A Marathon for Every Continent

by Danielle Tate-Stratton


Training for and eventually running a marathon must certainly seem like running around the world! Between the endless training runs and the fi­nal 42-kilometer effort, the average marathoner train­ing in Tokyo probably clocks at least enough training miles to jog to Hiroshima. However, if you’re a runner who wishes to literally run around the world, you may be intrigued by some of the amazing marathons that can be found on each of the seven continents. Here are some of the more unique marathons that we’ve come across, one for each and every continent of the world.

From Japan, fly over to China, where you can run in the Great Wall Marathon in the Tianjin province— this marathon lets you run over six kilometers on the Great Wall itself. The catch? You need to bound up over 3,700 steps in the process! Well-prepared runners should be able to complete this marathon in five to six hours and there is an eight-hour time limit, but orga­nizers caution that it is by no means an easy course. This year, the marathon is on May 17, find out more at www.great-wall-marathon.com, which offers tour packages, images, and more.

Wave goodbye to China and fly south to Sydney Australia, where each year around 20,000 people explore this picturesque harbor town on foot. A highlight of the Blackmores Sydney Marathon is the chance to run across the famed Harbor Bridge on your way to a finish by the Opera House, on a course that follows the route of the 2000 Olympic marathon. The marathon is part of the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, the largest in Australia and mara­thon will be run on September 21, 2008, with entries open­ing in April.

From the sun and surf of Australia, head even further south, all the way to Antarctica. Every March for the last nine years, dozens of hardy runners from around the world have traveled through Santiago, Chile on their way to competing in the Antarctica Marathon, which loops through the Russian, Chinese, Uruguayan, and Chilean research stations. While off-road running shoes are sufficient to complete the course, expect temperatures to range from -40C to a comparatively balmy -20C! Marathon Tours, which provides tours and race packages for marathons around the world, is already taking reservations for 2010’s marathon, which was 40 percent full at the time of publication. The marathon for 2009 is already full, although a lucky few may make it on via the waitlist. Visit www.marathontours.com to find out more.

If a desert of a (much!) warmer kind is more appealing, consider entering the Safaricom Marathon in Kenya, taking place on June 28 of this year. Here, you have the opportunity to run through the 62,000 acre Lewa Wildlife Conservatory, right alongside the lions and other big game animals, including some 86 rhino, that live there. There are no fences here—in fact, runners are protected by a spotting plane and a helicopter! In addition, armed guards watch out for the runners and local Masai and Samburu community members entertain and run with the participants. This marathon benefits the wildlife preserve, and runners who raise over $500 will find their $250 entry charge waived.

From Africa, head north to Europe, where several unique marathons are run each year. Of course, there are the classics, such as the London Marathon, where over 65,000 runners are turned away each year, leav­ing a field of around 46,000 to explore the classic capital. Runners can ensure their spots by booking with Marathon Tours—get on their tour and your entry is guaranteed. Countries such as Iceland and Greenland offer their own once-in-a-lifetime mara­thon experiences. This August 23, runners will head to the world’s most northern capital, Reykjavik, to run past the geysers, waterfalls, and ancient moun­tains that provide Iceland with its harsh yet stunning scenery. As the entire city is powered with geothermal energy, the air is some of the cleanest in the world and the climate in August is perfect for long-distance run­ning.

If the idea of running in extreme conditions appeals, continue north to Greenland, which is associ­ated, depending on the criteria used, with both North America and Europe, and which offers runners the chance to above the Arctic Circle. Mostly run on gravel roads, this late October marathon, which has expected temperatures of around -5C, also features an ice sec­tion, where runners must attach ice spikes to their shoes in order to avoid slipping as they run directly on the ice pack. While lions aren’t a threat on this marathon, there’s always the chance of running into a reindeer! www.polar-circle-marathon.com

Finally, head across the continent to Honolulu, for some surf, sun, and one of the most sedate marathons we’ve mentioned. The early-December race, now in its 36th year, is mostly flat, and weather in Hawaii at this time is a lovely 20-25C. Enjoy a coastal course with stunning views, and after the fact, relax at the event’s traditional luau and concert, which, in 2007, featured popular musician Jake Shimabukuro. This would be a great race to take the whole family to and ends our seven-continent marathon tour an easy seven-hour flight from Narita.