Norseman Xtreme
Norseman Xtreme

World's best triathlons: 31 to do before you die

So you want to go out in style? You want to say, yep, done that and, without doubt, got the T-Shirt? But with so many races to choose from, how will your tri racing CV look when it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil? Well, look no further! Here's our list of the world's best triathlons...

3 Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, Eidfjord, Norway 

If an Ironman race forces athletes to find out what they’re really made of, this one-day 140.6-mile challenge peels back the layers to reveal their very soul.

Every August, 250 of the world’s toughest athletes descend upon Eidfjord, a small village nestled in the dramatic terrain of Norway’s west fjordland region to take on Norseman, a raw, no frills iron-distance event. A freezing swim in a Norwegian fjord, enormous climbs to conquer on the bike and a mountain top finish for the run – all in treacherous weather conditions – make this a defining event in extreme triathlon.

In 2000, Paal Hårek Stranheim had a vision to create an event so unique, so spectacular and so unforgiving that it would lure triathletes and thrill-seekers around the world to the daunting landscape of western Norway. The event was designed to focus on the journey rather than clocking a swift finishing time and would tell more about an athlete’s grit and determination than any other endurance triathlon on the planet.

Twenty-one men took part in the inaugural event, on 19 July 2003. Christian Houge-Thiis was the first athlete over the line in 12 hours 48 minutes, but the digits on the clock mattered little – it was the frisson of fear, the course’s enormity and the extreme environment along the way that created an instant classic.

It’s not just age-group athletes who see the value in conquering this unique race, 2011 saw two-time Ironman World Champion Tim DeBoom place first. His finishing time of 11:18:52 was nearly three hours longer than his winning Ironman World Championship times in Hawaii.

As tough as it is on the body, the event is equally challenging for the mind. The mental games begin at 4am on race morning as the Norseman’s 250 wetsuit-clad victims tread through the village in the pitch dark and up the gangplank of the ferry that will cast off into the Hardangerfjord.

There’s no grandstand, no finisher’s chute and little in the way of fanfare to welcome them to the finish. Plus, they win nothing more than a black t-shirt, and that's only for the first 160 athletes who reach 32.5km before 2:30pm and go on to summit Gaustatoppen. For everyone else, it's a white t-shirt. But as they take the final few steps, bodies wracked with pain and on the very brink of collapse, their journey is complete. Elation and incredible satisfaction relieves aching muscles and tired minds – they’ve measured their bodies and souls against the biggest challenge in triathlon and found themselves equal to the adventure of a lifetime.

Gallery: Norseman Xtreme Triathlon

Continue reading our guide to the world's best triathlon (30/31)


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