A stock plot: the characters have to proceed from a starting line to a finishing line under some set of rules over the course of an extended period of time - often several days. This could be by car, by horse, by foot, or by any means necessary. Expect badasses of whatever types are appropriate.
This may involve Wacky Racing or it may not: the distinguishing characteristic of an Epic Race is the extreme length (generally 12 hours or more), not its idiosyncratic nature. An Epic Race is so long that the challenge of merely going that distance in the time adds interest, irrespective of anything else.
Generally a subtrope of The Big Race, for obvious reasons.
Automobiles & Motorcycles
- Speed Racer and its various adaptations contains a number of epic races.
- Red Line.
- Future GPX Cyber Formula has two grandprix races established as the cross country events (Peruvian and Japanese GP). One video game adaptation features a spin-off event called "Extreme Speed" which is a massive on-road cross country race.
- Death Race 2000, though the focus is more on running over pedestrians.
- Death Race, an In Name Only remake of Death Race 2000. In this case, it's a NASCAR-style track race where part of the goal is to kill the other racers. Death Race 3 changes the race to a Baja 1000-inspired desert rally.
- Smokey and the Bandit has Burt Reynolds as a bootlegger who attempts to deliver a tractor trailer full of beer to a millionaire in a limited amount of time. Along the way, he has to match wits with an overenthusiastic sheriff.
- The Great Race, inspired by the 1908 New York to Paris race, has the protagonist and his arch rival competing in custom cars.
- A few inspired by the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash:
- Cannonball, the first of the films to come out, starring David Carradine. This is also the only film inspired by the Cannonball not billed as a comedy.
- The Gumball Rally came out shortly after Cannonball, starring Michael Sarrazin and Raúl Juliá.
- The Cannonball Run was more directly based on the Cannonball, being written by the race's actual organizer. A sequel, Cannonball Run II, followed a few years later with Speed Zone, a semi-official sequel, coming a few years after that.
- Midnight Madness features five teams of college students taking part in am all-night puzzle hunt in Los Angeles.
- Monte Carlo or Bust (aka Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies), the sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (see below), switched from planes to automobiles.
- The El Dorado race from the climax of the 1969 version of The Love Bug.
- And the Paris-to-Monte Carlo race in the third film.
- The Casa Cristo 5000 from Speed Racer.
- Truth In 24, a documentary about the Audi team in the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans, plays up this trope.
- Drive depicted a cross-country road race with some rather shady organizers. Unfortunately, only six episodes were produced and the entrants only got as far as Cleveland (starting from Florida).
- Arguably, the various Top Gear Specials, although (except for the Polar Special) "get there first" was not the challenge. That said, more traditional Epic Races have appeared on the show: the economy race from Basel, Switzerland to the Blackpool Illuminations took 17 hours; and the car vs. public transport race from Heathrow to Oslo took still longer.
- The endurance races from the Gran Turismo series which have been getting longer as the series progresses.
- Need for Speed: The Run has the protagonist competing in a race across the country to settle a debt with the mob.
- Sega's Rad Mobile is the first-person Outrun/Rad Racers inspired game that invoke racing across multiple locations from western to eastern United States of America.
- Endurance races such as 24 Heures du Mans, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Also, parodies such as The 24 Hours of LeMons, where each car must cost $500 or less, including both purchase cost and cost of any repairs/enhancements! note
- Numerous cross-country races, including the one which inspired The Cannonball Run.
- The many around-the-world races of all kinds, stretching back at least to the 1908 New York to Paris race.
- The Baja 1000, one of the few races with spectator-created booby traps.
- The seventh story arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Steel Ball Run, takes place over the course of a cross-country horse race.
- The sport of endurance riding, which involves trekking great distances on horseback. In older times, these races could be cross-country. Nowadays, most national events are between 50 and 100 miles, which can be completed in about 12 hours by the winners. The rides are divided into different legs, with health checks for the horses and riders before they're cleared to continue the competition.
- Star Trek novel The Great Starship Race.
- Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman — The Long Walk. It's a foot race run by 100 teenage boys, the so-called "walkers", with the following rules: if you drop below 4 miles an hour, you get a warning. Receiving 3 warnings in quick succession gets you killed. And as a final touch, it has no finish — it lasts until there's only one surviving walker. It's written by Stephen King — were you expecting a happy ending?
- On the future Mars of Transhuman Space: In the Well, there's the Olympus Mons biathalon. You start by climbing the 15km-tall cliffs that make up the edge of the Olympus volcano — with a bicycle on your back — then you bike 300km to the caldera at the center.
- Ultramarathons, particularly those that exceed 100 miles.
Multiple Modes of Transport
- The Eco-Challenge marathon (1995-2002).
- Issue #5 of Steelgrip Starkey and the All-Purpose Power Tool features an "Around-the-World Super Construction Race", combining both a footrace with feats of engineering.
- In the Suske en Wiske comic "Het Sprekende Testament" (The Speaking Testament), the heroes of the series race in a modified train that drives on (and off) the road.
- Earth and Sky: Twilight Sparkle ends up testing her experimental flying harness against the Flim-Flam Brothers (AKA Professor Destiny and Doctor Insanity) and their rocket-powered flying rig in the Grand Pegathalon, an epic flying race that goes all around Equestria's borders. As the first non-pegasus entrants in the Pegathalon, they end up opening the gates for flying species from across Equestria and beyond (including griffins, a qilin, and even a winged buffalo) to compete.
- Ian Watson's story "The Great Atlantic Swimming Race" (swimming past the whole Atlantic Ocean) has a satirical bent.
- The Race by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott involves a cross-country airplane race in 1909. The series' main character, Isaac Bell, is assigned to protect the favorite to win from her estranged husband. However, there is more to this than meets the eye.
- The Alvin and the Chipmunks film, The Chipmunk Adventure, had this as their main plot. The Chipmunks and the Chipettes had to race around the world in hot air balloons, dropping off and collecting dolls. Unbeknownst to both parties, they're being used as Unwitting Pawns in a gem-smuggling ring.
- What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown has Snoopy dreaming he's an Arctic sled dog in a long-distance mush race.
- Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown involves the kids in a whitewater-rafting race that spans a couple days and nights.
- The Tour de France, a 3500-km bicycle race.
- Also Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.
- The Iditarod, a 1150-mile dogsled race.
- The 1925 serum run to Nome, also known as the "Great Race of Mercy," was not a race against other competitors, but a race against nature itself — twenty mushers and over a hundred and fifty dogs undertook a 674-mile journey in blizzard conditions to save Nome, Alaska from a diphtheria epidemic after aircraft proved unusable. The serum arrived in five and a half days, a feat that has never been duplicated. The Iditarod, mentioned above, is in part a commemoration of this last great hurrah and Moment of Awesome of dog-sledding.