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Born to Run: The World’s Toughest Ultra Marathons

Were you born to run? According to bestselling author Chris McDougall, yes. McDougall believes that humans are designed to cover great distances on foot, an idea that is backed by many scientists.

While we might not outrun a sprinting cheetah, we might be more than capable of running down a gazelle (well, some of us). And as if that wasn’t incredible enough, human ability to run long distances doesn’t deteriorate with age nearly as fast as other physical capabilities.

Now that you know that you were destined for ultrarunning, here are the five toughest and most beautiful ultra-marathons you can start training for today. (That is, as long as you’re not scared of what runners call the pain-cave …)

The Copper Canyon Ultramarathon
Made famous by McDougall’s book “Born to Run,” the first Copper Canyon Ultramarathon was organized to preserve the culture of the running tribe of the Tarahumara people. They tackle the 47-mile race across a technical terrain in sandals made of old tires and often outrun athletes equipped in all the latest tech.

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
The UTMB starts and finishes in the Alpine climbing mecca of Chamonix. The route and its length change slightly every year due to varied conditions in the high mountains. Usually the runners cover 100 miles with over 30,000 feet of elevation and the fastest manage it in under 20 hours.

Leadville Trail 100
Organized in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Leadville Trail 100 is regarded as one of the mentally toughest foot races. The hardest part of this prestigious run is the climb up Hope Pass which reaches more than 12,000 feet. Participants have to do it not once but twice over the course of the race.

Marathon des Sables
Marathon des Sables takes its participants through 154 miles of Sahara desert where the sand is so fine that it’s almost impossible to run. Although the pace might be a little slow, with temperatures over 100 degrees, this run is one of the most serious in the world. So far, three runners have passed away on the course.

Badwater Ultramarathon
The Badwater Ultramarathon prides itself on being "the world's toughest foot race" and it might well be true. It is definitely one of the oldest as its course was first established in 1964. Back then it was intended as a hike, but it was run less than a decade later. Before succeeding, Al Arnold took five attempts to complete the course. He managed it in just over 80 hours. The current record at 21:56:32 belongs to Pete Kostelnick.

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