NO PAIN, NO GAIN: 5 of the most tenacious endurance challenges in Europe

If you’re into pushing your body to breaking point, smashing through extreme pain barriers, and forever finding new physical limits – then this one is for you.

Extreme endurance challenges can be found scattered across Europe. With a daunting mixture of arctic climates, scorching temperatures, sub-zero waters and staggering mountain ranges, the continent plays host to a multitude of ruthlessly sublime events that make us question…

How far can humans really push themselves? Here’s five of the best to whet your appetite…

Dragon’s Back Race

Dragon’s Back Race in Wales is an absolute monster.

Runners set off on their daunting 303km mission from Conwy Castle to Carreg Cennen Castle filled more with hope than expectation. In both 2012 and 2015 less than half of participants completed all five days of the event – and there was no shortage of DNFs in 2017 either.

From Mt. Snowdon to the Black Mountains, those brave (or foolish) enough to take on Dragon’s Back will find themselves scaling menacing precipices, battered by the harsh Welsh weather conditions and pushed to their physical brink.

Entrants are forced to self-navigate their way along a brutal route which includes 16 back-breaking kilometres of ascent and an average 61km run per day.

In their downtime? Camping is the only option.

This has to be up there with the most demanding races on the planet.

For more info visit:

Next event: 20th – 24th May 2019


Gigathlon, Switzerland

This weekend-long Swiss event brings us to the heart of Alps.

Unique in that its course and location change each year, Gigathlon incorporates five endurance disciplines: mountain biking, alpine trail running, track running swimming and cycling.

This jamboree for endurance junkies really pushes the limits of what we think to be humanly possible. Only the most steadfast participants will defeat the course which, after a rough night’s sleep under canvas, they’ll have to take on all over again come sunrise!

“They (particpants) overcome mountains, canyons, lakes and expanses, defying wind and weather. The focus is not on the times and ranks, but on the adventure, the shared experiences, the spectacular stories.” –

Gigathlon has become so popular in mainland Europe that the Czech Republic and Mexico now host their own Gigathlon events. It’s going global!

Next event: 29th June – 7th July 2018

For more info visit:

Isklar Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, Norway

Many consider Norway’s incredible Iron Man race to be the ultimate triathlon event.

The race sits firmly on the bucket list of any hardened triathlete and positions Northern Europe as one of the rawest, most uncompromising regions on the planet.

Brainchild of Paal Hårek Stranheim, Norseman Xtreme was born from passion, vision and ambition for triathlon and a desire to:

“…create a completely different race, make it a journey through the most beautiful nature of Norway, let the experience be more important than the finish time, and let the participants share their experience with family and friends, who will form their support. Let the race end on top of a mountain, to make it the toughest full distance triathlon on planet earth.”

Limited to only 250 competitors, the exclusivity of the event makes it an even more attractive prospect to those looking to conquer the extraordinary.

The colossal 225km race kicks off with a 4 metre drop into the freezing Hardangerfjord and a 4km, sub-zero swim to shore. Next competitors face a mammoth 180km cycle, before running a complete marathon that reaches crazy altitudes – finishing atop the 1850m summit of Mt. Gaustatoppen.

Next event: 4th August 2018

For more info visit:

Tor des Geants, Italy

Tucked away in Italy’s spectacular Aosta Valley. The Tor des Geants is ‘the first race to cover an entire region’. Stretching from the foot of Mont Blanc, through the expansive Gran Paradiso and the Mont Avic Regional Parks this week-long ultra run is pretty special.

“The Tor des Géants is the first and only race to combine long distance with the individual style of runners: the organisation does not impose any compulsory stages, and the winner makes his or her own decisions on when and how long to stop for rest and refreshment.” –

With few restrictions and a maximum 150 hour completion time, this event is not only the longest race on our list, but also a true test of grit, experience and know-how.

Tor des Geants delivers both beauty and brutality. Those who complete the insane 330km course are as close to superhuman as you’re ever going to get.

An astonishing achievement for anyone.

Next event: 9th – 16th September 2018

For more info visit:

Enduroman Arch to Arc, England/France

London to Paris. Not too far right? It might seem further if you decide to run, swim and cycle the route… all in one go.

Only 24 people have ever completed this merciless 466km triathlon.

Arch to Arc starts with an 140km run from the Central London Marble Arch to Dover. Entrants then face the renowned 35km swim across the English Channel to Calais. Before taking on the gargantuan 291km bike ride to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

With an average finishing time of around 100 hours Enduroman really does take it to a different level. The physical and mental discipline needed to finish the challenge is unimaginable to most.

Those who do will become part of an incredibly exclusive club. That’s for sure.

Next event: N/A

For more info visit:

Take a breather

That’s it! Our rundown of some of Europe’s fiercest endurance challenges.

Unbelievable settings and tenacious terrains lay ahead for anyone planning to take on even one of these endurance challenges. And be aware that many of these events have strict entry conditions, so it’s important to put in the training hours before you take the plunge!

Want more? Discover 5 more gutsy endurance challenges here.