5 Amazingly Scenic Marathons Worth Traveling For

Lace up your running shoes for these once-in-a-life time races, which will take you from the African savannah to the South Pole.

Photo: The Great Wall Marathon

1. The Great Wall Marathon

Next race: May 19, 2018

Many have marveled at the Great Wall of China and some have scaled it — but why not consider running a marathon on it? Held annually, the Great Wall Marathon has been known as one of the world’s most challenging marathons since its inception in 1999. The route begins from the Yin and Yang square in the old Huangyaguan fortress, before continuing with an uphill climb up the Great Wall. Just before the 7-kilometer mark, runners will encounter the infamous “goat track” — named for its steep descent, which would be a breeze for mountain goats, but likely a feat for the runners. As participants embrace the climb of 5,164 steps, they’ll also enjoy a glimpse into the wall’s surrounding rural villages and countryside.

More information here.

Photo: Big Five Marathon

2. Big Five Marathon 

Next race: June 23, 2018

As its name suggests, the Big Five Marathon will be held at the most spectacular Big Five reserves in South Africa. After the start, the route will take runners past Ravineside Lodge, the Entabeni Monolith, and further on to the lower plateau. Participants will be challenged by the Yellow Wood Valley — the most dreaded part of the course thanks to its steep and uneven slope. Moreover, no fences or rivers separate the runners from the wildlife, allowing participants to come up close and personal with these majestic creatures as they conquer the hilly, safari-like course. Staying out of a predator’s way? Now that’s one way to keep running.

More information here.

Photo: Inca Trail Marathon

3. Inca Trail Marathon

Next race: July 12, 2018

Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about the Inca civilization, the Inca Trail Marathon is an adventure that will leave you yearning for more. Starting in Cusco, the archaeological capital of the Americas, runners will embark on various trails in the Southern Peruvian Andes and the ancient city of Machu Picchu. The spectacular route will feature over thousands of feet of vertical change, steep descents and ascents, and Inca-built steps. To complete the experience, participants can also combine the race event with a Sacred Valley tour or adventure sporting activities like white-water rafting.

More information here.

Photo: Antarctic Ice Marathon

4. Antarctic Ice Marathon

Next race: December 13, 2018

If the cold never bothered you anyway, consider joining the Antarctic Ice Marathon for an experience of a lifetime. Taking place just a few hundred kilometers from the South Pole at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, the race is held at an altitude of 700 meters. Runners will race through trying conditions, with an average windchill temperature of -20 degree Celsius, alongside strong katabatic winds. The three-day itinerary will see competitors flying in by private jet from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the marathon location at Union Glacier. While the race takes place in the Antarctic, don’t count on penguins cheering you on as none live this far south.

More information here.

Photo: Rome Marathon

5. Rome Marathon

Next race: April 7, 2019

All roads may lead to Rome, but this one requires you to be quick on your feet — the Rome Marathon takes runners all over the Italian capital and past nearly all of its beautiful, historic sites. Expect to start at the Via dei Fori Imperiali near the Coliseum, passing the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica before circling back to the Coliseum. While the terrain is mostly flat, runners will have to contend with uneven cobblestone streets.

More information here.

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