Participating in overseas sporting challenges, such as triathlons, marathons, and treks, has many benefits. Of course, it can be a thrilling and rewarding experience in itself, as well as bringing plenty of health advantages. However, it also has longer-term positives, such as a lasting sense of accomplishment and boosted self-esteem from proving to yourself what you’re capable of.
Before embarking on any overseas challenge, it’s crucial to train adequately, understand the physical demands, and consider the potential impact of factors such as altitude and climate. You should also consult with a healthcare professional to confirm that you are physically prepared to push your body to new limits. Many challenges require participants to not only be physically fit but also mentally resilient and capable of adapting to the unique conditions presented by the specific environment of each event. Proper training, equipment, and understanding of the challenges involved are essential for a successful and safe experience.
Here’s a guide to some of the best overseas challenges, from ultramarathons to walking challenges for charity.
Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii
The Ironman World Championship in Kona is one of the world’s most iconic triathlons, alternating between all-male and all-female events each year. It includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon that’s 26.2 miles long. Participants generally aim to complete the course in under 17 hours. In 2023, it was won by Britain’s Lucy Charles Barclay. Next year’s event, the men’s race, will be on 26th October.
Challenge: Endurance is key, as athletes must excel in swimming, cycling, and running.
Comrades Marathon in South Africa
The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon run in South Africa; one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious ultramarathons, it’s been taking place since 1921. It alternates direction each year between Durban and Pietermaritzburg and covers approximately 56 miles. The race must be completed within 12 hours. Tete Dijana won the 2023 race for the second consecutive time. In 2024, the 97th edition will take place on Sunday 9th June.
Challenge: Endurance, especially considering the distance and the changing elevations.
Trek to Everest Base Camp, Nepal
This trek takes you through the breathtaking landscapes of the Himalayas, passing through Sherpa villages and reaching an altitude of 17,600 feet at Everest Base Camp. It typically takes about 12-16 days, depending on the route. The trek features panoramic views of Everest, Ama Dablam, and other majestic peaks.
Challenge: Altitude sickness, challenging terrain, and variable weather conditions.
Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu, Peru
Combining trail running with Inca history, this marathon leads runners through the Andes Mountains. Starting at an elevation of 8,650 feet, runners take in breathtaking landscapes, including cloud forests and ancient Inca ruins, before finishing at Machu Picchu. The marathon typically takes one day, but the entire trek can last four days. In 2024, it will take place on 24th April.
Challenge: High altitude, uneven terrain, and steep ascents and descents.
Swissalpine Marathon, Switzerland
The Swissalpine Marathon offers various race categories, including a challenging 78 km ultramarathon through the scenic Swiss Alps. Depending on the chosen category, the time is usually between a few hours to a full day. The 2024 edition of the oldest marathon in Graubünden will take place in July.
Challenge: Alpine terrain, elevation changes, and unpredictable mountain weather.
Great Wall Marathon, China
This marathon takes place on the Great Wall of China, offering a unique and challenging course with steep climbs and dips. The marathon starts in the Yin and Yang Square and leads runners through picturesque villages, before confronting the formidable Great Wall sections. Participants usually aim to complete the marathon within eight hours. In 2024 it will take place on 18th May, returning for the first time since 2019 after being cancelled due to SARS and Covid-19.
Challenge: Uneven steps, steep inclines, thousands of steps and the overall challenging course.
Kilimanjaro Summit, Tanzania
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a non-technical trek to the highest peak in Africa. The summit push involves a challenging ascent to Uhuru Peak, at 19,341 feet. Ascending through five ecological zones, trekkers pass through lush rainforests, alpine meadows, and glaciated landscapes. There are various routes, with Marangu and Machame being popular. The total time ranges from five to nine days, depending on the route.
Challenge: Altitude, varying climates, and physical endurance.
