Extreme Races

On your marks, get set, go! Check out the world's wackiest and most extreme races.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil

Get on your marks, and get set to check out the world's wackiest and most extreme races. Racers compete in wild feats of strength and speed on foot, in shopping carts and even in a mobile outhouse.

Empire Run Up
 New York, New York
There are plenty of races that go around Manhattan, but only The Empire Run Up challenges competitors to be first to reach the top of the city's tallest high-rise. Every February, a few hundred racers lace up their sneakers and sprint 1,250 feet up 86 flights of stairs. The average racer takes between 17 and 20 minutes to scramble up all 1,576 stairs. A limited number of applicants are invited to participate based on athletic ability. Those who cross the finish line to the observation deck have all of NYC at their feet before hobbling to the elevator for an easy ride back down.

Wife Carrying Race
 Newry, Maine
Sunday River's annual Wife Carrying Race invites men to carry their wives across an unusual threshold made up of a 280-yard challenge course. Husbands run up and down hills, over log hurdles and through a muddy pond all while carrying their beloveds on their backs. For the best mobility and balance, teams employ the "Estonian carry," where the woman hangs upside down with her arms wrapped around her husband's stomach. In case the men forget theyre carting precious cargo, penalty time is added for any dropped wife. The rewards are plentiful -- aside from the couple's bonding time, the wining team receives the little lady's weight in beer and a cash prize equal to 5 times her weight.

Crashed Ice
Quebec City, Canada
Crashed Ice combines the most intense aspects of hockey, snow boarding and skiing to create the coolest extreme race around. This event puts the speed into skating with high-velocity drops, 180-degree turns and multiple obstacles. This slick and twisted slalom snakes through Old Quebec City where some 85,000 anxious fans cheer on the racers. It's nonstop action from the first 180-foot plummet down the icy luge as more than 100 skaters defy danger and avoid smash-ups and crashes along the way.

Discovery Diving Underwater Bike Race
Beaufort, North Carolina
Why choose between scuba diving and bike riding? This North Carolina adventure combines both. Diehard scuba enthusiasts and bikers showcase their talents during this annual July 4th competition. These amphibious bikers take a boat off the shore of North Carolina and dive down 60 feet and attempt to cycle the length of the shipwreck Indra. This bow-to-stern journey is just 100 feet, but takes almost 15 minutes to complete. It's slow-going at 6 feet per minute as they pedal -- and paddle -- through the water. The ascent is a bit easier as the divers leave their bikes behind, adding to an artificial reef under the sea.

 Brooklyn, New York
Replace the snowy backdrop of Alaska with city streets and substitute a shopping cart for the dogs and sled and you've got the Idiotarod. Brooklyn's crafty reworking of Alaska's epic race challenges drivers to traverse the city streets while pushing a decorated shopping cart. This ridiculous race is part performance art and part raucous party as costumed teams of 5 wheel their way through the boroughs. To add to the nuttiness, officials keep the 5-mile route a secret and dispense directions to checkpoints via text message. Despite the name, these "idiots" can be devious, and plotting ways to sabotage the other teams is all part of the game.

Tough Guy Challenge
 Old Perton, England
There's no shortage of testosterone at the semi-annual Tough Guy Challenge where macho men (and some women, too) truly test their mettle. The English countryside appears less than bucolic to competitors looking at 22 seemingly impossible obstacles spread over 8 miles. Challengers battle through icy water, waist-deep mud, tunnels, underwater caves, manure, electrical charges, barbed wire and even fire. A testament to just how tough this race is, participants must sign their own death warrants in advance to release race organizers from responsibility in case of injury or even death. There's no prize for the winner, and the 5,000 racers are simply competing for the glory of earning the tough-guy designation and a fancy medal.

Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll
 Gloucestershire, England
Only during Cooper's Hill Cheese Roll would runners risk life and limb to chase after a heavy wheel of Double Gloucester cheese as it rolls down a steep hill. This stinky footrace is no joke as the rolling cheese can reach speeds of 70 mph. From the top, the incline seems more like a cliff than a hill, and broken bones, concussions and missing teeth among racers are common parts of the quest to claim the title of winner and the rights to that 8-lb. wheel of cheese.

The Outhouse Classic
 Trenary, Michigan
The Outhouse Classic invites participants to bring their own potty and take to the streets to Trenary, MI, for a race like no other. Two-person teams construct regulation outhouses complete with a toilet seat and roll of toilet paper. This portable potty is placed on skis and raced down an icy 500-foot stretch of Main Street. What started as a ploy to bring winter tourists to the sleepy town of Trenary (population 400) was a great success. Today this spectacle draws a crowd of almost 4,000.

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