Fitness Level: Elite Length: 135 miles Most twisted element: Desert temperatures up to 130 degrees.
If you're into extreme distance in ridiculous climates but don't like the cold, the Badwater takes things in the other direction. The race is held in the middle of summer and starts in the appropriately named Death Valley. The route spans 135 miles—no, we didn't mean kilometers—and ends at Mt Whitney, CA. In past races, temperatures have reached 130° F. There's over 13,000 feet of overall ascent spread out over three mountain ranges, so be prepared to spend the next three days after the race asleep in a bath tub full of ice.
Fitness Level: Enthusiast Length: 5K Most twisted element: Competitors are chased by zombies.
If you liked the obstacle aspect of Tough Mudder more than the pure punishment factor, you'll appreciate that this race is only 5K. There are 12 obstacles spread out across the course, but they've added an additional hazard to slow down your time: zombies. At the beginning of the race, you're given a belt with flags on it, much like if you were going to play football. As you go through the course, the "zombies" will chase you and try to grab your flags. Lose all of them and you're dead. You can still finish the race, but you'll do so as a zombie. If you don't want to run the race, you can always sign up to actually be a zombie, which means you get to run around a mountain and terrorize athletes all day. Sadly, the rules prohibit carrying a machete for dispatching the zombies, so you'll just have to rely on your cardio.
Fitness Level: Enthusiast Length: 6-7 miles Most twisted element: Participants have to race relay-style, alternating between biking and running.
While there's a team aspect to many other obstacle challenges, this six- to seven-mile race demands that you work with another person the whole way. There are only five obstacles to conquer, but you and your partner have to alternate biking and running between them. There's plenty of mud to be had and costumes are encouraged. There's even a kid competition called the Mini Muddy Buddy, which seems like a great way to get your little ones hooked on punishing their bodies in the name of fun and fitness.
Fitness Level: Elite Length: 3,000 miles Most twisted element: Competitors bike across the continental U.S.
If you're into distances that are truly "ultra," the Race Across America should satisfy you. This bike race spans the entire country. You start at Oceanside Pier in California and end in Annapolis, MD. The total course is about 3,000 miles and has over 170,000 vertical feet of climbing. That's about 30% longer than the Tour De France. You can do it in teams of two, four or eight in a relay format. But, if you're truly hardcore, you can do the whole thing solo. The 2011 winner covered 2,989.5 miles in eight days, eight hours and six minutes. Bring butt cream. Lots of it.