1.) Loon Mountain Race: Lincoln, NH
If you only knew the distance of this race, 5.5 miles, you would be wondering how on earth it ever made it on a list of most challenging races in America. But when you factor in the vertical gain of 2,200 feet, it all begins to make sense. The race, which usually runs the first weekend in July, takes place partially on a black-diamond ski run at a 40% incline. That’s right, most people go down this mountain for recreation. Imagine running up it. If you think you have what it takes to conquer Loon Mountain, you can check out their website at acidoticracing.com.
2.) Grand to Grand Ultra: Grand Canyon Village, AZ to Escalante National Staircase, UT
The "Grand to Grand Ultra" is a seven-day race that connects the beautiful Grand Canyon to the Grand Staircase. Making it to both of the geological wonders, however, is no easy feat. The race traverses 170 miles of treacherous Arizona and Utah terrain, with stages between 26 and 52.7 miles long. Also, you have to carry all your own provisions throughout the entire race, with the exception of water. The Grand to Grand Ultra is as challenging as the scenery is beautiful; breathtaking by all definitions. Info: www.g2gultra.com.com.
3.) Plain 100: Cascade Range, WA
Potentially the most challenging aspect of this race is that you are completely on your own. There are no aid stations, and if you decide to drop out, you have to find your own way back to civilization from the depths of the Cascade Range. Not to say the race itself isn't challenging. Traversing 100 miles, runners have to go through remote trails and forest service roads. Only about 35 runners a year attempt to complete this challenging race, and on four occasions no one made it the entire distance. Info: http://www.cascaderunningclub.com/plain100.html.
4.) Badwater: Death Valley, CA
This race take place in Death Valley. That should be all I need to say to prove that this race is one of the most challenging in America, but it gets worse. Not only is the race 135 miles, but it's also in July for the explicit purpose of exposing runners to the hottest conditions. "Badwater" has appropriately billed itself “the world’s toughest foot race,” and is invite-only. Probably for the best. Info: badwater.com.
5.) Barkely Marathons: Wartburg, TN
Made after the designer heard about an escaped prisoner who only made it 8 miles in 55 hours through the woods, Barkely Marathons is as much about survival as it is racing. Intentionally set up for participant failure, the race is riddled with obstacles and unusual rules, such as retrieving a page from various books laid out on the course. Although it is only 20 miles, only 14 runners have finished the five-loop course within the 60-hour cutoff. If you want more info it will be hard to find, as the date is different every year and is not announced until mere months before the start. Info: www.mattmahoney.net/barkley/.