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What is the world’s hardest marathon?

Minute 1: When 26.2 just isn't enough, these are the races for you

For most runners, completing a marathon is exhausting and fulfilling. Even on a flat course tailor-made for PRs, the vast majority of the field is fully sated at the finish line and ready for some social media humble bragging. But just as an adrenaline junkie wants a higher Acapulco cliff from which to dive or a faster Ducati to ride on wet pavement, certain endurance athletes are not content to just cover 26.2 miles on city streets. If you want to see where many of those uber athletes turn next, check out: “Are You Tough Enough? America’s 10 Most Extreme Marathons.” Wild changes in temperature, elevation, and terrain are par for the course for these races. While challenging, the pain is blunted because these events take place in some amazing settings. The Inca Peninsula Marathon, is regarded as the world’s most difficult marathon, but its scenery is epic – 26.2 miles through the Andes mountains before finishing inside the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Similarly, the Kauai Marathon offers amazing mountain views, making it the perfect destination race for outdoors enthusiasts. Let’s be clear, these events offer a significant amount of risk, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. For some races on the list, you will need training on how to “Run Safe in Hot Weather.” Race prep should also include reading this brand new book written by 2 of the most accomplished authors in trail running, Brian Metzler and Doug Mayer: “Trail Running Illustrated: The Art of Running Free.” The book is jammed with practical advice that newbies and pros alike will find useful and inspirational.

Minute 2: How to curb sugar cravings

It’s a shame processed sugars are so tasty, as they might just be the single worst addition to any diet. In fact, according to this article, dessert can be more dangerous than alcohol: “Which Is Worse: Dessert or Alcohol?” A moderate indulgence in either one is fine, of course, but if you find yourself getting strong sugar cravings, overindulging, and feeling the negative effects on your energy level, you should look into some strategies to reduce your sugar intake. For that, check out “Want to eat less sugar? Try this instead of quitting cold turkey.” Breaking the habit is tricky, as sugar is quite literally addictive. You can make the transition easier by doing 2 things: Tapering off your intake and adding in nourishing alternatives. “The idea is to slowly reduce it, then you won’t miss it as much.” Says nutritionist Jayne Williams. Then, try adding fruits like lemon or strawberry into your water for a small dose of unprocessed sugar. Drinking more water provides an increased feeling of fullness, making it easier to fight the urge to snack. Low sugar diets don’t mean you need to give up dessert. There are plenty of options to choose from, as you can see in “15 Healthy Desserts for Runners.” If you find yourself getting too hungry between meals, an energy bar can tide you over, but many are very high in processed sugar. For a list of (mostly) low sugar options, check out “The 12 Best Energy Bars Of 2020, According To Nutritionists.” #SweetTruth

Minute 3: Lazy workouts are underrated

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

“No one ever drowned in their own sweat.”

“I’ll rest when I’m dead.”

Those quotes all make for good t-shirts, but according to a new story this week, a better slogan may be: “Exercise Lazy.” That quote won’t sell many bumper stickers or Under Armour apparel, but it should be a staple of your workout calendar. In order to have the energy for your intense, focused sessions, you will need a few easy days in between. The reasoning is here: “Why You Should Master the Art of 'Lazy' Exercise.” Not only do low intensity sessions provide the space for your body to grow and recover, but they’re also an opportunity to multitask. Pick up a book, put on a movie, or listen to your favorite podcast to learn something new as you work out. If you’re now picturing yourself struggling to hold a book steady while jogging on your treadmill, we’ve got a better solution. Take a look at the “Best Treadmill Book Holders in 2021.” They’re designed to hold books and tablets of various sizes to keep your hands free and your pages open. If you’re still not sold on the lazy workout, consider using it as a technique to warm up. For many of us, the first few minutes of a run can feel the worst, until we’re properly limbered up. Anything you can do to take your mind off the discomfort will help smooth the transition, letting you give your all for the main part of the workout.

Minute 4: Strengthen your abs with this killer kettlebell workout

The kettlebell began life as an 18th century crop-weighing device before morphing into a staple of weightlifters and CrossFit athletes. Runners have begun using them, too, especially when it comes to training their cores. One good routine for endurance athletes is here: “This 20-minute kettlebell abs workout torches fat, builds a stronger core.” For runners, that stronger midsection will improve your form and balance, reducing your chance of injury. The fastest way to improve strength is to subject your muscles to steadily increasing amounts of resistance, and this can be achieved with a set of kettlebells, or even a single adjustable option. Here are “The Best Adjustable Kettlebells That Won’t Take Over Your Entire Home Gym.” While we’re on the topic, why stop at just your core. Kettlebells are useful for developing leg and arm strength as well. Once you’ve decided on the right resistance level, take a look at “The Best Kettlebell Exercises For All Levels Of Gym-Goer.” These primitive-looking Russian tools offer a degree of maneuverability you won't find with a barbell or dumbbells, allowing for a broader range of movements and exercises.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Lots of physical activities require space, equipment, and time. Luckily, there’s one aspect of fitness that can be done wherever you are, with nothing but your body, and that’s mobility work. Whether you’ve been running high mileage, or just stuck in an office chair all day, we could all use some work to improve our flexibility and alleviate soreness, so take a look at this “Do-Anywhere Mobility Plan for Runners.” And while you’re thinking about mobility, nothing is more important to your overall orthopedic health than keeping your spine loose, limber and functioning. Check out “Spinal Hygiene – Flossing for Your Backbone” which includes a video with a simple 7-step routine that can be done while standing at your desk or watching TV.

  • What do foods high in fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants all have in common? They’re great for helping you relax. These aren’t the stereotypical “comfort foods,” but they will get the job done if you’ve had a long day and need to minimize your body’s stress response. For a list of great options, here are “The 5 Best Foods to Eat When You're Stressed.” If you’d rather drink your (non-alcoholic) stress relief, check out this recent piece from the NYT: “Do Those Stress-Relieving Drinks Really Work?” which explores the myths and realities about everything from celery juice to CBD beverages.

  • For those determined to run well into the winter months, you better get your footwear situation sorted out soon. An emerging trend is for pavement pounders to use trail running shoes in the winter, instead of normal road shoes. It turns out that the same shoes meant for slippery mountain trails are also good on snowy, icy roads: “Why You Should Reach for Your Trail Shoes for Winter Road Running.”

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

Joe Wicks is a British fitness sensation, with 4.2 million followers on Instagram and a lot more than 4.2 million dollars in the bank. In the era of TikTok millionaires and 12-year-old LEGO influencers, it would be easy to write off Wicks as an overnight success with good hair. He has been praised, however, for being early on the HIIT bandwagon and enticing millions of viewers around the world to eat healthier and train smarter. He is also a dogged entrepreneur who had very humble beginnings as a fitness coach. He used to tote gear in a bicycle trailer to a local park where he offered a bootcamp class. Plenty of days, no one showed up, but Wicks kept at it, through embarrassing days spent promoting his boot camp outside the local train station. To hear about his overnight success that took a decade to arrive, check out his quick video below.


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