Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Fri March 06 2015

The 5 Most Unique Marathons Around the World

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | March 06, 2015

The 5 Most Unique Marathons Around the World

Photos courtesy of respective races.

You may not know how they do it, or you may be definitively for or against ever doing it for yourself.  No matter what your thoughts on running a marathon, you have to appreciate the time, effort and dedication it takes to run one. 

So marathon runner or not, here are a few places that are a little more interesting and perhaps even a little more dangerous than your average, run-of-the-mill 26.2 miles.

Walt Disney Marathon

Walt Disney goes all out for its marathon in Walt Disney World. They have a whole weekend dedicated to the art of the run culminating in “the most magical 26.2 miles on Earth.” You’ll run through all of the parks including the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios and you start and finish in Epcot.  Costumed characters not only pepper the route, but many of the participants dress up as their favorite characters as well.

The North Pole Marathon

Dubbed the “World's Coolest Marathon,” this race takes place, yes you guessed it, at the North Pole. Racing at sub-zero temperatures, this is the only marathon that lets you traverse massive ice floes with just feet between you and frigid water. The fee to run in this event is about $23,000, but it includes flights to and from Norway to the North Pole, accommodations while at the North Pole, entry into the race, tourism helicopter flights of the polar region, and emergency medical evacuation insurance. Let’s hope you don’t need that.

The Great Wall Marathon

Ok, so running a marathon wasn’t hard enough for you, so now we will have you climb 5,164 steps up the Great Wall of China while you are in the middle of it all.  The best time from last year was over three and a half hours, but that didn’t discourage anyone from trying. They sold out the event at 2,500 runners from over 60 different countries. If it seems a little too daunting, they do offer a half marathon and a fun run as well.

Everest Marathon

As you can probably imagine, this is the world’s highest marathon, starting at the base camp of Mt. Everest at a dizzying 17,598 feet above sea level. You get to stay at base camp overnight; this is the only event that is allowed to stay there outside of mountaineering expeditions. During the run you will ascend to as high as 18,200 feet and you finish at 11,306 feet above sea level. The biggest prerequisite for this race is that they expect you to be in Nepal three weeks before the race to get acclimated to the high altitude.

Big Five Marathon

Ok, so running in the cold of the arctic or running at the height of Mt. Everest isn’t dangerous enough for you? No worries, you can run with the lions and tigers and elephants oh my! The Big Five Marathon is run among the wildlife of the African savannah in one of the “Big Five” games reserves in South Africa. Here is all you really have to worry about: there are no fences, no rivers, absolutely nothing at all between you and the African wildlife. That should freak you out a bit!

So there you go, five places around the globe to travel to this year to help prove your machismo among the running community. Where have you run that is totally, completely off the wall? Where is your favorite place to run? Please let me know in the comments below.


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