Patagonian Expedition Race, Chile
Known as the ‘Last Wild Race’, this expedition race takes participants through the remote and stunning landscapes of Patagonia. It includes trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, and navigation. Enduring extreme weather conditions, from relentless winds to unpredictable storms, participants must exhibit exceptional endurance, teamwork, and survival skills. It can last from four to 10 days, depending on the edition and route. In 2024, it will unfold from 22nd October to 1st November.
Challenge: Endurance and survival skills are tested as participants navigate through challenging terrains, including dense forests, icy rivers, and unpredictable weather conditions.
UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc), France, Italy, Switzerland
UTMB is one of the most prestigious ultra-trail races, circumnavigating Mont Blanc through France, Italy, and Switzerland. It offers several race distances, with the longest being around 170 kilometres. The main UTMB race has a time limit of 46 hours. The next event will be on Friday 30th August 2024.
Challenge: The race demands extraordinary endurance as participants tackle mountainous trails, steep ascents and descents, variable weather conditions, and high altitudes.
La Haute Route, Various Locations
La Haute Route is a series of multi-day, point-to-point cycling events in different locations, including the Alps, Pyrenees, and Dolomites. It typically spans seven days, with challenging mountain stages. In 2024, it will return from 25th-31st August.
Challenge: Cyclists face gruelling mountain stages, covering significant elevation gains and descents over several consecutive days.
Jungle Ultra, Peru
This ultramarathon takes place in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, challenging participants to run through dense jungle terrain and across rivers. It lasts for six days, covering approximately 230 kilometres. It will next happen on Sunday 2nd June 2024.
Challenge: Runners endure extreme heat, humidity, and challenging jungle terrain, including river crossings and dense vegetation.
Run on King George Island, this marathon is one of the most unique and challenging races, taking place on the frozen continent of Antarctica. Participants aim to complete the marathon within a set timeframe. The date for next year is 3rd November.
Challenge: Participants face extreme cold, icy conditions, and the unique challenge of running on the frozen continent of Antarctica.
Sahara Marathon, Algeria
A multi-stage desert race in the Sahara, participants navigate through the dunes, rocky terrain, and vast expanses of the desert. It lasts several days, covering a marathon distance each day. The 2024 event will be on 28th February.
Challenge: Endurance is tested in the harsh desert environment, with participants covering marathon distances each day over multiple stages.
Lavaredo Ultra Trail, Italy
This ultra-trail race takes place in the Dolomites, offering stunning views and challenging mountainous terrain. The race is around 120 kilometres long, and participants aim to finish within a set number of hours. The next one will be hosted on 26-29th June.
Challenge: The race traverses challenging mountainous terrain in the Dolomites, testing participants’ endurance, strength, and trail-running skills.
Yukon Arctic Ultra, Canada
This winter ultramarathon takes place in the frozen wilderness of the Yukon Territory, facing extreme cold temperatures. Participants can choose from various distances, including 100 miles and 300 miles. In 2024, it will start on 4th February.
Challenge: Bitter temperatures and the vast, isolated region of the Yukon present physical and mental challenges over extended distances.
Marathon des Sables, Morocco
Known as the ‘toughest footrace on Earth’, this multi-stage ultramarathon takes participants through the Sahara Desert, covering over 250 kilometres. It lasts for six days, with participants transporting their own gear and food. It will next unfold from 12th-22nd April 2024.
Challenge: Known for its extreme conditions, racers endure scorching temperatures, vast sand dunes, and the need to carry all their essentials for self-sufficiency.
Badwater 135, USA
Another event describing itself similarly as the World’s Toughest Foot Race, the Badwater 135 takes place in Death Valley. Ultrarunners have to run 135 miles through extremely high temperatures. It’s typically completed within around 48 hours. In 2024, it will be on 22nd-24th July.
Challenge: Extreme heat, steep elevations and drops, and the overall harsh desert environment.
The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica
A multi-day trail running race along Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline, featuring a variety of terrains from beaches to dense jungle. The race spans multiple days, with participants covering around 230 kilometres. In 2024, it will be staged from 10-17th February.
Challenge: Heat, humidity, river crossings, and technical trails present physical and mental challenges.
