6 Jungle ultras you just have to try

Last updated: 30-Sep-16

By Alice Morrison

Mountains? Tick. Desert? Tick. 100milers? Tick. Snow and Ice? Tick. Multi stage? Tick. This is where your crazed, travelling ultra runner starts to scratch their head as they look round for a new challenge. Look no further. It is time to take on the jungle ultra. 100% humidity guaranteed, mud where you don’t want it, raging rivers, ancient rainforest, flora and fauna and not all of it friendly. What could be better? Here are our top six.

Jungle Ultras

Photo credit: The Coastal Challenge.

6. The Coastal Challenge (Costa Rica)

It has coast in the title but believe us, you will find plenty of  jungle in here.

Known locally as the ‘Rainforest Run’, the TCC is a stage race, run every year along Costa Rica’s lush and tropical Pacific coastline. Part jungle, trail and alpine race, the TCC is an assault course of topography. Weaving in and out of the Talamancas – a coastal mountain range spread across the southwest corner of the country  – prepare to cover a demanding 236km over six days.

It has it all – mountains, rainforest, highlands and coastal ranges. You will run along gorgeous beaches, past reefs; wade through tantalisingly clear river estuaries and up and over barren rocky outcrops until you reach a Unesco World Heritage site, the Corcovado National Park. The park is home to one of the world’s oldest and untouched rainforests.

Photo credit: The Jungle Marathon.

5. Jungle Marathon (Brazil)

It calls itself the “world’s wildest eco race” and has been going for twelve years. The Jungle Marathon offers three distances: a marathon, a 4 stage 127km race and a 6 stage 254km race. The course looks pretty tasty and includes swamps, river crossings, steep climbs and descents, village trails and fluvial beaches. Of course you have to face the heat and the wet but it is well within the realms of any competitor who has a strong mental mindset.

The training advice on the website is great, “Most people who don’t live in the tropics don’t have access to a running machine in a humid environment so they will be forced to train in normal circumstances and then simply acclimatise once they get to Brazil. That said do seize every opportunity to train in the heat if you can, be it a heat chamber, a hot climate or simply wearing lots of layers of clothing. Over the years competitors have come up with ingenious ways of simulating the environment, including putting a treadmill in the hot house of a garden centre. “

Yaboty 2016 (Argentina). Photo credit: Patricia Pérez Gasquet.

4. Yaboty Ultra Marathon (Argentina)

This multi-distance marathon takes place in Argentina in El Soberbio in the Misiones province in the north east of the country. Hardwood logging (and subsequent reforestation) and agriculture are the main ways that people earn a living in this remote region. One to visit before it changes.

The big race is 100km but it also has:

  • 60k Half Ultra Marathon
  • 42k Marathon
  • 21k Half Marathon
  • 10k Short

3. The Kokoda Challenge

This is a really interesting ultra as its roots are in Australia’s history. The event comes out of the resistance put up by the Australian Diggers in World War 2 against the Japanese army during the Kokoda campaign in Papua New Guinea which helped to prevent an invasion.

Teams of four race the Kokoda Challenge 96km through the Gold Coast hinterland with a time limit of 39 hours to honour the 39th Militia. You need to be tough to take this one on.

2. HURT 100

When you think of Hawaii, you may envision tropical beaches, gentle sea breezes, a cocktail or two and maybe a grass skirt and wild shirt, well put those right out of your head and focus on 100 miles of pain.

HURT 100 takes place in January in the mountains and jungle above the city of Honolulu, island of O‘ahu, state of Hawai‘i. Here are the stats:

  • 100 miles over 5 laps (partial out and backs) in a semi-tropical rain forest.
  • 24,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain (and 24,500 feet of cumulative loss) over the course of 100 miles.
  • 99% single-track trails, 1% asphalt.
  • Moderately packed soil, generously interspersed with roots, rocks, puddles, and mud wallows.
  • Narrow trails through forest, along exposed ridges, and past vertical embankments. • 20 stream crossings (four per lap).
  • Three aid stations per lap.
  • 36-hour time limit.

1. Jungle Ultra

There was never really any serious contender for first place in this category. It has to be the Jungle Ultra in Peru run by Beyond the Ultimate. It is a 230km, five-stage event through jungle trails, mountain roads and village tracks. The race is self-sufficient and you’ll be carrying your own hammock, sleeping bag, food and supplies for the entire race. You can get water (minimum) 2.5 litres along the way at check points and base camps.

You descend from Cloud Forest down to the Amazon Jungle. This is a beautiful run through virgin forests, and encounters with wildlife and the numerous tribes of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest make it really special.

Of course, it is the jungle so you will face humidity levels reaching near 100%. According to the organizers this, “makes sweating useless in maintaining your core body temperature, leaving you saturated for extended periods of the race, and indeed when you finally reach camp.” Yep, that makes it tempting!

"raging rivers, ancient rainforest, flora and fauna and not all of it friendly. What could be better?"

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