But none are so devious or physically demanding as the Red Bull 400. And drinking no amount of Red Bull can help you.
Up, up, up you go
400 meters is one lap around your standard hometown track. The Red Bull’s 400-meter heats are run up ski jump hills. You know, the ones that seem near-vertical during the Winter Olympics? Hills with 200m of pure elevation.
Yeah, yeah, yeah—just hold on. Before you even say “how hard can it be?”, go to the gym, crank up the treadmill’s grade to max and see how long you can sustain a full-out sprint. [Note: Try at your own risk]. It’s brutal, and you can’t even get to the full 35–37° incline that one of these races stacks against you.
Wings would help
The first 50m makes you think it’s so achievable, but then the grass course turns ugly. Those bottle rocket-like racers that shot out in front of you have fizzled and slowed to a crawl, energy spent. As the elevation rises and your calves and thighs quickly become roasted drumsticks, you’ll go from upright, to hunched, to scrambling and clawing at the mountain on all fours.
You may share a look with your neighbor — is it anguish? Is it disbelief? Did she just make up a swear word? You just have to press onward and upward until you reach the actual ski jump portion and, eventually, a mat at the top where most people collapse in a heap to catch their breath.
Top men and women finish in the four-to-six-minute neighborhood. Others don’t even finish.
King and queen of the hill
Who would subject themselves to this sort of punishment? A lot of people. It’s the ultimate short-race challenge, and a new edition to the ol’ bucket list for fitness junkies. This year alone, the race’s seventh edition, the Red Bull 400 will be run on 14 ski jump sites across the globe, including a stop in the US — Park City, Utah on September 30th (details forthcoming).
Already got a thing for hills? Maybe you’re ready to take on Hochfirstschanze (famed ski jumping hill in Titisee-Neustadt, Germany) at the first-ever Red Bull 400 World Championships this July.