When you’re cycling through the same monotonous gym routine, day-in and day-out, the motivation to pump out a ton of reps every morning starts to wane.
That’s where adventure fitness challenges come in. Not only do they help you set some fresh activity goals, but they take your training to far-flung corners of the globe, so you can test your mettle in some of the world’s most remote, awe-inspiring landscapes.
Forget lifting weights at the local leisure centre; these brutally brilliant events will push your strength, endurance, and mental resilience to new levels. Here’s what to sign up for this year.
Iceland Coast to Coast
Known for its belching hot springs, snow capped peaks and celestial displays, Iceland is the ultimate location for dipping your toe into multi-sport racing this year. Covering an epic 30 miles on foot, 201 miles on bike, and 12 miles rowing a packraft, this eight-day trek crosses the entirety of Iceland, starting in the far north and traversing right through the centre of the country to the bitterly cold south coast.
On the way, you’ll pass glaciated and volcanic backdrops, ice caps, rivers and lava fields, with a few dozen frozen waterfalls thrown in for good measure. The crowning jewel in this race is the famous Laugavegur trail, a long-distance mountain path that’s consistently rated among the best hikes on earth. Organisers Rat Race say a good level of fitness is recommended, and you’ll need to feel comfortable with off-road biking before taking the plunge to sign up.
10-17 August 2024; ratrace.com
Not a fan of solo adventure? Gather some friends and kick off your training for Wilderness Traverse, a 24-hour adventure race through the Canadian Shield backcountry. In this event, groups of three or four participants go head-to-head, using a mix of walking, biking, and canoeing to reach the finish line.
Teams receive a map and compass, and they have just 30 hours to navigate through a series of checkpoints on a challenging course. This involves crossing rivers, cycling through dense forests, and avoiding getting stuck in wet, muddy marshland. With numerous roads and routes available, you and your team will need strong navigation skills to steer clear of getting completely lost in the wilderness.
28-29 September 2024; wildernesstraverse.com
The Exuma Files
If wading through muddy bogs and freezing rivers isn’t your thing, look no further than the Caribbean for your next fitness escape. More specifically, the Exumas, a remote and largely uninhabited chain of tiny sparkling islands in the Bahamas, nestled on the far fringes of the Caribbean Sea.
Part of the fabled Bermuda Triangle, this string of islands and cays hosts an annual multi-sport race called The Exuma Files. While largely focused on the use of ocean-going sea kayaks to power your way across almost 250km of the island chain, the race begins with a gruelling half-marathon distance on foot – no simple task in the baking heat.
There’s also a beach run along the Tropic of Cancer Beach, which (you guessed it) runs right through the Tropic of Cancer line of latitude. With bathtub-warm waters, white sand beaches, and wild swimming pigs, it may look like paradise, but don’t be fooled – this is a challenging race that demands full-body strength, power, and endurance.
15-22 May 2024, ratrace.com
The Great Fjord Swim
Wild swimming is all the rage right now, so why not put your skills to the test in Ireland’s Killary Fjord? This emerald-coloured beauty spot hosts an annual 3.9km swim, with hundreds of amateur and professional swimmers taking to its waters. Yes, it’s incredibly chilly, and no, we can’t promise it’ll feel like a Mediterranean dip (temps can drop to as low as 12 degrees), but the well-documented health benefits of swimming in cold water are a decent trade-off.
If you’re still working on building up your long-distance swimming, there are shorter routes to choose from, including a 2km and 750m race. One thing’s for sure, you’ll want to pack your wetsuit.
7 September 2024, galwaytourism.ie
Race to the Wreck
As one of the most accessible desert regions on the planet, the Namib is a great place to cut your teeth in the torturous but impressive art of dune running. Equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, this route will see you race 300km by fat bike and foot across Africa’s arid dune formations. The finish line? The Eduard Bohlen shipwreck; an eerie, rusted hulk of a boat that was wrecked on the Skeleton Coast in 1909.
Anyone who has jogged on vacation will know that beach running is no easy feat; it requires way more energy than pounding the regular pavement, as the sand provides added resistance for the large lower body muscles. Even if it seems like a breeze on paper, this epic journey is a lot more challenging than you think.
3-10 November 2024; ratrace.com
Dragon’s Back Race
If you thought a standard 26.2-mile marathon sprint was tough, it’s got nothing on the notorious Dragon’s Back race. This towel-bitingly brutal mountain chase sees participants run 315km, scaling a number of tough ascents that cumulatively add up to twice the height of Mount Everest. Split over five days of running, Dragon’s Back takes its name from the unusual race route, which traverses across the rocky ‘spine’ of some of Wales’ most famous mountain ranges, including Snowdon, Cadair Idris, and the forebodingly named Black Mountains.
Not for the faint-hearted, this event is just as much about physical strength as it is mental endurance. In fact, it’s not unusual for even the most experienced mountain runners to bail out in the early stages, making it one of the toughest fitness challenges on the planet. We’ll race you to the finish line.
2nd-7th September 2024; dragonsbackrace.com