The basics

The marathon is a long-distance running event of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles 385 yards) usually run as a road race. It is named after the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. It was one of the original Olympic events in 1896, and today more than 800 marathons are contested worldwide. A vast majority of runners are recreational athletes and tens of thousands are attracted to the larger marathons.

A triathlon is another endurance sport and consists of swimming, cycling and running over various distances back-to-back. Ability in swimming, cycling or running alone is not sufficient to guarantee a competitive time, rather the athlete must learn to race each stage to preserve their energy and endurance for subsequent stages.

In either event participants do not necessarily race to win. They may run to beat a personal best time, for a placement within their specific gender or age group or simply to finish.

Options for beginners

If you’re starting out in marathon and triathlon travel you should tackle your first challenges at home. Almost every major city has an annual marathon or triathlon event and running clubs also hold regular events. Competing at home in a controlled environment with familiar conditions, a consistent diet, the luxury of sleeping in your own bed and where you know every end and twist of the course is your best chance of immediate success.

While marathons are a fixed distance, some races also offer a half marathon, 10 km or 5km event as well. Similarly with triathlon there are a variety of distances. Start on the shorter ones first and build your way up. Once you have a few races under your belt and want to travel further, consider using a sports travel operator to help you. These operators eliminate the hassles and aggravations of your travel to a foreign race. They make every effort to ensure your trip and race is enjoyable, successful and memorable. That way you can concentrate your energy on the race and enjoying the wonderful things about the location.

Options for advanced

Some athletes undertake to run a marathon in each state of the United States or Canadian provinces, on each of the seven continents or the most consecutive marathons back-to-back / over weekends / years. There are plenty of ways to challenge yourself. There is also such a thing as the ultra marathon, which involves any distances over the usual length.

Marathons also take place in some of the world’s least hospitable places like the Arctic, Antarctica and the wilds of Africa where elements of extreme heat, cold or dangerous animals put you to the ultimate test. These are known as Adventure Marathons.

Similarly with triathlon, the distances can get longer or more challenging. For example swap the road cycling for mountain biking and road running for trail runs.