On your mark, get set… go! A run-down of five most challenging, scenic, and interesting races in the world
For some, the ideal holiday would entail a fast-paced, physically challenging but visually rewarding experience. These adrenaline junkies are willing to set aside their leave days to see the world from the vantage points of hikes to mountain climbs, from surfing to the common recreation of running marathons.
This competitive running activity – as popular as it is right now – would be dead and dull if it wasn't for the course that runners go through. Here are five of the life-defining marathons in the world that put a whole new meaning to runner's high.
Marathon du Medoc
Wine and running don't usually go together – unless you've forgotten your wallet after drinking – but they are at the heart of the annual Marathon du Medoc in the Bordeaux region of France. Held in early September, runners run through vineyards as they would a list of wine: Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Lynch-Bages, Pichon Lonqueville, Beychevelles, and dozens more.
Angkor Wat Half-Marathon
Few courses are more surreal than the road that goes past the temple ruins of Angkor Wat. Normally held in early December, the run starts at dawn, where runners get to see the postcard-picture sunrise against the main temple, after which the 21km course snakes through the entire temple complex, resulting in moments that would compel you to pause and snap a photo. Funds raised from the run go to charitable causes in Cambodia, such as rehabilitation efforts for victims of land mines.
The Great Wall Marathon
Like the Angkor Wat run, May’s Great Wall Marathon is another picture-perfect run through one of the great wonders of the world, but it's not an easy one. The course sounds fairly simple and on good terrain: Full marathoners run the course twice, half-marathoners once. But that's overlooking the fact that there are thousands of steps to contend with, along with a series of steep ascents and descents. Because of the varied terrain, runners can't approach this run as they would any other marathon; every section of the race requires a different strategy.
Athens Classic Marathon
A list of marathons wouldn't be complete without a nod to the birthplace of the Marathon in Greece. Held in November each year, the course is based on the 2,500-year-old myth of the original marathon in which Pheidippides, a messenger in Ancient Greece, ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greeks' victory over the Persians. Running in Pheidippides's footsteps is no small feat; the course is uphill from the 10 km mark to the 31 km mark – the toughest uphill climb of any major marathon. But the struggle is paid off when you reach the finish line at Panathinaiko Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games was held in 1896.
Big Five Marathon
The Big Five Marathon in South Africa is one of the most scenic, if not toughest courses in the marathon calendar. The run started in 2005 and it’s been held in the month of June ever since, and sees thousands of runners run through one of the “Big Five” game reserves filled with elephants, rhinos, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, lions, and leopards. But be warned though – the African terrain and weather is not a kind one, and a 42km course is bound to take a toll on those ill-prepared for it.