Adventure Marathons

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Marathons are long-distance running events with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles 385 yards). When they take place in unusual surroundings, where the topography of the route and the ruggedness of the course challenge the participants to the utmost -- they are called Adventure Marathons.

Some of the more challenging Adventure Marathons have taken place on The Great Wall of China, on the permanent ice cap of Greenland, in the Antarctic, as a safari among The Big Five Game in South Africa, and at 3,500 meters elevation on the Tibetan Plateau in the Himalayas.


Characteristics of Adventure Marathons

For a marathon to be called an Adventure Marathon, it needs to meet the following conditions --

  • Its route must go through extraordinary natural or cultural scenery, on surfaces like rock, sand, ice or water.
  • It must take the participants through different types of terrain. For example, the Great Tibetan Marathon requires people to run downhill, uphill, through swamps, fields and paved roads.
  • The course must be extremely demanding physically, so that the time required for completion is longer than at typical marathons
  • The course must contain a relatively large number of abrupt ascents or take place at high elevations.

World's Best Adventure Marathon Destinations

Ladakh, on the Tibetan Plateau has been rated by Forbes magazine as being one of the toughest Adventure Marathon destinations in the world. Rarefied air at 3,500 metres above sea level, an incredibly rugged route and some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, all contribute to the challenge of this adventure marathon destination.

The Great Wall of China is a tough but definitely extraordinary marathon destination for runners. The 5164 steps of the Great Wall test their fitness and endurance, while the breathtaking views of the Tianjin Province are a visual feast.

The South African savannah is host to the Big Five Marathon, which is known as the world's wildest marathon. The route is set in Entabeni game reserve, one of the most spectacular Big Five game reserves in Africa, where wild animals, tall cliffs, forests and waterfalls challenge the runners equally.

The Polar Circle is another very challenging destination for adventure marathon enthusiasts. The route involves running on slippery ice caps, moraines, glaciers, Arctic desert and tundra in sub-zero temperatures.

Did You Know?

  • It is a good idea to carry a whistle while running. In case you get lost, this will prove to be a compact, lightweight, and inexpensive way to signal for help. Although environmental factors such as wind, snow, and heavy rain may drown out a voice, the sound of a whistle is clearly distinguishable in the field
  • Steadily drinking water while running will keep dehydration at bay.
  • Since Adventure Marathon routes pass through very different types of terrains, protecting your ankles with an ankle guard is a good idea, especially when running in areas with loose pebbles.

The Ecological Footprint of Adventure Marathons

Adventure Marathons by their very nature, seek venues that are wild and untouched. While individual tourists may not have much of an impact of such areas if they are careful, marathons involving hundreds of runners are another kettle of fish altogether. If it is not planned properly with enough emphasis on preserving the ecology along the route, one single marathon could spell disaster for its venue. Here are some of the factors that could affect the ecology of the venue --

  • Emissions from vehicles that carry runners to the starting point of the marathon.
  • Human waste
  • Litter along the route in the form of water bottles, disposable cups, plastic gel containers etc
  • Disturbance to the local fauna
  • Destruction of local plants when participants trample over them
  • Erosion of small, natural brooks and streams when the participants cross over.

Tips To Minimise the Ecological Footprint of Adventure Marathons

Since Adventure Marathon locales are mostly ecologically fragile zones, it is very important to ensure that the impact of the marathon on the environment is minimal. Here are some tips to ensure an eco-friendly marathon--

  1. Educate the runners about preserving the ecology of the marathon venue.
  2. Provide dustbins and receptacles at short intervals to ensure that the runners do not throw their empty bottles elsewhere.
  3. Use recyclable, compostable materials for drinking glasses, cups etc.
  4. Run for charity -- In 2007, runners of the San Francisco Marathon donated over $2,500 to help offset their carbon footprint in getting to and from the race. #Do not print certificates -- instead, issue online certificates at the end of the marathon.
  5. Preserve and respect the delicate local flora and fauna by strictly not disturbing any animals on the route.
  6. Also, avoid trampling or destroying any foliage on the route.


  • Adventure Marathons
  • The Great Tibetan Marathon
  • Mountain Adventures

See Also