So borders are opening and it is time to make use of all that training (or find an incentive to get back into it). What are your choices for multi-day events in 2021? Well - I have put together a list of my favourites. Here they are, ordered by date, with links to the official website for each event. All you have to do is choose....
1. Ever wanted to cross the magic point where the Equator meets the O degree meridian? The tiny country of São Tomé is the closest on earth to the coordinates 0°N 0°E – which is the finish line of this 200km, 6 day ultra – to be held from 11-20 February 2021. The aptly named “Hemisphere Crossing” is organised by German Company Global Limits. More here.
2. For beginners, families or just a little less pace, “Kimbia Kenya” runs through wildlife areas, lakes and villages of north-western Kenya over 5 stages and a choice of 50kms or 100kms. Stages are held in the morning, with wildlife safaris, school and village visits in the afternoons. I took part in the 2020 event with my 12 yr old daughter and your can read my review here. 12 -21 February 2021. Details in English here.
3. If the stunning mountains and lakes of New Zealand inspire you (and really they should!), then check out the brand new “Southern Lakes Ultra” debuting 28 February – 6th March 2021. The 7 day, 265km route promises magnificent scenery and offers both a self-supported (carry your gear) and a supported (daypack only) option. So inspiring that I have signed up! Will I see you there? Details here.
4. For something truly unique, the 4 day, 160km “Mongol 100” takes place entirely on the frozen Lake Khovgol in northern Mongolia. Sleep in gers (yurts) and experience the hospitality (and freezing cold) of this beautiful place. The highlight of my 2019 year - read my review. 28 February – 7 March 2021. Get all the info here.
5. For quintessential SE Asian countryside, northern Vietnam is the location of Canal Aventure’s “Ultra Asia”, from 8-11 March 2021. The route passes through rice fields and small Muong villages over four days and 160kms. Event website here.
6.For a reasonably flat but hot and humid course through beautiful Sri Lanka, check out Ultra X Sri Lanka, held from 20-27 March 2021. The 5 day, 250km course is suitable for beginner runners, but is a little too tight a cut off for walkers, Details here.
7. For a stunning multi-day event that gives back to the local community, the “Annapurna Ultra” may be for you. Held across 6 days and 210kms in western Nepal, you stay in local guesthouses and are encouraged to buy snacks and drinks along the route to support the local economy. 2021 dates TBA. Details here.
8. Is this the year to train for the original? When it comes to the multi-day ultra format the “Marathon des Sables” is where it all started. Held 2-12 April 2021 in Morocco, the 250km course across the desert attracts more than 1000 participants each year. This is iconic but lacks the intimacy of some of the other options. Details here.
9. Did you know you can do a multi-day event in the Caribbean? “Guadarun” takes place in beautiful, tropical Guadeloupe from 3-11 April 2021. The event is set over 6 days, with each stage running a different island of the Caribbean French territory. See more here.
10. For a great desert multi-day option suitable for walkers and nordic walkers as well as runners, consider the “100kms del Sahara” This is a 100km, 4 day stage race through Tunisia. followed by a 100km non-stop ultra. You can take on one, or the other, or both to make it a 200km event. Held from 24-30 April 2021 for the stage event and 30 April - 4 May for the non-stop ultra. Details are here.
11. For a serious challenge, the longest multi-day on this list is Canal Aventure’s “The Track” – a mammoth 520km, 10 day stage race across central Australia, finishing at the iconic Uluru. Expect dry heat and red dust and spectacular changing colours. Plus more than a few flies and an experience you will never forget. 12-21 May 2021. Website here.
12. In total contrast, you can head to the mountains and visit the happiest country on earth for “The Last Secret”, a 6 day 200km multiday through remote Bhutan. Finishing at the iconic Tigers Nest monastery, the challenging route includes three 3500m passes. Held from 28th May – 5th June 2021. Details here.
13. The plains of central Mongolia are the location of Racing the Planet’s 250km, 6 day “Gobi March”. The route encompasses grassland, fields, soft sand and dunes, rocky terrain, riverbeds, gravel tracks and river crossings. Yes, I know that makes 2 options in Mongolia; but it is such an amazing place it needs to be experienced in all seasons. 2021 dates are 19-29 June. More info here.
14. If a Disney movie has inspired you to check out the real thing, you can "move it, move it" through western Madagascar over 6 days and 125kms on the “Red Island Trail”. The 2021 dates are TBC but likely to be held in August. See further here.
15. A great new event in eastern Europe, "Ultra Race Romania" will be held from 9-17 August 2021. Covering 250kms over 6 stages of beautiful countryside, the event ends with a two day trip to Dracula’s Castle and Peles Castle, to give competitors a glimpse of Romanian history and culture, cuisine and folklore. Details here.
