The World’s 10 Most Unique Marathons
At approximately 9.45am on Sunday morning, more than 35,000 runners will cross the start line of the London Marathon in their own personal quests for glory. Chances are, 26.2 miles and a couple of very sore legs later, a lot of them will be vowing to never put themselves through such an ordeal ever again. Others, though – possibly still riding the runners’ high – will be wondering ‘What next?’
To help those gluttons for punishment out, we’ve tracked down 10 marathons that deserve a place on every athlete’s bucket list. With these ones, completing the distance is just part of the appeal…
Everest Marathon, Nepal – 29th May 2012
If merely hiking the world’s tallest mountain sounds like too feeble a challenge, try the Everest Marathon for size. Runners have to undertake a 2-week trek just to reach the start line at the Everest Base Camp, which is more than 17,000 feet above sea level. From there, there are just the small matters of snow, ice, boulders and stone staircases to deal with. The one saving grace? The majority of the race is downhill.
North Pole Marathon, North Pole – 2013 date TBC
You’ll be on top of the world when you finish this one – literally. The course, which is run entirely on frozen water, passes through the Geographic North Pole, in the heart of the Arctic Circle. Only 215 people have completed the race since Richard Donovan ran it solo back in 2002, so you’ll earn a place in the marathon hall of fame if you’re willing to brave the extreme sub-zero temperatures.
The Great Wall Marathon, China – 19th May 2012
5,164. That’s how many steps of the Great Wall you’ll have to conquer to make it to the finish line of this marathon. Thankfully, only part of the route sees you scaling the imposing structure. The rest of it takes a gentler course, which means tired legs will get a bit of respite as they navigate vast rice fields and traditional little villages.
Le Marathon Du Medoc, France – 8th September 2012
Mixing wine and running might sound like a recipe for disaster, but Le Marathon Du Medoc has been successfully combining the two for almost 30 years. The course passes through some of Bordeaux’s best vineyards, and more than 50 chateaux open their doors to thirsty runners looking for a pick-me-up. Competitors can line their stomachs with the likes of cheese, steak and oysters at the gourmet food stands along the way, too.
Walt Disney World Marathon, USA – 13th January 2013
You’ll run through Cinderella’s castle and be cheered on by Mickey and co when you take part in the Walt Disney World Marathon. The course ticks off all four of the Disney theme parks, and lots of runners don the costumes of their favourite cartoon characters for the occasion. 2013 marks the race’s 20-year anniversary, so expect the organisers to go all out when it comes to en route entertainment.
Solar Eclipse Marathon, Australia – 14th November 2012
You’ll make history if you sign up for this race in Port Douglas – it’s the first Solar Eclipse Marathon to ever take place. At 6.38am on the morning of the challenge, a total solar eclipse lasting two minutes will occur. As soon as the sun reappears from behind the moon, the race will kick off, making it the first ever sporting event with an intergalactic starting gun.
Boston Marathon, USA – 15th April 2013
Making it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon is an achievement in itself. The world’s oldest marathon has strict entry requirements, and only the speediest of runners are granted a place. About half a million spectators turn out to cheer competitors on every year, so you’re guaranteed an atmosphere like you’ve never experienced before.
Midnight Sun Marathon – 30th June 2012
Held in Tromsø in Norway, this marathon does exactly what it says on the tin. The town is positioned almost 70 degrees north and, between May and July, the sun doesn’t set here at all. It means, even though the race takes place at night, you’ll be running in broad daylight – so you’ll get to enjoy the spectacular views in all their glory.
Big Five Marathon, South Africa – 23rd June 2012
Elephants, lions, leopards, rhino and buffalo make up the cheering squads at this one, which is held at the Entabeni game reserve on the African savannah. There’s nothing but a group of park rangers separating you from the animals, so you’ll get a closer look than you ever would on a safari. And, if nothing else, the thought of a leopard on your tail should help you pick up the pace.
Marathon Des Sables, Morocco – 2013 date TBC
Take on this mammoth challenge through the Sahara Desert and you’ll have bragging rights for life. Billed as the toughest race on earth, this 6-day, 151-mile ultra-marathon isn’t for the feint hearted. As well as the immense distance, runners will have to deal with extreme temperatures, almost no shade, and an unforgiving terrain of sand, sand, rock, and more sand.