Introducing the toughest 400m race in the world, where competitors run up a ski jump

Advice

If somebody challenged you to run 400 metres, you’d most likely have no trouble – but what if those 400 metres were up a ski jump? Yep, us neither.

That’s the challenge on offer at the Red Bull 400, quite possibly the toughest 400m race in existence, now in its eighth year.

The Red Bull 400 series tours 20 ski jumps, increased from 17 last year, across Europe, Asia and North America – welcoming entrants to take on the ultimate test of endurance and strength.

The tour started in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on April 28, it continues to travel the world until the final event in PyeongChang, South Korea on September 28, a new stop for this year.

Along the way venues include the jump used for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Courchevel, France (July 6), Sapporo, Japan (May 18) and Park City, Utah (June 1).

copper park jump

Could you reach the top? The ski jump in Copper Park

Credit:
mike tittel/red bull content pool

The third event of the series took place at Copper Peak ski resort in Michigan, USA, last weekend and saw over 1,000 people compete across 20 heats. The 40 best men and women then battled it out in the final round.

The winners of the Copper Peak leg were Miles Fink-Debray, with a time of 4 minutes 38 seconds and Sarah Hendrickson, who is also a World Champion ski jumper and has competed in two Winter Olympic Games for the USA, with a time of 6 minutes 13 seconds – running up the jump you usually ski down is certainly a novel way to train during the summer months.

Exhausted racer

Competitors are exhausted after completing the 400m climb with many needing oxygen

Credit:
ryan taylor/Red Bull Content Pool

The third Red Bull 400 World Championships will be held on July 13 in Whistler, Canada, where athletes from around the world, and winners from the individual stages, will compete for the overall title.

In 2017 a new Red Bull 400 record was set by Ahmet Arslan from Turkey at the World Championships on Germany’s largest natural ski jump in Titisee-Neustadt. He ran the race up an incline of 35 degrees in three minutes 31 seconds, beating the previous record of three minutes and 48 seconds – we’re tired just thinking about it. Mountain running is an increasingly popular sport and Arslan is one of the athletes who hope to see it become an Olympic sport in the future.

All the sweating, scrambling and insanity of the tour will be available to stream via Red Bull TV.

Red Bull reporter Dominique Granger took on the race in Titisee-Neustadt in 2015, competing against a line-up of 200 racers. She documented her attempt on film, showing just how challenging it really is – we see her scrambling up the grass slope, which has a gradient of 32 degrees, and huffing and puffing across the finish line after completing what she describes as the toughest 400m of her life.

“I had the feeling my lungs were going to burst, that my heart was pounding so hard I thought we would hear it on the camera, and calf muscles so tight I was wondering if they would ever relax again,” said Dominique.

How do you succeed in this type of race and who does it suit, apart from the insanely-fit-push-yourself-to-the-limit types? Endurance, huge lung capacity and steely determination are of course essential.

Dominique adds: “I think one of the strategies would have been to train, and then to have really long legs – but unfortunately I didn’t bring my pair of long legs. The girl who won, she’s got those.”

If you’re up for a challenge and fancy taking on the Red Bull 400, the events are open to entries from the public, with solo and relay options available. Good luck! You’re braver than us…

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