16. For some of the most spectacular volcanic territory anywhere, check out Iceland’s “Fire and Ice” Ultra. This one is super varied - sand dunes, lava fields, past new steaming lava fields, grassy valleys, deserts of black sand and glacial river crossings. Dates TBC but usually end of August – start of September. Details here.
17. For lovers of ancient culture, check out Albania’s “The Hidden Treasure” – starting at the World Heritage city of Berat and finishing in the spectacular amphitheatre in the ancient Greek/Roman city and World Heritage Site of Butrint, on the Ionian Sea. The 6 day, 220km event takes place from 1-18 September 2021. More info here.
18. A new event in Scotland, “The Isles Ultra” is a 6 day, 300km traverse of the entire inhabited isles of the Outer Hebrides including coastlines, beaches, hillsides, lochs and rivers. Crossing from island to island is via causeways or ferries. This is a unique opportunity to be the first to complete a new event. I will be there - join me! Held from 23-30th September 2021. Detail here.
19. A North American classic, the “Grand to Grand” Ultra in the USA takes you from the awe-inspiring north rim of the Grand Canyon, and finishes on the summit of the Grand Staircase, one of the world's most iconic geological formations. The course takes you 275kms over 7 days through a high desert landscape of sand dunes, red rock slot canyons, buttes, mesas and hoodoos. 19-25 September 2021. Details here.
20. Northern Chile is the host of the “Atacama Crossing” organised by Racing the Planet. This 250km, 6 day course passes through salt flats, magnificent sand dunes slot canyons and past many volcanoes. 2021 dates are 24 September – 3 October. Details here.
21. Another stunning desert option in early October is “Ultra X Jordan” – 250kms in 5 days across Wadi Rum in Jordan. This is a supported race (carrying daypack only) and is also one of the cheapest multi-day events available. The event includes a visit to the UNESCO site of Petra. Details here.
22. If a whole week of running/walking is too far, the 2 day “Polar Bear Challenge” may be right for you. The event is a half marathon followed by a full marathon and takes place in Greenland. It is sold as a package holiday including tours and sightseeing in this beautiful and remote part of the world. 30-31 October 2021. For more information see here.
23. The NOA trail in Argentina is a supported (daypack only) multi-day event with a 10km or 20km option each day for 6 days. It takes you on a journey through the beautiful north-west, across mountain, salt flats and visiting the magnificent world heritage site of Quebrada de Humahuaca. November 2021. See further here.
24. Another unique option is Canal Aventure’s “Ultra Africa”, held in southern Mozambique. The 5 day, 220km course passes through coconut forests, lakes and numerous villages as well as long white sandy beaches. 2021 Dates TBC but usually mid-November. Details here.
25. Billed as the toughest multi-stage ultra on earth, “Ultra X Mexico” this is a truly stunning course through the copper canyons of Mexico, that is for experienced runners only. With 11,835 metres of elevation gain on technical trails at an altitude of 2,300 metres, this race offers an unforgettable challenge. You will also have the chance to run with the local Rarámuri, the original ultra runners featured in the book Born to Run. Held in mid-November. All the details here.
26. At the end of the year you can head to least inhabited country in Africa for "Race to the Wreck". This 200km journey across the Namib desert in Namibia crosses canyon, huge sand dunes and ancient sea bed littered with whale bones. Read my review of the 2019 event here. 2021 dates are 14-21 November. For more information see here.
27. “La Transtica” in Costa Rica, is a great accessible five-stage jungle event with a 200km and a 100km option to cater for a range of runners (either 40km or 20km each day). 2021 dates have not been announced but are at the end of November. For details see here.
28. Another offering from Germany’s Global Limits, “The Ancient Khmer Path” gives runners the opportunity to run for 6 days (220kms) amongst the spectacular countryside and ruins of Cambodia, with the finish line at the World Heritage listed Angkor Wat. Held from 26th November – 4th December 2021. Details here.
29. The last major event of the year is the 3 stage Half Marathon des Sables Peru. This is half the length of the standard 6 day multi-days and is therefore a great starter option. Taking you across the Ica desert on the coast, you will be between the dunes and ocean. To make it even more accessible, they have introduced a dedicated "hiker category" with a shorter distance of 40km (instead of 65kms) on the long day. First week of December. See further here.
30. Finally - because 2021 is booked out already, pencil in this one for 2022. The Ice Ultra takes place in winter in the Sami homeland of Sweden. Straight from the website: "You’re standing in snow, surrounded by seemingly endless pine forests scattered with frozen lakes. White-capped mountains dominate the horizon. All around you is silent and peaceful broken only by the crunch of your steps in the snow as you make your way through 230km of this UNESCO world heritage area. As darkness descends at the end of each day you can expect to feel like the only person on the planet." Not much more to say really! Check it out here.