These are the 7 coldest running races ever

The South Pole, the North Pole – you can’t get much colder than these.
By Alison Mann

Running a marathon or ultra, let's be fair, can take it out of you. But to do this in temperatures of -40C? That’s some extreme conditions right there.

We’ve found the most eyebrow-freezing running races out there – and they’re pretty chilly.

So grab your thermals and take a look at these icy, extreme races.

If you find some running inspiration, check out the Wings For Life World Run, which takes place all over the world in May.

More: The world’s seven hardest winter races

1. Run at the top of the world 

The North Pole Marathon is the coldest, and most northerly marathon
Tackling the North Pole Marathon © North Pole Marathon

Race: North Pole Marathon
Location: The name says it all, the North Pole
Temperature: Between -25C to -40C but the wind chill can reach -60C
When can I do it? Registration for April, 2017 has just opened
Frosty factor: 9

There’s a lot to think about when running at the North Pole – polar bear attacks, the biting wind chill and the small fact that there isn’t actually any land up there. Organiser, and first person to run the North Pole Marathon Richard Donovan, says: “The biggest challenges for the competitors are the underfoot conditions and the extreme cold. As an organiser I also have to consider the threat of a polar bear attack and there are armed guards on location to deal with such an eventuality, i.e. scare the bears away. Furthermore, there is no land at the North Pole, competitors are running on an ice floe on top of the ocean, so I must also make a course that avoids 'leads' or breaks in the ice that expose the ocean below.”

2. Run at the bottom of the world too

The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the most southerly  in the world
The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the most southerly © Antarctic Ice Marathon

Race: Antarctic Ice Marathon
Location: 80 Degrees south, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole
Temperature: -20C and the possibility of strong Katabatic winds
When can I do it? Registration for November, 2017 has opened
Frosty factor: 8

Running at the South Pole can take a few forms – the marathon and half marathon in November. This is the only marathon run in the interior of the Arctic. So for those keen to complete a marathon on every continent then you'd better grab your snow goggles and hop on the private jet that takes competitors from Chile to the Union Glacier, Antarctica.

3. Ultra running in the Arctic

The 6633 ultra marathon reaches temperatures around -40C
A tough slog on the 6633 © 6633 Ultra Marathon

Race: 6633 Ultra
Location: Eagle Plains, Yukon, Canada to the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyatuk
Temperature: Typically in the -30s and -40s but the lowest temperature was -52, with wind chill taking that to -78C on part of the race in 2008
When can I do it? March 2016
Frosty factor: 8

It’s one of the coldest, windiest and extreme ultramarathons on the planet. It’s a non-stop, self sufficient race over 120 or 350 miles, crossing the line of the Arctic Circle. Running isn’t enough, competitors must carry sleds with all their food, cooking items and clothing. It’s typically a frosty -30 or -40C, but certain parts can get even colder. Race organisers told us that in the seven years of the race the coldest temperature recorded was -52C in Inuvik and wind chill took that to -78C on the Wright Pass.

4. Run in one of the coldest cities

The Hypothermic Half marathonin Canada reaches temperatures of -47
Frosty eyebrows on the Hypothermic Half © Kelly Morton Photography

Race: The Hypothermic Half Marathon
Location: All over Canada, but the coldest is in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Temperature: -47C with wind chill last year
When can I do it? Manitoba, February 7, 2016 but the race is run between January and March
Frosty factor: 8

The temperature hit -47C last year, but 500 people still took part in the freezing half marathon. It’s held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is famously…cold! NASA has even named a piece of Mars after the chilly city after it reached the same temperature as the Red Planet.

5. Run 100km in the Antarctic

Christian Schiester takes on the Antarctic Ultra Race 2007 in Patriot Hills
Christian Schiester takes on the Antarctic Ultra © Jürgen Skarwan

Race: The Antarctic Ice Ultra
Location: South Pole
Temperature: -20C
When can I do it? Registration for the 100k in January 2017 is open
Frosty factor: 10      

This is the only 100k event on the South Pole, and it's a race for tough endurance athletes. Christian Schiester (pictured) won the race in 2007 in a time of 19h 58m 14s. It’s a tough slog, 100k seems endless when set against the vast expanse of the Antarctic – and the sun never sets!

6. Siberian running

Competitors take on the freezing Siberian Ice Marathon
Competitors battle the Siberian Ice Marathon © Semenkova Uyla/Siberian Ice Marathon

Race: Siberian Ice Marathon
Location: Siberia
Temperature: The lowest recorded was -32C
When can I do it? The 2016 half marathon took place on January 7 but check the website for future dates
Frosty factor: 8                                                  

Race director Inna Chernoblavskaya says of the race (which has a half marathon and marathon event): “We have 800-900 runners taking part from all over the world. In order to prepare our race every runner has his own way. But the most interesting was training in factory fridges. We had the group of runners from Switzerland that used this way of preparation!”

7. Obstacles and freezing temperatures

A competitor battling against the rough conditions at the Tough Guy Challenge.
Tough Guy? Cold water, ice, electric shocks... © Chris Royle / Colorsport

Race: Tough Guy
Location: UK
Temperature: Minus degrees C, but you also get wet
When can I do it? January 31, 2016
Frosty factor: 9

It’s a run, with obstacles set in freezing temperatures – it’s not called the Tough Guy for nothing. Competitors battle 200 obstacles – including cold water dunkings. It’ll test your spirit, and your ability to fend off hypothermia, after one race 600 people were treated for it!

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