Photo: Flickr – Nicholas Babaian
Running 26.2 miles is a feat unto itself. After all, the first person to run a marathon is said to have died immediately after.But sometimes it is about the destination, and not just the journey.
And there are plenty of marathons around the globe that are more than just 26.2 miles to run — they are adventures unto themselves.
Whether staving off frostbite or scaling historical monuments, these exotic locations put a whole new twist on marathons.
If you've ever wanted to run 26.2 miles alongside giraffes, zebras, and even lions, this is the marathon for you. The race takes place in a South African national park and game reserve.
Swamps, waterfalls, mountains and rivers abound, and, thankfully, malaria does not.
Puns aside, this marathon turns each runner into an Arctic trailblazer. Extreme cold, splintering ice, and a freezing ocean backdrop can be yours for around $15,000.
The temperature low in the 2011 edition was -32 degrees Celsius.
For this Port Douglas marathon, the starting gun is when the sun emerges from behind the moon. Starting on Four Mile beach, the trail winds along rivers, through the rain forest, over old mining roads and past sugar cane fields. By that time, we're willing to bet the runners may have forgotten about the eclipse they witnessed 26 miles earlier.
And by channel Hemingway, we of course mean getting buzzed on white wine and eating oysters. The Medoc region, just north of Bordeaux, is chock full of vineyards, and runners take advantage of this with wine stops at every mile marker.
The recovery walk the next day can soothe both sore legs and headaches.
You'll need sherpa-like lungs to compete in this one. The starting line, near the Mount Everest base camp, is at 17,000 feet, with a 6,000 foot descent to reach the finish line.
Runners come together a month before the race to acclimate, check out Kathmandu, and to get accustomed to running on snow and ice, if necessary.
There isn't much climbing in this race, just running. The Death Valley National Park is the setting, and includes views of numerous mountain ranges, including the Panamints, the Funerals, the Cottonwoods, the Blacks and the Grapevines.
The climate and the location make it one of world's most unique runs.
The Galapagos Islands make up one of the most ecologically diverse regions in the world. It's a relatively young area (without an indigenous population) and a young marathon as well -- only two have taken place so far.
To glimpse flora and fauna you can't see anywhere else, sign up for the third, taking place next year.
Not up for travelling? There's always next year's New York City marathon. It takes runners through one of the world's most diverse cities
New York City's run is one of the world's largest marathons, but the truly unique aspect of the route is how it spans all five boroughs. Starting in Staten Island, runners travel through neighborhoods of every variety, running the gamut of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, with examinations of race and class thrown in.
By the time they finish, runners may feel as if they've run all over the world.
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