Top 7 Toughest Triathlons


Just the concept of competing in a triathlon is daunting. Even the shortest triathlons include a nearly half a mile swim, a12-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run back-to-back. But it’s the ultra-distance triathletes that take the cake when it comes to crazy tough, and maybe just crazy.

But if you’re feeling just crazy enough for the challenge, here are 7 of the toughest triathlons out there:

SavageMan Triathlon
The SavageMan Triathlon is widely known to be one of the toughest races, period. Held in Deep Creek Lake Park in Maryland, this triathlon features two different distances: the 30 or 70. Or, you can do both for a total of 100. The 70 course includes a 1.2-mile swim, 55.7-mile bike race and 13.1 mile run. Participants have called the course “brutal,” and chances are the SavageMan will be the hardest triathlon you ever compete in.

Ironman Norseman
There’s no doubt about it, the Norseman is a difficult race. In fact, it’s so difficult only 200 participants are allowed to compete each year and it’s billed as the most difficult Ironman-distance triathlon in the world. Held in Norway, the race begins with a frigid dip in the fjord, followed by a hilly mountain bike ride and ends with a rough run with at least 12 uphill miles.

One thing to know about Les Angles, France, where the Altriman is held, is that the terrain is rough and bumpy, which makes for a hellish and hilly bike ride and run, that’s for sure. And, of course, the swim is no easy feat either.

Ironman World Championship
So you’ve qualified for the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Congratulations and well done, you. But now you have to finish the race. Sure the view of the Hawaiian coastline and the Pacific Ocean is phenomenal, but it’s also Hawaii, which means heat and humidity, plus cycling and running on lava-covered/formed terrain.

Aurlandsfjellet Xtreme
Just saying the name of this race is nearly impossible (seriously, is it even a pronounceable word?), let alone competing in it. In Aurland, Norway, you’ll begin your triathlon with a brisk swim in the fjord, which is only a warm-up for the toughest part: the cycling. The bike ride includes more than 10,000 feet of elevation changes, so make sure your quads and glutes are ready.

Nothing like competing in a triathlon held in the Mojave Desert. With steep inclines and incredibly hot temperatures, there’s no wonder the Silverman is advertised as “the toughest triathlon course in North America.” Oh, and the cycling portion? Yeah, it includes over 9,000 feet of climbing.

Escape From Alcatraz
Has anyone ever looked at the choppy, icy water between Alcatraz Island and the mainland and said, “Man, I can’t wait to swim in that?” No, the answer is no. Well, in this triathlon, you do just that (just don’t forget your wetsuit). Once you reach the shore, get ready for an 18-mile bike ride, followed by an 8-mile run across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Recreation Area, which features lots of sand and, worse, 400 steps on the stairs up to a cliff.

By Sarah Esterman