Extreme Races Around the World

Engineer, adventurer, and entrepreneur Carl Byington serves as the president and chief officer of PHM Design, LLC in Ellijay GA. He has had a successful career with several companies over the years including Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin in Rochester, NY. In his free time, Carl Byington is a long-distance runner and trekker who has completed marathons all around the world.

Many long-distance runners have a desire to challenge themselves while also experiencing unique parts of the world. Here are some of the most extreme races for those with both wanderlust and a taste for adventure.

The Jungle Ultra. This 143-mile ultramarathon takes competitors through the Amazonian rainforests of Peru, beginning 10,000 feet above sea level and cutting across the mountains in the intense humidity. Runners are responsible for carrying their own supplies, including food, but water is supplied along the way.

Spartathlon. This 155-mile race in Greece honors the original marathon runner, Pheidippides, who famously ran from Marathon to Athens and allegedly also to Sparta as a messenger from the battle between the Greeks and the Persians. The Spartathlon retraces the ancient Greek’s steps, but with time limits at 75 race stations along the way. Runners must meet each time limit in order to continue the race.

Great Wall of China Marathon. Though this is a standard-length marathon, the many staircases of the Great Wall pose enormous challenges for participants who will have to traverse 5,164 steps in hot and humid weather, and must finish the race in 8 hours.

Marathon des Sables, which is French for Marathon of the Sands and also known as Sahara Marathon is a 156 mile ultramarathon. This distance is approximately equivalent to six regular marathons that are run back to back each day. Since 1986, this multi-day race is held every year in southern Morocco and the Sahara Desert. It has been regarded as the toughest foot race on Earth.

There are several others such as the Antarctic Ice Marathon, North Pole Marathon, Everest Marathon, and other ultramarathon distance races that you can find to provide amazing challenges in incredible places.

Carl Byington ran the Antarctic Ice Marathon in 2012 and plans to run the North Pole Marathon in 2021 if Covid-19 travel restrictions allow.

Skydiving Basics

Carl Byington, of Ellijay, Georgia, has been a professional engineer since the late 1990s. The former owner of Impact Technologies in Rochester, NY, Carl Byington enjoys a range of outdoor pursuits, including skydiving.

Skydiving has been described as a sport that creates feelings of exhilaration, as the diver, equipped with a parachute, jumps from a plane, sometimes up to 14,000 feet above the ground. While this activity might seem risky, it is for the most part quite safe – and highly regulated. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations cover skydiving flights. These flights typically include alerting air traffic control when divers will be jumping in order to avoid accidents. Drop zones are clearly marked on aviation maps.

Skydivers typically always jump with two parachutes: one that is prepared off-site by a rigger certified by the FAA, and the other at the drop-zone center. All tandem parachutes contain an automatic activation device, which opens at a certain altitude at free-fall speed.

Prospective skydivers can prepare themselves for what to expect by researching information as to skydiving providers, their certifications, and the locations they use. For example, smaller drop zones might involve jumping from 10,000 feet, whereas larger drop zones can mean a jump from 14,000 feet.

Would-be divers can also expect to train with a certified instructor to master jumps. The instructor often accompanies the skydiver on their first outing in what is called a tandem jump. Skydivers also practice using a static line, which involves jumping with a cord (hanging from a backpack) attached to the plane. The cord pulls on a bag which opens to deploy the parachute. Alternatively, with additional training, a skydiver can opt for an accelerated free fall (AFF) jump. With an AFF, the student is usually accompanied by both a primary and secondary instructor during the free fall portion of the jump. After he successfully pulls the rip cord, the instructors release and the student guides the parachute and flares at the end, all with the help of another instructor relaying instructions over a radio.

Long-Distance Hiking Routes Open in Slovenia, Egypt, and New Zealand

Focused on engineering prognostics and health management solutions for aircraft and other complex equipment, Carl Byington presently guides a consulting company named PHM Design, LLC. Carl, who was previously based in Rochester NY and now living outside Atlanta GA, is also passionate about world travel and the outdoors. He has traveled to and run marathons on all seven continents including Antarctica. As an experienced mountaineer, long-distance trekker, kayaker and SCUBA divemaster, he is always on the lookout for great treks and combined adventures. He recently discovered some new great bucket list treks to share.

A recent Lonely Planet article brought focus to a number of long-distance hikes that have recently become accessible to the public. These include the 168-mile Juliana Trail in Slovenia, which includes 16 stages and begins in the vicinity of the Italian border near Kranjska Gora. Providing views of glacier-carved valleys and lakes, the Julian Alps loop also passes through idyllic mountain villages. There are also some amazing kayaking and rock climbing options in the area.

The first ever long-distance hiking path in mainland Egypt, the Red Sea Mountain Trail traverses 105 miles and links several ancient trade routes. The brainchild of the Maaza tribe of local Bedouin, the excursion takes in treacherous gorges and sweeping plains, as well as sites of prehistoric rock art and Roman settlements. It is recommended to undertake this remote wilderness journey accompanied by Bedouin cameleers and guides. With its close proximity to the Red Sea, it is also a great opportunity to do some SCUBA diving after your trek.

New Zealand’s Paparoa Track is the first trail added to the Department of Conservation’s “Great Walks” roster in a quarter century. Traversing 35 miles of South Island rainforest, the course requires 3 days on foot, and can also be mountain biked. With two mountain huts along the way, highlights include mossy river gorges and expansive vantage points looking across the Tasman Sea. This trek is the perfect scenic backpack stop when one is rambling around in a campervan on the South Island.

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