Ultra-Trail Australia 100, Australia
This premier trail running event is held in the town of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. It features steep hills and technical sections through lush rainforests, rocky escarpments, and scenic valleys, with iconic landmarks such as the Three Sisters. Participants usually aim to finish within 24 hours. In 2024, it will be on 18th May.
Challenge: The rugged terrain and changing weather conditions test participants’ endurance and trail-running skills.
Tor des Geants, Italy
A 330-kilometre trail race in the Italian Alps with significant elevation gain, taking participants through stunning landscapes and mountain passes. This challenging race typically takes several days to complete, with most participants finishing within 70-80 hours. The next event will be on 8-14th September 2024.
Challenge: Extreme distance, elevation changes, and the demanding mountainous environment.
The Raid, France
Starting out as Raid Gauloises, The Raid is a multi-day adventure race held in locations around the world, with disciplines such as trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, and navigation. The duration can vary from several days to over a week, depending on the specific event. The next event will be held in France from 29th June to 6th July 2024.
Challenge: Endurance, teamwork, and a range of outdoor skills are tested in challenging and unpredictable environments.
Grand to Grand Ultra, USA
A self-supported ultramarathon that covers 170 miles from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Staircase, featuring desert landscapes and challenging terrain. Participants aim to complete the 170-mile race in around six days. The 2024 event will commence on 22nd September.
Challenge: Self-sufficiency, long distances, and varied desert conditions.
The Ice Ultra, Sweden
A multi-day ultramarathon in the Arctic Circle, where participants run through snow and ice-covered landscapes. The race covers a total distance of approximately 230 kilometres. The next Ice Ultra will be on 20th February 2024.
Challenge: Extreme cold, icy conditions, and the unique experience of running in a winter wonderland.
What challenges can I do for charity?
Participating in challenges for charity can be a fulfilling and impactful way to combine personal achievement with giving back to the community. When selecting a charity challenge, consider your interests, fitness level, and causes you’re really passionate about, as this will help you find the drive required to complete it. Many charities organise or partner with events, giving you the opportunity to fundraise on their behalf. You can also explore virtual fundraising platforms that make it easy for supporters to contribute to your chosen cause.
Here are some charity challenge ideas you might be interested in.
Charity walks or runs
Many organisations host charity walking challenges or runs to raise funds for various causes. These events often include 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons. Depending on the distance, they typically last between a few hours and a full day.
Join a charity cycling event or organise your own cycling challenge to raise funds for a cause. This could involve covering a specific distance or cycling through challenging terrains. This can range from a day to several days, depending on the distance and difficulty.
Participate in a swimathon where individuals or teams swim a certain distance to raise funds for charity. You can join an organised event or create your own swimming challenge. They typically last a few hours, depending on the distance.
Plan a hiking challenge where you cover a significant distance or climb a specific peak. Encourage friends and family to sponsor your hike for a charitable cause. The duration can vary, from a day hike to a multi-day trek.
Obstacle course races
Join an obstacle course race, such as a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race, and use the opportunity to raise funds for a charity of your choice. Races can vary, but they usually take a few hours to complete.
Skydiving for charity
Take on a skydiving challenge and encourage friends, family, and colleagues to sponsor your jump to support a charitable cause. The jump itself is brief, but the overall experience includes training and preparation.
Participate in a virtual challenge, where you set a personal fitness goal (running, walking, cycling, etc.) and seek sponsorship to support a charity. They typically run for a set period, allowing participants to complete their goals at their own pace. You can also join in official online events such as the Heroes Virtual Challenge, which requires 100k to be completed in any way you like, over the course of a month.
Charity Combine Challenge
The Combine Challenge is unique in that it defies categorisation under any other type of charity event. It requires you to steer a combine harvester under the guidance of operators for a charitable cause, bringing together agricultural prowess and philanthropy. Participants actually harvest crops during the challenge, benefitting local charities focused on hunger relief or sustainable agriculture.
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