For the greatest athletes in the world, there are competitions, and then there are true challenges of will and survival. When a marathon isn't enough of a challenge, or a triathlon is held in conditions that are considered favorable, these are five races that find out who's the toughest and the strongest.

The Five Toughest Races In The World Slideshow


The Ironman Triathlon

The granddaddy of them all, it's the most famous athletic race in the world. The most celebrated of which takes place in Hawai'i. The race starts with a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride and closes out with a marathon. Many versions of the race take place worldwide each year, but the winner on the big island is the champion of them all.


The Badwater Ultramarathon

As the name gives away, 26.2 miles aren't quite enough for this test. Since 1977, competitors have been racing from 282 feet below sea level in the Badwater Basin to just below the peak of Mt. Whitney at 8,360 feet above sea level, in a grueling 135-mile course. Throw in 100-degree temperatures, and you've got yourself a monster of a challenge.


The Barkley 100 Mile Run

Held in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee each year, the Barkley has one 20-mile-long loop, requiring five completions. Each loop must be completed in 12 hours or less and only eight people have finished the race within 60 hours, which is the cut-off. The challenge accumulates 16,500 meters of vertical climb, and as a distinct quirk, competitors must find at least 9 of 11 books along the course and take a page from each as proof of covering that checkpoint.


Marathon des Sables

If a one-day challenge isn't quite enough for you, maybe you'd prefer a six-to-seven day race that spans 151 miles over the vast, grating expanse of the Sahara Desert? Runners traverse deep desert sand and sharp rocks, while carrying their gear and food for the entire length. Water is waiting at stations along the way, but you have to get there, of course, to get that next drink.


The Primal Quest

It's been on hiatus, but there were rumors it would be back this year. And it should, because the race is like nothing else in the world. The trek takes over a week for competitors to get through, and the tasks have changed from year to year. The 2009 edition required teams of at least four to cover 500 miles and endure 10,000 feet in elevation changes. The obstacles include climbing cliffs, hiking in the mountains, white-water rafting, trail-running and orienteering.

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-- Max Thompson is the Senior Editor at ThePostGame. Follow him on Twitter: @maxthompson.

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