It's called the Jungle Marathon, which is a much more descriptive name than "freediving" but still undersells exactly what madness is taking place. For one thing, a marathon is 26.2 miles -- this one is a seven-day, 137-mile trek. So, more than five of those. The "jungle" part is accurate, though -- you're doing the whole jaunt through the Amazon, the long-reigning champion in the "green hell" weight class of geographical hellholes.
The knee-high swamp wins in the "brown-hell" class.
So, in this particular competition, your race is not so much for the prize as it is for getting to the goal in one piece, and your most dangerous opponent is Mother Nature herself. Participants face challenges like the Jaguar Alley, a portion of the race that goes through known jaguar territory, where runners are advised to avoid running too far away from each other and armed guards stand watch at night (yes, of course they stay overnight in the area. How else could the jaguars get a sporting chance?) To date, no one has been eaten by a jaguar (as far as we know), but multiple people have seen them, and more than one competitor has reported being stalked by them.
The race directors do their best to make sure the journey is safe-ish, but as shitty as humanly possible; after all, this is an extreme sports event, so things tend to -- and are meant to -- leave sports competition territory and veer screaming into disaster-movie land. Not that they have to try too hard. The most recurring attacks from the local fauna come from wasps, which pretty much attack every single runner in the race. It's not unheard of for a runner to limp on with 18 stingers sticking out of them.
Other wildlife that takes little to no shit from human passersby include supersized ants, ticks, snakes, and venomous scorpions. There have even been multiple reports of freaking stingray attacks (yes, you're splashing through water in many parts of the race). Or maybe nothing will sting or bite you, and you just have to escape an angry wild pig by climbing up a tree. Did we mention that many trees in the Amazon are poisonous and can cause numbness just from touching them? Good luck running with a body you can no longer feel, buster! On the other hand, not feeling your legs might be a good thing, because the jungle does a person's body absolutely no favors.
"Why, peeling and discarding excess toes doesn't hurt at all!"
And then there's the heat and humidity, which by itself would make the run a nightmare even if all other conditions were ideal. You don't get help, either -- competitors have to haul their own gear throughout the race. As such, the completion rate of the Jungle Marathon is predictably low: In 2012, 60 people started the race. Only 11 managed to finish it in full. And that's picking from a group of people already willing to travel around the world to compete in such an event in the first place -- the craziest of the crazy, in other words.
We like to imagine the other 49 people took two steps into the jungle, stopped, blinked, and said, "Wait, what the fuck am I doing?"
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For as long as competitions have been a thing, there have been those who just need to make them infinitely more painful to perform. See what we mean in The 6 Most Terrifying Historical Car Races and 5 Bizarrely Masochistic Races People Run For 'Fun'.
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