There's something soulful, primal, and downright animal-like about running alone in the woods or on a marathon course with thousands of other racers. It sure as hell beats running on the treadmill. So we considered a large number of America's foot races – trail runs, marathons, ultras, obstacle courses, local races – and picked the best 15. What makes these the best? In each case it's different. They range from the most prestigious (Boston) to the most difficult (Badwater) to the most-likely-to-include-nude-runners (Bay to Breakers), and everything in between. Whether you're an accomplished ultrarunner or simply training for your first marathon, this list has something for everyone who thinks running is more than just exercise. Launch Gallery >>
Badwater Ultramarathon (Death Valley to Mount Whitney)
For the uninitiated, ultramarathons are any and all runs longer than 26.2 miles. Whereas Tough Mudder describes itself as "probably the toughest event on the planet," Badwater is pretty sure it's "the world's toughest foot race." We're siding with Badwater, a race so difficult, participants each have their own support cars. You can't just sign up and pay a fee to run 135 continuous miles, with 13,000 feet of elevation gain, between Death Valley and Mount Whitney, in temperatures reaching 130 degrees: The 90 participants are invited based on their previous experience.
So what are the minimum achievements required to even be considered for Badwater? You've got to be a previous finisher, complete three 100-milers (continuous, not stages) in the previous year, or finish the Brazil 135 (another treacherous ultra) plus another continuous 100 miler and... never mind. Remember to hydrate. [Mid-July; badwater.com]
Credit: Toni L. Sandys / Washington Post / Getty Images