Some of the ultimate marathon and triathlon events around the world involve running the Great Wall of China, amongst wildlife in Africa, in the Arctic circle on the ice cap of Greenland or amongst Buddhist monasteries in India.
- The Great Wall Marathon, Tianjin Province, China
Get out your running shoes and be prepared to hit the Wall, the Great Wall of China. For one day every year tough, determined marathoners run 5km, 10km, half marathon or full marathon events on the rugged steps of the fortified ramparts. Fortunately the exceptionally beautiful mountain ridges of Tianjin Province will probably keep your attention off your tired legs and help keep you going.
- Polar Circle Marathon, Greenland
This is the ultimate in marathon adventure and for real “no guts no glory” competitors. This September race is held just a short distance north of the Arctic Circle and takes runners on to the ice sheet itself as well as on tundra, frozen lakes and through the Arctic desert. It is very hilly with a range of surfaces underfoot and fluctuating temperatures. Best described as extreme with breathtaking scenery.
- New York Marathon, New York, USA
Follow in the footsteps of Katie Holmes and try to beat her time – 5hours29mins. This November run is possibly the world’s favorite marathon, attracting a high proportion of international runners from a range of countries. This is the original big-city marathon and a destination in its own right starting at Verrazano Narrows Bridge on Staten Island and meandering through five boroughs to finish in Central Park. Crowds on First Avenue can be six-deep!
- The Big Five Marathon, South Africa
The world’s wildest marathon takes place in June each year on a route through the savannah of one of the most spectacular "Big Five" game reserves in Africa. The marathon runs through the habitat of elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard with no fences, rivers or anything else to separate runners from wildlife. Eek! The route here covers various surfaces, ranging from deep sand to slippery rocks and some steep track climbs.
- Hawaiian Ironman, Kona, Hawaii
This was the first modern long-distance triathlon event and still packs a punch. The 3.86 km swim, 180.2 km bike ride and 42.2 km run is one of the ultimate events on the international circuit. Understandably therefore, a qualification process is required to take part in this event. But if you’re into the sport you’ll probably want to travel here just to watch.
- Noosa Triathlon, Noosa, Queensland
The scenic coastal stretches, canals and luxury waterfront homes of Noosa host one of Australia’s biggest triathlon events each year in November. This event attracts over 8500 competitors on a course that includes a 1500m swim in a sheltered canal, a 40km cycle on undulating roads and a flat 10km run. Thanks to the subtropical climate it’s generally warm and humid on race day and there are plenty of festivities for spectators and athletes alike.
- Athens Marathon, Greece
Return to the home of the original Marathon recreating the incredible run that started nearly 2500 years ago. A real lesson in history plus a challenge for the human body.
- Inca Trail Marathon, Peru
This 27.5 mile marathon on the Inca Trail is a remarkable adventure into the history of the grand Inca civilization. Explore intriguing ruins along the way and expansive views from high passes.
- Xterra off-road triathlon, Rotorua, New Zealand
The Xterra New Zealand Championships are held annually at the stunning Blue Lake in Rotorua and are part of the Xterra Global Tour, although the event here in Rotorua is in fact the largest held anywhere in the world. It consists of a 1km lake swim, 32km mountain bike and 11km trail run. People can also enter in teams or simply do an 11 or 21km walk/run. Most of the routes are off road and attract lots of participants and spectators.
- The Great Tibetan Marathon, Ladakh, India
This marathon becomes even more extreme when you consider the remote location in the Indian Himalaya, the thin air at 11,483 feet above sea level and the steep and rugged inclines. However the physical trials are tempered by the peaceful mountainous region, its snow-capped reaches and exotic Buddhist monks that reside here in monasteries.