With Australia’s very own Sydney Running Festival upon us, we take a look at 10 of the best overseas marathons.
FAST AND FLAT – The Berlin Marathon
LOCATION: Central Berlin, Germany
TERRAIN: It’s claimed to be the flattest and fastest marathon in the world.
CLIMATE: The race is in late September, so it can be mild.
WHY RUN IT? Great sights of one of Europe’s most important cities and an enthusiastic atmosphere from the Berliners. If you train right you’ve got a strong chance to bag a PB.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: Babel Bar and Lounge, Hotel de Rome (Rocco Forte). Hotel de Rome, Behrenstrasse 37, Mitte. Boasts an amazing range of cocktails and a five-star guest list.
ICONIC SCENERY – Niagara Falls Marathon
LOCATION: Buffalo, New York State to Niagara Falls, Canada
TERRAIN: Mostly flat and all on closed roads. It has hosted two US Olympic marathon trials in the recent past so it’s bound to be able to help runners give their best. It’s also a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, if you’re interested.
CLIMATE: Usually held in late October, so it can be pleasantly cool.
WHY RUN IT? You start in one country and finish in another. The course is flat and picturesque along its entire length with a grandstanding finish at the brink of the Niagara Falls itself. Combine this with a sightseeing holiday and it’s a winner.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: The Pinnacle Restaurant, 6732 Falls Boulevard, The Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls
HISTORIC ROUTE – International Jerusalem Marathon
LOCATION: Jerusalem, Israel
TERRAIN: Jerusalem is a compact city, and you can expect plenty of ups and downs; it’s not called the city of hills for nothing.
CLIMATE: Low humidity and comfortably warm.
WHY RUN IT? As a place of pilgrimage full of holy sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as being a hip, modern city, Jerusalem has a bewildering array of cultures living side by side. You’ll be running through 3,000 years of history with its associated modern day political tensions – one to remember as the atmosphere is always special.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: Zappa Music Bar, 28 Derech Hevron, Jerusalem.
STAY COOL – North Pole Marathon
LOCATION: Geographical North Pole
CAPACITY: 40, limited by aircraft capacity as you need to be flown to the race from Spitzbergen, Norway.
TERRAIN: Snow and ice, six to 12 feet thick on top of the Atlantic Ocean. There can be some snow drifting in places and you need to take care not to twist an ankle.
CLIMATE: Very, very cold – minus 30 degrees C or even colder.
WHY RUN IT? For a chance to run on the roof of the globe, competitor camaraderie like nowhere else, and have bragging rights for having completed one of the most extreme races in the world. Not for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be proud of yourself at the end.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: Your tent, or wait until you get back to civilisation.
FAMILY FRIENDLY – Limassol Marathon
LOCATION: Limassol, Cyprus
TERRAIN: A fast, flat course on roads, mostly by the coast and through old parts of town.
CLIMATE: It takes place in late March so you’ll benefit from pleasant Mediterranean mildness (about 18 degrees C).
WHY RUN IT? It’s a fast flat course in a place well known for reliably good weather conditions for a start. It’s been held for three years and is attracting an increasingly international field, but still small enough to be relatively cheap and easy to enter. Cyprus is a great place to visit, so doing a marathon and combining it with a holiday for your family makes everyone a winner.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: La Boca Italian restaurant, Columbia Plaza, Limassol Old Town.
BIG GAME – Safaricom Lewa Marathon
LOCATION: Lewa Game Reserve, Kenya
TERRAIN: Rough dirt roads on undulating ground at an altitude of 5,500 feet. The course is a 21km loop and a half marathon race takes place at the same time.
CLIMATE: Around ten to 15 degrees C in the morning (race begins at 7.15am) to 30 degrees plus in the afternoon.
WHY RUN IT? This marathon is characteristically African; on dirt trails, in the warm sun, elites rubbing shoulders with fun runners surrounded by wild animals. The helicopters you hear buzzing around the savannah are there to scare off predators that may get too close to the runners. One year the start was delayed due to the small matter of a couple of lions taking their time moving away from part of the course.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: The Festival in the Park, Safaricom camping village.
INDIANA JONES WANNABES – UVU Jungle Marathon
LOCATION: Tapajos National Park, Para, Brazil
CAPACITY: Approximately 80, including runners for several distances.
TERRAIN: Trail paths and tracks through the rainforest and some shallow water crossings. Climate: Warm, humid jungle conditions.
WHY RUN IT? This is a race like no other. The marathon is run as the fourth of a six-stage concurrent ultra race. There’s some time for acclimatisation runs and some useful help from a jungle expert on how to keep yourself safe, but essentially you have to be self-sufficient and carry any snacks you may need. There are stage checkpoints, places to camp, and water stations with staff to support, but once you’re there it’s between you and the jungle.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: Your hammock. You’ll have to wait a few days for the ultrarunners to finish before you see a bar again.
ARE YOU EYEBALLING ME? – Marine Corps Marathon
LOCATION: Arlington, Virginia, and Washington DC.
TERRAIN: Mostly flat roads with an uphill challenge right at the end.
CLIMATE: Late October cool.
WHY RUN IT? Organised by the US Marine Corps, the marathon takes you around places central to US history, including the Washington, Lincoln, and Luther King memorials, as well as the memorial at the Pentagon to commemorate the 2001 terrorist attack. Runners go past the US Capitol itself. The course finishes at the Marine Corps War Memorial. The race is seen as a special one by the many serving marines who take part in and support it.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, 3207 Washington Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia.
BURY THE HATCHET – Hatfield McCoy Reunion Marathon
LOCATION: Goody, Kentucky to Williamson, West Virginia
TERRAIN: Roads and highways, with some challenging undulation. The first half is the most challenging, with a one-mile hill to contend with.
CLIMATE: It’s a June race so it is usually warm, around 24-28 degrees C.
WHY RUN IT? Shortly after the US Civil War two families in the West Virginia/Kentucky area fought out a bitter feud that saw numerous family members killed over a period of 30 years. Tourism has developed around the area and there has been a recent mini-series based on the incidents starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton. There has been no feuding since 1890 but an official truce was only declared as recently as 2003. Each entrant is assigned to run for either the Hatfields or the McCoys. The race, organised by Hatfield descendant David Hatfield, celebrates the accord with the motto, ‘no feudin’, just runnin’.
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: Pig Fest Post Race Party at Starters, 116 East 2nd Avenue, Williamson, West Virginia.
FIND THE LOST CITY – Inca Trail Marathon
LOCATION: Cusco to Machu Picchu (National Park)
CAPACITY: 40 to 50, with no numbers or running bibs. There are aid stations and full support on the trail, however.
TERRAIN: Mountains and trail paths, with elevation of around 10,000 feet. A wrong step in places could send you to your death. There are steps. Lots and lots of steps.
CLIMATE: varied – from almost desert like conditions to jungle to cloud forests to mountains.
WHY RUN IT? You follow the original Inca trail covering the sacred sites of an ancient culture, in breathtakingly beautiful and inspirational scenery. Runners call it ‘spectacular’, ‘a life changing experience’, ‘a unique adventure’. It has been ranked as the world’s most challenging marathon. The winners do it in five or six hours. WEBSITE: andesadventures.com
CELEBRATE YOUR PB IN: El Mapi Hotel, Machu Pichu.