Western States 100
What U.S. ultra-runner doesn't want to run this race? The idea started in 1955 with a horse race covering 100 miles. In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh wanted to see if he could finish the entire race on foot. He could, and in under 24 hours. Since then it has been wildly popular. The starting line is located in Squaw Valley, California and it ends in Auburn, California. I hear about this race all the time. As soon as I complete a 100 miler elsewhere (on an easier course), I will put in my lottery ticket.
This is definitely a destination race! And I'm not sure if I'll be going to Hawaii anytime soon, but one can hope. :)
This is known to be a tough jungle run. From what I have read, the course can either be wet or really really wet (it is Hawaii) + high humidity. And it is known to have a high dropout rate. But it is set in a beautiful location and challenging courses always entice me.
Zane Grey 50
This race runs through the Tonto National Forest and is only open for 50 qualified runners (you have to apply). It's an advanced race and the terrain is said to be difficult, there are major elevation changes and it's difficult to navigate. Sounds like fun. :)
This is a race that will probably happen in the next few years (if not this year or next!). It's only about 3 hours away from me, so it's close to home. I paced my friend Kathryn for one loop at this race in 2014, and I was hooked. I was always afraid of this race, but after running a loop I feel like it is more do-able than I thought. It takes place at McDowell Mountain Regional Park just north of Phoenix. It is one loop (15.3 miles) that is run 6 times + a smaller loop (9 miles) run once to equal 100.3 miles total.
Across The Years
Perhaps the most mind numbing race on my list (and definitely not the most scenic), Across the Years takes place in Phoenix on a 1.04 mile dirt/concrete loop (I know...what am I thinking??). There is a 24-hour, 48-hour, 72-hour and 6-day version of this race, all to celebrate the New Year. I want to do this race because it seems mentally tough and that's something that many people don't necessarily train for normally. I think it looks like a fun challenge, especially since you get to set up camp with everyone else! It seems like a big party for crazy ultra people. ;)
The second I heard about this race a few years ago, I knew I would end up running it one day. I'm a heat runner ;) of course I have to try this race! It is 135 miles from Badwater, Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA. It is at the lowest elevation in North America (280' below sea level), so it can get pretty hot. Oh, and it takes place in the middle of summer (July), you know, just to make it even harder.
Until I watched the documentary, Desert Runners, I had never heard of this race. But it sounds incredible and amazing and adventurous and that's why it made this list. The idea is to run through 4 deserts (Atacama (Chile), Gobi (China), Sahara (Egypt), and Antarctica). You are required to carry everything you need to survive...on your back. If you participate in the Grand Slam, you are signing up to complete all of these races in the span of one calendar year. I believe they just added a new location for 2015 (Ecuador).
Grand to Grand Ultra
This race is pretty similar to the 4 Deserts Race except that it's in the US and it's only 1 race, not 4. But it sounds like great training for 4 Deserts though. This one is also fully self supported and it's 6 stages over the course of 7 days (170 miles). The starting line is at the Grand Canyon North Rim and it ends at the Grand Staircase in Utah. So, it's pretty close to home for me. If it just wasn't so expensive, I'd sign up for it right now. I applied to volunteer as a sweeper, so I'll see if I get accepted for that. :)
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
UTMB is THE dream ultra race for me. This race is run on the Mont-Blanc Massif (a mountain range Graian Alps) and it passes though 3 countries: France, Switzerland, and Italy. It is TOUGH race, with over 10,000 meters (about 32,000 feet) elevation gains. However, it requires qualification points in order to even set foot at the starting line. You need 8 points, from a max of three races. There are a lot of qualifying races in the US. It would require about 3 100 milers in a year + the UTMB. This is a race I will need to work for.
Patagonian Expedition Race
This is more of an ultra adventure race and not so much a running race, but it still looks incredible. You are required to have a team of four and you'll be kayaking, mountain biking, climbing, trekking and using backcountry navigation skills as you race through miles and miles of southern Patagonia, a region shared by Argentina and Chile. My friend Brittany and I are obsessed with doing this race one day!