Extreme races

Forget the average 26.2. Equinox's Liz Minton shows you how to take the roads less traveled.

A regular marathon just isn't enough for Equinox Director of Personal Training Development Liz Minton, so she trades up for mountains, mud and mega-distances. Click through the slideshow above for the thrill-seeking runner's alternative race picks.

1 / 10
Slide 1 of 10
  • Polar Circle Marathon

    Polar Circle Marathon

    What it is: A half or full marathon (often called "the world's coolest marathon") across snowy Kangerlussuaq, Greenland where you'll run through gravel trails, tundra, arctic desert and cross an ice cap.

    Why Minton likes it: "Dealing with such extreme elements and pushing your body to its limits really contextualizes things," she says. "Suddenly the obstacles you face day-to-day don't seem so bad."

    Next race: October 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to polar-circle-marathon.com.

    1 / 10
  • Canadian Death Race

    Canadian Death Race

    What it is: A group of runners gathers in Grande Cache Alberta, Canada to tackle nearly 78 miles of trails that cross three mountain summits through 17,000 feet of elevation change and a major river crossing at Hell’s Gate Canyon.

    Why Minton likes it: It's the next race on her list. "I will do this one," she says. "I want the T-shirt."

    Next race: August 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to canadiandeathrace.com.

    1 / 10
  • Marathon des Sables

    Marathon des Sables

    What it is: Ever wanted to run across the desert for almost 150 miles carrying your own food and gear on your back? Then this race through Morocco is for you. Not for the faint of heart, each participant must submit a medical report with a doctor's clearance before entering.

    Why Minton likes it: "I'm pretty sure you have to carry your own scorpion serum," Minton says, "love it!"

    Next race: April 2012 

    Where to sign up: Go to darbaroud.com.

    1 / 10
  • Escarpment


    What it is: An 18.6-mile run through the northern Catskill Mountains in Haines Falls, New York that takes you up and down a rocky trail with elevation changes of close to 10,000 feet. Beware of the bees, porcupines, black bears and steep cliffs, along which, the race’s website warns, you could fall to your death. 

    Why Minton likes it: "I’ve done this one twice," she says. "The first time, I got totally crushed by this course, but the second time, I was much more focused and consistent, which I think worked in my favor.”

    Next race: July 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to escarpmnettrail.com.

    1 / 10
  • Great Wall Marathon

    Great Wall Marathon

    What it is: Conquered the step mill? For your next challenge, choose a 5K, 10K, half or full marathon up (and down) the Great Wall of China. Even solid runners can expect to add serious minutes to each mile thanks to the serious incline.

    Why Minton likes it: "This is one of those 'experience of a lifetime' races," she says, "it's one for the books." 

    Next race: May 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to great-wall-marathon.com.

    1 / 10
  • Muddy Marathon

    Muddy Marathon

    What it is: 6.55 miles of mud bogs, swamps, streams and rock walls in Morris County, New Jersey.

    Why Minton likes it: "I encountered a bear the size of a couch during this race,” Minton says. "I know they say you’re not supposed to run from bears, but, I only had 7 minutes to cross the finish line, so I went for it. Everything turned out okay."

    Next race: May 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to njtrailseries.com/muddy.

    1 / 10
  • North Face Endurance Challenge

    North Face Endurance Challenge

    What it is: Choose from distances raging from 5K to 50K and climb the Hudson River’s jagged western shore in Bear Mountain, New York; hop along the bluffs of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.; jog along the "Paris of the Plains" in Kansas City, Missouri; conquer the renowned Ice Age Trail in Madison, Wisconsin; coast along the edge of the Appalachian Mountains in Atlanta, Georgia; or tackle the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco. 

    Why Minton likes it: "I did Bear Mountain a few times, and I could not believe how many rocks there were of every size," she says. "This was the most technically challenging course I’ve ever done."

    Next race: December 2011 in San Francisco

    Where to sign up: Go to thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge.

    1 / 10
  • Running with the Devil

    Running with the Devil

    What it is: Choose a 3, 6, or 12-hour race up and down the summits of New Jersey’s Mountain Creek Terrain Park. The goal here: how many times can you run up and down 1,000 feet through the 3-mile loop in the time allowed.

    Why Minton likes it: "I did this one twice and placed both times," she says. "In this case, slow and steady literally wins the race. Those big tough boys were going so hard in the beginning and loose steam. Us gals pace ourselves, so we can oulast them."

    Next race: July 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to njtrailseries.com/devil.

    1 / 10
  • Tough Mudder

    Tough Mudder

    What it is: Probably the most well-known of the dirty obstacle course trend, Tough Mudder makes it clear that the events hosted across the country are not "races." They’re personal challenges — featuring anything from scaling a wall to burrowing through hollow tubes — where the goal is solely to finish. There are no timers and no winners.

    Why Minton likes it: "It really makes you feel like a kid again," she says.

    Next "race": November 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to toughmudder.com.

    1 / 10
  • Ultimate XC

    Ultimate XC

    What it is: Minton ran the 33-mile Vermont version of the Canadian ultra marathon that combines canoeing, running and mountain biking through Tremblant, Quebec over a long tortuous weekend.

    Why Minton likes it: "This was pure ridiculousness," she says. "I guess I just figured If I’m gonna do it, I might as well really do it.

    Next race: June 2012

    Where to sign up: Go to ultimatexc.com.

    1 / 10
1/ 10
4 must-run routes in Amsterdam

Explore the city’s forests, canals, and villages on foot.

Run these bridges

Combine intervals and views with these 4 routines.

Tech trainers love: the Precision Run treadmill

This custom machine makes you a faster runner.