I’m sharing 13 awesome trail races for you to dream about and sign up for. There’s no better way to inspire or motivate than to show you what you can do in the future.
Training for a trail race can be hard. You need endurance, strength, and even survival skills.
The fun and excitement of a trail outweigh the hardships by far, and seeing awesome trail races will help you embrace the challenges and enjoy every part of it.
Why Trail Running Is So Cool
Connect With Nature
Running for hours on a trail builds something stronger than a runner’s high. On top of those endorphins, your lungs are filled with natural, fresh air.
While listening to birds and feeling the varying textures of the trail under your feet, you’ll feel something undeniably amazing.
You’re a Wilderness Survivor
Or at least you feel like it! Roughing it in the outdoors during an ultra marathon or stage race adds to the exhilaration of completing such an impressive task.
Learn About Foreign Countries in a Unique Way
Instead of sightseeing and guided tours, running an international trail race gives you a unique experience of the country you’re visiting. You get to connect with the landscape and meet locals who are also running the race.
Related: 6 Benefits of Trail Running
The 13 Craziest, Most Beautiful Trail Races in the World
1. Manaslu Mountain Trail Race, Nepal
Almost circumnavigating this eighth highest mountain in the world will take 7 race days.
The Manaslu Mountain Trail is a multi-stage race, which means you run with your own light pack, while the staff carries all your equipment for camping and preparing food.
This race is no easy feat. With a total distance of 130 km and elevation at over 11,000 feet high, you’ll have to fit into a select group of runners to qualify.
During this race, you’ll get to
- Sleep in a monastery
- Run above a glacier
- Peer down over the wild nature of Tibet
- Run the mountain range of the Himalaya
- Experience a variety of mountain trails and valleys
- Meet local people at mountain homes throughout the week
- Help sponsor a single-stage race for children on one of the trails (The organization puts it on each year.)
This race happens every year, and this year will be in November 2020.
2. Ultra Paine, Chilean Andes
The Ultra Paine offers a variety of competitive distances: 14K, 35K, 53K, and 80K races, and the entry requirement is open to all fitness levels.
The trails are located outside of the Torres Del Paine National Park and converge at the southern tip of Patagonia. All distances will finish at Villa Serrano.
During this race, you will experience
- Running in the continent’s extreme southwest, a prime location in Patagonia
- Seeing the Great Southern Ice Field
- Confront a restless and unpredictable climate
- Connect with the Torres Del Paine National Park
- Climb an altitude of 3,220 meters (for the 80K race)
- Visit Chilean towns like Puerto Natales
The 2020 race will happen in December this year.
Related: What Is Skyrunning?
3. Tengri Ultra Trail, Kazakhstan
This race route takes place near the Tamgaly-Tas National Park along the Ili river in Kazakstan. It also has a variety of distances to choose from: 15K, 35K, and 70K.
Things you’ll enjoy in this race:
- History: petroglyphs are carved in the cliffs. You can reach out and touch them.
- A rocky canyon
- A sand dune
- Green, thick bushes
- An open plateau with fields of poppy flowers
The next race will take place in October 2020.
4. China Mountain Trails
The China Mountain Trails organization heads up an ultramarathon in the mountain trails of China every year. Each year is a different destination covering the scenery in China’s great nature.
This year’s marathon has been canceled, but in 2019, the run took place in Devil’s Ridge. There were 2 distances: 25K and 60K.
Every year offers a unique location, mapped out by experts who have been running in Asia for many years. Be sure to check out their event for next year to inspire you on a diverse and challenging adventure.
5. Kaveri Trail Marathon, India
This 13-year old race started out as a training run for the Bangladesh ultra marathon. The trail was harder than the Bangladesh trail, with the philosophy, “Train hard, race easy. People loved it so much that they turned it into its own annual race.
The trail runs through rural areas along the Kaveri river. As you run, you’ll pass through paddy and sugarcane fields and see local people working on their farms along the side of the path.
6. Inca Trail, Macchu Picchu
Seeing this archeology will grow your appreciation for Native South Americans and what they’ve done for cultures around the world today.
The terrain on this trail ranges from 18,000 to 13,777 feet high, with camping supplies carried by the trail staff. The most exciting part of the run will be viewing the famous “Lost City” along the Inca Trail.
7. Don Diablo Trail Run, Mexico
The Don Diablo Trail Run is one of the best trail races in Mexico.
It covers terrain in the Sierra Cacachilas and supports locally run businesses at the same time. The medals at the end of the race are made from Mesquite wood, and the trails are taken care of using eco methods like erosion control and water retention techniques.
At the end of the race is an optional beach party to celebrate the finish of your run. This race has distances of 35K and 54K.
8. Laugavegur Ultramarathon, Iceland
Most famously known for the Northern Lights, Iceland has incredible nature to offer all over the country. The Laugavegur Ultramarathon is run in Souther Iceland and the trail covers the southern highlands. That same 55K trail connects two gorgeous national parks: Landmanalager and Thorsmork.
Because of the harsh climate in this area, these national parks are only serviced for a few weeks out of every year. So running the Laugavegur trail is a true privilege.
9. Dolomites Ultratrail, Italy
The Dolomites are part of the UNESCO World Heritage, which means caring for this cultural landmark isn’t taken lightly.
The ultramarathon trail is run on public trails with a variety of landscapes. The area leading to the mountains themselves is green and full of vibrant colors. The mountains are rocky and bare, with lots of interesting critters like marmots.
Running in the Dolomites is an experience you shouldn’t do without because of the individual wonders hidden all over the huge expanse of mountains.
10. Kilimanjaro Stage Run
You’re not likely to forget about this adventure in your lifetime. The Kilimanjaro stage run lasts 8 days, circling around the entire mountain at 260 kilometers in total.
This trail is a run, not a race. There will be areas you’ll need to walk. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet people living near the trail and hosting runners, so you’ll gain immersion in Tanzanian culture.
The trail itself has been used for hundreds of years by local people and is still in use today. Don’t be surprised if you see mules carrying your gear along the way.
11. Morocco Trail Race
Get to know the central Atlas mountains with the Morocco Trail Race. Any level of runner can do the race since the distances start at 10K and go up to 110K.
You’ll be running through trails in and above the Atlas, experiencing the differences in temperature between the desert heat and the cold of the high altitudes.
The race starts in the Happy Valley, which many claim to be the place where time stops.
12. Canadian Death Race
This race challenges you to “Cheat death in one of the world’s toughest ultramarathons.”
Extreme athletes have to push themselves to finish this one. The trail crosses over 3 mountain summits in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, gains 17,000 feet of elevation, and passes the Hell’s Gate Canyon over the Smoky and Sulfur rivers.
13. Baikal Ice Marathon, Russia
Run across the world’s deepest, coldest lake in the middle of winter. This frozen lake is covered in ice rubble, making the terrain bumpy and uneven. While it’s mostly covered in a small layer of snow, there are portions that are more like an ice rink.
The race is physically and psychologically demanding since the landscape offers very little variety. You won’t have any perspective of progress as you run through the snow, except for mile markers every 5 kilometers.
Many people prefer to run in a more diverse area but the mental stamina and sense of accomplishment you gain are unmatched.
Training for Your Own Trail Race
It’s impossible not to see these incredible marathons and NOT sign up for one yourself. If you’re just beginning your trail running adventure, read some essential advice and get the proper gear to do your training right.
And of course, you need a plan of action. To train mentally and physically for these challenging but rewarding races, download one of our customizable ultramarathon training plans and hit the trail.