There's a great YouTube video floating around called the evolution of dance. It shows the progression of dance from the '50s and '60s up through the '90s to today. It's always interesting to see how things change. Music and dance has certainly gotten more risqu? and, in a sense, more extreme. Funny but this got me to thinking about fitness events and how they've done the same. In the '70s we had marathons; the '80s saw triathlons; the '90s adventure racing; and in the new millennia we're seeing events that combine all of this with even the possibility of death. Here are some of my favorite extreme events I've completed and others that are definitely on the racing bucket list. What's on yours?
Running with the Bulls
While this is not an extreme endurance event, it certainly is extreme. I recently traveled to Pamplona, Spain in July after my 40th birthday for the annual festival of San Fermin. It's absolutely insane. The partying up to the running is comparable to Mardi Gras. On the first day of the event, thousands of would-be runners pack the street while dressed in the traditional all-white garb. The first firecracker goes off at 8 a.m. and the race is on. About 90 percent of the people jump over or under the fence immediately. The rest make a mad dash down the 823m course to try to get to the stadium where even more awaits. In the stadium, they let smaller bulls out to have fun with the crowd. This is certainly an intense rush and a must-do for any adrenaline junky.
The Badwater 135 or the Marathon des Sables
Both events are extremely long runs done in outrageously hot climates. The Badwater 135 is a non-stop 135 mile run across Death Valley which goes from the lowest point in the US, Badwater, to the Mt. Whitney portals. I've run this race twice and have seen temps on my car thermometer reach 140 degrees. I've even gone through seven pairs of running shoes because the soles of my shoes have melted off.
The Marathon des Sables is a 152 mile 6-day staged race across the Sahara desert in Morocco. If running a marathon isn't tough enough, imagine waking up in the desert and running one every day for a week. I remember points throughout the course where we traversed sand dunes taller than the Appalachian Mountains. Which is tougher? It's really hard to say. They're both extreme in their own wonderfully painful way.
Texas Water Safari
I haven't done this one yet, but it's certainly on the list. This is a 260-mile boat race down the rivers of Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. Considered to be the World's Toughest Canoe Race, participants have 100 hours to complete it but cannot leave their boats. This is the equivalent of paddling 10 marathons. Need a break from running? Here's your answer. You better get to work on that upper body.