware that this is a purely subjective list of known ultra races and we are happy if you help us to complete the list. Note: in order not to let the list explode, we initially refrained from mentioning for example 24-hour-races. 


Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB)

In fact, the UTMB is a running series, with the UTMB being the main run at the end of the event. However, the UTMB is also synonymous for the entire event. The event has become the highlight of the season for many trail runners. During the festival week, eight runs take place, one for children and one originally only for volunteers and locals. The small town of Chamonix in France, is packed with runners and the atmosphere is quite energetic. For days, runners flow in to the finish, who have spent many hours and partly nights in the mountains and still have (or precisely because of that) a huge smile on their face, sometimes also a few tears in their eyes — out of luck, pain, exhaustion, anything possible! During peak times, there is usually a huge party at the finish line, which is normally only seen at big city marathons. If you are not yet infected by the magic of sport, we strongly recommend coming to Chamonix at the end of August. And it is also possible to meet some big names of the sport. 

For those who love  the familiar atmosphere in the many small ultras, this week can be a shock. No second thought, the UTMB is a huge event with a great atmosphere and incredible trails. Due to the popularity, there are basically much fewer starting places than registrations, so the frustration level to not get a starting spot is high. The changing qualification conditions at the moment make it quite difficult to understand which points, or running stones are necessary in order to have a chance to register at all. Furthermore, the appearance of Ironman as the (new owner) since 2021 is not undisputed. 


Main race: UTMB, 168 km, 10.000 m

Type: Round course

Location: France, Chamonix


Tor des Géants — TOR

The TOR is of a completely different caliber. The main course goes over 330 km and 24.000 m of vert. The technical challenging trail leads to a high percentage of DNF every year. Despite the enormous challenge with which the Tor des Géants is waiting for its participants, he is quickly booked out every year. Most runners are on the road for several days before you make it to the finish line. The mountains at the TOR are pretty challenging. The whole thing is definitely not a run for beginners, you should rather have a few years of experience in your legs and be mentally very strong. 


Main race: 330 km, 24.000 m

Type: Round course

Location: Italy, Courmayeur


Western States 100

The roots of the Western States goes back to a 100-mile horse race, the Western States Trail Ride, which took place for the first time in 1955. Gordy Ainsleigh was the first person to walk the 100 miles in just under 24 hours in 1974 beacuse his horse was lame. The Western States 100 Endurance Run was born. 


To get a spot at the Western States, you must have completed a qualifying race and either have lots of luck in the lottery or get a Golden Ticket, that means you need fast legs. Again, the atmosphere must be great and the whole spectacle has to be a big party. Every year, only a limited number of runners are allowed to start, as a national park is crossed which is protected by the limitation. Almost every big name in trail running has completed the run before — with more or less success. However, no one comes close to Scott Jurek, who won the race seven times in a row and has always waited until the last runner has crossed the finish line. Jim Walmsley currently holds the record at 14:09:28. The Western States is a very fast run, which is also due to the fact that it has more downhill than uphill (approx. + 5.500 hm vs. -7.000 hm) and is quite runnable. 


Main race: 161 km, 5.500 m

Type: Point to Point

Location: Olympic Valley, California


Diagonal des Fous (=Diagonal of the weirdos) — Grand Raid

If you believe the reports, the annual run on La Reunion must be the folk festival on the island. The diagonal of the Fous takes place regularly in October on the tropical island. The run passes through the jungle and various climatic zones. During the day it can be hot and muggy at the sea and in the evening wet and cold in the mountains. It is also a very technical trail. So if you tend to have two left feet, you might want to think about starting here. 


Main race: 165 km, 9.576 m

Type: Point to Point

Location: La Reunion


Marathon of the Sables (MDS)

The MDS is unlike the previous runs a multi-day stage run. In 7 days you need to cover a distance of 250 km. Sounds simple at first, if the terrain wouldn't be the Sahara desert in Morocco. The heat and loose sand are the biggest opponents in this endurance run. Since there is no on-site infrastructure, it has to be brought to the desert by support teams as a whole. The field now includes almost 1,200 participants and it has also a pretty high entrance fee. You also have to bring your own food and carry it on your back for the entire time. So if you're the guy who likes to walk in the sand for hours in high heat (up to 42 degrees), that’s your race. 


Main race: 250 km, n/a hm

Type: Point to Point

Location: Ouarzazate in Morocco


Dragons Back Race

It calls itself the toughest race in the world. This ultra race is also a multi-day excursion. In total, the 380 km must be completed in 6 days. Often only a quarter of the starters arrive at the finish line. Wales shows off its most beautiful country side. In some cases, the run is guided through areas where there are no official routes, i.e. in accordance with the tradition of fell running. Therefore, a good navigation is also necessary, if you are not  accompanied by an other runner who knows the trail. Compared to the MDS, the climate is rather cold and wet, so you should adjust to a beautiful muddy terrain that will make running very exhausting. Apart from that, Wales is also a very technical terrain, so it is guaranteed that you are allowed to spend many hours on your feet every day. 


Main race: 380 km, 17.400 m

Type: Point to Point

Location: Conwy Castle, Conwy


Km Vertical de Fully

The vertical KM from Fully is a very short run, which is why the description of this run is also short. With an average slope of 51 %, it is ensured that you will spend the entire time in your threshold limits. How long this will last only depends on your willingness to dig deep. 


Why is that in this section? Because several times the top ultrarunners take the challenge. 


Main race: 1.95 km, 1.000 m

Type: Point to Point

Location: Fully, Switzerland!/up


Comrade’s Marathon

There is hardly any ultra race that has a more moving history than the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. With 20,000 starters, it’s also the biggest ultra nowdays and it’s damn fast. Whoever wins the race is celebrated in South Africa as a national hero. Especially if it’s a countrywoman or a compatriot. 


Depending on the duration required, there are different categories of medals. In addition, all runners who won three times, won five gold medals or successfully completed the run ten times in a certain time will be honoured with a permanent starting number. The race itself changes direction every year. The streets have to be as full as a city marathon and the atmosphere is supposed to be more than omitted. The ultra race runs almost consistently on roads and is therefore not technically a challenge, if it would not be done by damn fast runners and ambitious cut-off times. 


Main race: 87 km, 1.000 m

Type: Point to Point, changing direction

Location: Durban and Pietermaritzburg


And many more...

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