The Middle East's toughest races

Updated 9:10 PM ET, Mon September 18, 2017
dubai challenge triathlon 2015dubai challenge triathlon 2015
1 of 9
A man runs in the desert heat during the Challenge Triathlon Dubai. Despite scorching temperatures, running is a popular pursuit in the emirate, which is home to one of the world's richest marathons.

Scroll through the gallery to explore some of the Middle East's toughest races.
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe
One of the world's best-known endurance races, the Marathon des Sables pushes runners to the limit in the Moroccan Sahara. In 2017 the 32nd race was 160 miles long. Runners are supplied with only water and a tent for the multi-stage event, and must endure freezing nights in the desert. The equivalent of five and a half marathons, 20% of which is run over sand dunes, the race organizers are quite happy to stress its difficulty. The meek need not apply. PIERRE VERDY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Iran's premier ultramarathon comes in two flavors: the Lite (93 miles) and the Integral (155 miles). Raced across six stages, competitors carry about 22 pounds of equipment -- clothing and food -- and run from early morning until mid-afternoon in the September heat, working their way across the Dasht-e-Lut desert in southeastern Iran. After 38 years, men and women now run alongside each other. Courtesy world running acadamy
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017, Oman's most celebrated race is divided into solo and team events. Teams run either 31 or 45 miles between them, with each runner covering 6.2 miles at least, baton in hand. The solo event is raced across either 19, 31 or 47 miles. The route requires competitors to run from the coast up into the Hajar mountains before turning around and racing back down. courtesy Wadi Bih Run
134 miles in the Yizrael Valley in northern Israel is a lush alternative to many of the Middle East's ultra races. Organizers claim the race typically takes 20 hours, with either 4, 6 or 8 teammates splitting 24 stages between them. Gilad Kavalerchik/
Racing from the Arabian Sea to the Indian Ocean, the TransOmania ultra marathon covers either 81, 124 or 177 miles. Tents and water are provided for the event, which takes up to six days. Participants can choose to race either in stages or non-stop, with the latter required to cover the furthest distance in under 100 hours. Klemen K. Misic/Shutterstock
Grab yourself a team of 10 for the 62-mile 100km Pharaonic Race. According to the race's website the event can trace its roots back to 690-665 BC, when "during the reign of King Taharka... the king went to inspect an army camp and found the soldiers in perfect physical fitness. It was then that he laid down the rules for the running race." Running between a number of pyramids, the king himself purportedly took part. No record of his finish time exists, however. KHALED DESOUKI/AF//Getty Images
Competitors dip 1,312 feet below sea level by the time they've finished the 30-mile Dead Sea Ultramarathon in Jordan. The race has a 6:00am start for the ultra runners, but you'll need to cross the finish line by 12:00pm or your time will not be recorded. Salah Malkawi/Getty Images
Until 2014, Egypt hosted one of the four legs of the 4 Deserts Race -- a daunting task, even for elite ultra runners. Before then, competitors would race across 155 miles in seven days, camping out under the stars between six grueling stages. Political turmoil in Egypt saw the race relocated to Namibia, where it has joined the Atacama Crossing in Chile, the Gobi March in China and the so-called "Last Desert" of Antarctica. A winner is crowned after 620 miles in total.