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Five marathons worth travelling for

We have searched globally for the most amazing marathons worth travelling for.

1. Polar Circle marathon

Hardcore runners with a sense of adventure will be up for the challenge of Greenland’s tough Polar Circle marathon. Held annually in October, this arctic event starts off in average temperatures of around minus 20 – 15 degrees Celsius before climbing to minus 10 – 5 degrees as the sun rises. Running through the soundless, wild landscape, past glacier tongues, moraine plains and even the odd reindeer or musk oxen, the Polar Circle marathon traverses one of the most remote parts of the world. Most of the event is run on uneven gravel road and ice, with part of the route travelling over the slippery ice cap. The exact course along the ice cap is only plotted a few days before the event, to ensure its stability for runners. This is the ultimate arctic adventure.

2. Great Wall marathon, China

Held annually on the third Saturday in May, the Great Wall marathon offers participants the opportunity to run one of the most challenging and unforgettable marathon courses in the world. With dizzying ascents and 5,164 steps to climb, the Great Wall marathon is tough terrain but the rewards of the climb are breathtaking. A world heritage site, the wall is the largest man-made structure in the world and runners travel across a section of it along the course. Along the way you journey beside rivers, through local villages and discover the beautiful landscape and rich history of the Tianjin province. The temperature during the event is hot and humid, with highs of around 30 degrees Celsius. It is essential to wear cool, breathable clothing and remain adequately hydrated.

3. Big Five marathon, South Africa

Nature fans, save the date! 21 June 2014 is the next Big Five marathon, winding through the wilds of the African savannah. With dry, sunny conditions, this scenic run cuts a course through a game reserve, delving into lion country, past herds of antelope and giraffe, and offering some very challenging terrain. From steep ascents to plummeting drops, the quads will get a real workout on Big Five and dodging rhinos may become the least of your worries. With nothing separating participants from the animals, it’s open territory and the spectacular South African landscape doesn’t disappoint. Take care on the course, the dusty running paths are peppered with loose rocks and uneven stony ground. While adding to the charm of the landscape, runners are urged to keep an eye on their footing – a challenge in itself in such beautiful surrounds.

4. Mont St Michel, France

We’re not too sure if you are psychologically better or worse off being able to see the finish line of a marathon from the start, but you can in this famous French event. In its 17th year, the course starts at Cancale, Brittany and runs towards the hauntingly beautiful Gothic-style abbey and surrounding village of Mont Saint-Michel. Perched on an island one kilometre off the Normandy coast, the road leading to the island is relatively flat and affords runners an opportunity to soak up the rugged coastal scenery while keeping their eye on the prize. On the UNESCO world heritage list since 1979, millions of tourists visit Mont Saint-Michel every year. Very few travel the road leading up to the 8th century abbey on foot, a magical part of the Mont Saint-Michel marathon.

5. Napa Valley marathon

In its 36th year, the well-established Napa Valley marathon is tucked away in California wine country and offers a picturesque, colourful journey. Rolling hills, dormant vines, wide roads and shades of green as far as the eye can see, this is one pretty marathon course and makes for an inspiring run. Predominantly downhill, Napa Valley marathon is well suited to beginner marathoners and once you get over the hills in the first third of the course, it’s a breeze – relatively speaking! A limit of 2,300 registered runners ensures the course doesn’t get too crowded and the field is usually filled up by late January. In 2014 the Napa Valley marathon will run on Sunday 2 March.

Marathon highs and lows

High: The Everest Marathon is the highest marathon in the world. The starting line is at 17,000 feet, near Everest base camp in Nepal, and runners gather for a 26-day trip to help acclimatise to the altitude.

Low: The Dead Sea Ultra Marathon in Jordan is the lowest marathon in the world. The course is mostly downhill and includes a 50km event and traditional marathon distance. Participants finish at the Dead Sea, 400 metres below sea level.

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