There is a 2015 documentary about the Barkley Marathons. It’s plural because it’s a race that consists of 5 loops, which are all about a marathon long, making for somewhere around 100 miles. There are all sorts of wild details, like running through the night in the woods, finding book pages, not knowing when it starts, weird initiation requirements, and the director smoking a cigarette to start the race. There is other YouTubes about it, and now this year, an updated 2023 documentary that was just a good as the original.
The fella who runs it, Lazarus Lake, also has another thing called Backyard Ultra, which, of course, I found on YouTube as the weird running races algo kicked in. This thing is even more intense in a way, as you have to run a lap of about 4 miles every hour, on the hour, and only get to rest whatever the gap in between finishing a lap and the top of the next hour. It’s designed so that in 24 hours, you’ve run about 100 miles. World rankings have people over 100 laps, so well over 400 miles.
If you tone down the requirements to about 60 miles a day, you’ve got the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence race, which is 3100 miles!(!!) You get 18 hours to hit that number, so you get a minimum of 6 hours of bulk rest, and then go again the next day. Fifty-two days!
At just 22 miles, but still up there on the weird scale, is the Man versus Horse Marathon. I heard about this one on a Radiolab. It was a great episode starting with butts and how animals that need to run have some physiology that keeps our heads from bobbing around. There is a theory that humans can run because we hunt, and are good at sweating, so even if some animal is way faster than us, we can take our time and eventually catch up when it has overheated and gassed, and whatever — bang it’s head with a rock and eat it. Is that provable though? Well this Man versus Horse race is kind of about that. Horses are obviously way faster than us, but they need to rest more (more than an ultra-fit human, anyway). So anyway, once in a while a human wins this thing, which they did last year.