There are fewer stretches of 26.2 miles that strike fear into the heart of men like a marathon. These endurance races can send shivers down even the most conditioned calves; tugging at your hamstrings with apprehension.
But there are routes around the world designed to direct your mind — and feet — away from any doubts surrounding your ability. From charging your way across one of the Far East’s most iconic landmarks to gritting your chattering teeth across the Arctic tundra, we’ve laced up a list of the most incredible marathons you should be running in 2019. So limber up, the starting line’s in sight…
The Great Wall Marathon sees culture meet competition
It’s the only endurance race visible from space. But, despite the breathtaking views and the chance to make your mark on an age-old monument, it’s also achingly challenging. From gravel and dirt roads to the steps of the Great Wall itself, the terrain troubles are just the start…
Run in May, you’ll get sunny blue skies and lush green views, but the humidity will also spend the whole run trying to hold you back. So, as you run through the lower valley and into the villages that mark the end of the race, you’ll not only feel very cultured and adventurous — but also incredibly fit.
The Great Wall Marathon, 18 May
The Polar Circle Marathon is the coolest race on Earth
If the current winter weather is taking it’s toll on your training, then this one might not be for you. But, despite temperatures frequently dipping below -10°C, this Greenland-run race is not only one of the coldest marathons on Earth, but also one of the coolest.
Expect to run under impossibly blue skies, past musk oxen and arctic foxes, and breath the incredibly fresh air of the tundra as you barrel your way across a snow-covered gravel road towards the small township of Kangerlussuaq — where the finish line lies.
The Polar Circle Marathon, 26 October
The Big Five Marathon will be the wildest experience of your life
With running-mates ranging from the placid elephant and buffalo to the more-dangerous rhino, lion and leopard, you certainly won’t be short of motivation to keep your pace up during this South Africa-held marathon.
Once again, terrain proves a challenge here; deep sand, dirt track and pebbled surfaces making up the 26 miles. The heat, also, can reach upwards of 25°C during the day. And that’s before we even get to the wild animals of the Savannah. Just pray (or should that be prey?) you don’t get cramp…
The Big Five Marathon, 22 June
The Big Sur Marathon is big on challenges and beauty
The Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in the world. You’ll doubtlessly have seen it in films, on television and even rendered in video games. Now, you’ll be able to run across it — just one of the picture-perfect scenes you’ll jog through on this beautiful marathon.
Running the ragged edge of the Western world, the Big Sur marathon in California sees you make a beeline for Carmel on scenic Highway 1. Expect towering redwoods, crashing waves, coastal mountains and verdant pastures. Truly one for the bucket list.
The Big Sur Marathon, 28 April
The New York City Marathon is the ultimate city-based race
On the other coast of the USA, the New York City marathon is the perfect way to take a bite out of the Big Apple. Held on the first Sunday of November, the course takes in such sights as Staten Island, Fifth Avenue, Harlem, Brooklyn and Central Park.
It’s also the largest marathon anywhere in the world, with over two million spectators lining the course to cheer you on. So, if the wild and remote races that make up much of this list don’t get your heart thumping, this is our pick of the city races to bring the noise to your racing.
The New York City Marathon, 3 November
The Petra Desert Marathon will train up your inner adventurer
Best know for its starring role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the ancient city of Petra is the starting line of this challenging historic marathon. You’ll tear past historic tombs, mountainside carvings and caves before delving into the desert.
With temperatures as high as 35°C, you’ll likely only see the vast and awe-inspiring Wadi Rum desert from behind sweat-misted sunglasses. But, despite making your way through a hilly route with very little shade, a floating swim in the Dead Sea is a welcome, relaxing reward.
The Petra Desert Marathon, 7 September
Entered? Now you need the perfect shoes to run your race in. Here are the best, according to a personal trainer…