I did a marathon once. It was in Brighton and it was probably the worst few (quite a few) hours of my life. The pain, the relentless training, the weird taste of those disgusting energy bars, the carbo-loading – nothing about it was enjoyable (except maybe the carbo-loading). Of course, there were some good bits. I managed to raise a few bob for Pancreatic Cancer UK, some lovely friends and family came to cheer me on, and there was a warm fuzzy feeling at the end of the run (that, or it was a broken ankle).
So I have vowed never to do a marathon again. However, with the recent London marathon back in action, there is something to be said about the joy of being in a group event together.
1. Run the live volcano in Guatemala
The Impact Marathon Series sets out to not only get people running around the world, but also to integrate and give back to the communities they visit. They have multiple destinations, including Guatemala where you can take in the breathtaking views of Central America and run around the largest post-caldera volcano, Pacaya. Not only that, but you’ll also work with Seres, a charity dedicated to empowering young people to be influential leaders in order to build up sustainable communities through coaching, mentoring and training projects.
Where: Pacaya, Guatemala
When: Apply now, run week is 1-7 March 2022
Swap your treadmill for the highest mountain in Africa.
Swap your treadmill for the highest mountain in Africa. At 5,895 metres, Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and is home to Tanzania’s epic running race. You can choose from a full marathon, a half-marathon or a 5km fun run. All of them are start and end in Moshi, a town that sits in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. Next year is the race’s 20th anniversary, so there will be even more energy than normal. Before and after, relax in the shade of the jacaranda tree, indulge in local delicacies and get swept up by live local music in bars and pubs. As soon as you step into the MoCu stadium at the end you’ll be ready to celebrate your amazing achievement.
Where: Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
When: Registration open on 17 October, run on 27 February
3. Ottowa Marathon
Canada’s capital city is home to the country’s largest and fastest marathon. Be part of the sweaty throng of thousands of people as they lumber up to achieve new world records (or just limp around in one piece). If you sign up now, you’ll get a finisher medal, a personalised race bib, a post-race beer and refreshments and one of those really great after-race photos where you’re squinting in pain. If you don’t fancy the journey, there’s also a virtual option, which means… we have no idea what this means, but you probably run along on your laptop or something. They’re also giving out a green bib option for those wishing to reduce their environmental footprint; in place of a medal and any extras, part of your registration fee will go to charity.
Where: Ottawa, Canada
When: 29 May 2022
Canada's capital city is home to the country's largest and fastest marathon.
Yes, people literally look like they are dying in this picture. But they're not. They're just climbing 5,164 steps of the Great Wall of China for fun.
4. Great Wall of China Marathon
Yes, people literally look like they are dying in this picture. But they’re not. They’re just climbing 5,164 steps of the Great Wall of China for fun. This run is labelled as one of the hardest marathons in the world, but at least it’s along one of humankind’s greatest creations. This event has been going since 1999 and is particularly gruelling. Start from Yin and Yang Square in the old Huangyaguan fortress and climb up the wall, then follow the river to the Duanzhuang village, and then, after treading along a goat track, head back up the wall for the second time (with a 4km uphill climb). Good luck. You’ll need it.
Where: The Great Wall of China, China
When: 21 May 2022
5. Petra Desert marathon
There’s nothing more visually stunning than a route around Petra Desert, which leads runners past incredible tombs, mountainside carvings, and caves before venturing into the arid, lunar-like landscapes of the Jordanian desert. You can pick between a half-marathon or a full one and soak up the rich history and culture while you work on some new blisters. Tag on a holiday before or after your run to make the most of the Petra ruins, the awe-inspiring Wadi Rum desert, and the buoyant Dead Sea.
Where: Petra Desert, Jordan
When: 3 September 2022
This track leads runners past incredible tombs, mountainside carvings and caves.
6. Cyprus Marathon
This Cypriot Marathon is along the coast in the costal town of Limassol – literally in one long line. So you’ll be running back on yourself to finish your PB but the epic blue sea and warm (but not too warm) weather will make it worth it. Everything about this course is flat and fast so you can try and get the best time for your run. Then afterwards you can enjoy a relaxing holiday on the white sandy beaches and lap up all the meze you want.
When: 19-20 March 2022
Where: Limassol, Cyprus
7. Arctic Marathon Finland
Ever wanted to know what it’s like to run in -7ºC. No, us neither. But for those of you who have a little screw loose and think that the idea of running a marathon across the freezing Arctic Circle sounds like a good trip abroad, listen closely. You can do either the marathon, half-marathon or 10k and explore Finnish Lapland and the home of Father Christmas. The race starts from the village square of Santa Claus village, in Rovaniemi. The track sees you go through villages and towns as well as coniferous forest and a frozen river. As well as running, you can also enjoy husky sledding, see the Northern Lights and indulge in a soothing sauna.
Where: (Santa Clause village) Rovaniemi, Finland
When: 3 April 2022
Join Mickey, Minnie and Scooby for a fun-filled and squeakily happy 26.2-mile race.
8. Walt Disney Marathon
Join Mickey, Minnie and Scooby for a fun-filled and squeakily happy 26.2-mile race. There will be oodles of entertainment from your favourite animated friends to try and take your mind off the agonising pain of running a marathon. But at least Cinderalla will be there, and Snow White and all the other princesses to cheer you on.
Where: Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
When: 5-9 January
9. Florence Marathon
Why explore Florence through the slow pace of a walk when you can see its fames basilicas, galleries, and stunning architecture while you sprint around its streets? This race route starts and finishes in the Piazza Duomo, in the heart of the Tuscan city. You’ll also visit Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Santa Maria Novella for refreshments, warm-up exercises and massage therapy. And then indulge in one big party afterwards.
Where: Florence, Italy
When: 27 November 2022
10. Istanbul Marathon
In just one marathon you can run from Asia to Europe, thanks to the race in Istanbul. The race this year is happening in November, and you have just a few days left to enter. Otherwise you’ll have to hold on until 2022. Join more than 100,000 runners and fans with a unique celebration of this beautiful city. Afterwards, kick back in a hammam for a calming sauna and massage to soothe those muscles.
Where: Istanbul, Turkey
When: 7 November 2021