5 of the most exciting places to run your first marathon in 2017

A commitment to getting fit is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. It often comes along with setting ourselves a challenge, something to accomplish in the coming year that will give a real sense of achievement. Now what if you could combine fitness, a challenge and a travel adventure?

Five exciting marathons, all very different, all offering the chance to see an exciting destination in a way few other visitors ever will. So lace up your running shoes, book that plane ticket and get ready for a travel challenge like no other in 2017!

Bhutan International Marathon

Bhutan: the Land of the Thunder Dragon. The very name conjures up images of mystery and magic. The tiny Himalayan Kingdom which had stayed hidden from the world for so long is now opening up and runners have a chance to explore it from a unique perspective.

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In March the Bhutan International Marathon takes runners on an odyssey through rural Bhutan. From the chilly starting line, the route descends on a hard packed track to the Punakha Valley and follows the course of Mo Chhu river. As runners pass fluttering, multi-coloured prayer flags, they will have stunning views of Khamsum Yulley Temple and will pass monasteries, rain forest and rice paddies. Along the way the route also passes traditional villages and many chortens or stupas, the ancient Buddhist shrines and burial places.

The marathon starts at an altitude of almost 2000m so arriving in the country early to explore its mysteries, discover what Gross Domestic Happiness really means and to acclimitise will make the experience all the more memorable.

For further feel-good factor, all the profits from the marathon and half marathon will go towards Bhutan’s Youth and Olympic sports programs.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon

The tourist-friendly city of Gold Coast is the stunning backdrop for this fun-for-all–the-family marathon. Since its inaugural race in 1979, when a grand total of 124 people – including soldiers from the Australian, New Zealand and British armies – set off on the full 42km, the race has gone on to become Australia’s leading marathon.

In 2017, 27,000 people are expected run, walk, and wheel across 8 different events during the weekend of 1st and 2nd July. Races in the full marathon, half marathon, wheelchair marathon and kids’ dash.

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The marathon route passes many of the city’s hotspots from the trendy beach side area of Broadbeach to the world famous Surfers Paradise. Running beachside with the shimmering sea almost within reach, the elite runners, locals, families and tourists taking part will doubtless be wishing they could jump in for a cooling dip.

By the end of the race, exhausted tourists will no doubt understand why Gold Coast is a globally recognised destination for sun and sand. And sweat!

Petra Desert Marathon

How about a run this August in the footsteps of the ancient Nabataeans?

The Petra Desert Marathon starts amid the rock-hewn buildings of this globally recognised UNESCO World Heritage site and runners are soon passing caves, monasteries and tombs carved into the surrounding mountains.

After leaving the city of Petra the route heads out into the lunar-like landscape of the surrounding desert.   Participants pass the local village of Ammarine, loop around Al Musirh hill and then slog 5km uphill to a mountain ridge.  The hard work is rewarded with expanses views over most of the marathon route, the mountains around Petra and even as far as Israel in clear weather.

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This is a tough race – the 2016 winner took nearly 4 hours to complete the course – and one run over a hot and hilly course with a mix of asphalt and rough, gravelly terrain.  But nowhere else on earth can you run in such a beautiful, stark landscape and through “a rose-red city half as old as time”.

Singapore Sundown Marathon

‘Sleep Can Wait’: the slogan of Singapore’s Sundown Marathon offers runners the tantalising chance to run through the night to chase a medal in a variety of distances including the full marathon, half marathon, team event and kids’ 5km run.

Running past some of Singapore’s most iconic sights such as Marina Bay and the Singapore Flyer the race promises to be extremely well organised and a lot of fun.

There are international elite runners, talented locals, serious runners and also quite a few who get together with friends committed to covering 26.2 miles and having fun doing it.

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There are lead up runs for Singaporeans who want group support during their training and special package deals with local hotels and a hostel for out-of- towners who need somewhere to lay their heads after the night’s exertions.

The March 2017 edition of the Sundown Marathon will be the 10th annual event. It’s Asia’s biggest night marathon with 35,000 pounding the city streets through the wee hours and promises to be a fantastic way for visitors to see the Lion City in a way few tourists ever do.

Kilimanjaro Marathon

Mount Kilimanjaro is a major tourist attraction with trekkers and climbers coming from all over the world to summit its glacial peak. As the highest mountain in Africa and tallest free-standing mountain in the world, it dominates the surrounding countryside and towers over the course of the February marathon named in its honour.

8000 runners from 45 countries will take part in the upcoming 16th edition of the Kilimanjaro Marathon. It is a race utterly dominated by Tanzanian and Kenyan runners but timed with tourists in mind. If climbing the 5895m mountain after a marathon sounds like a challenge too much, visitors can head to the Serengeti National Park to witness hundreds of thousands of wildebeest massed together at calving time. You’ll see calves from a few hours to a few days old in one of Nature’s great spectacles. Or combine the marathon with a trip over the border to Rwanda to see the critically endangered mountain gorillas.

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The marathon route passes through the rural area around the mountain and past small farms, plantations of coffee and bananas, and villages – with runners receiving vocal support from local residents.   42km later the marathon finishes in a stadium in the town of Moshi where bands will be playing and plenty of locals will be enjoying the entertainment and excitement.

It may be sponsored by a beer company and serve coke (along with water) at some refreshment points but the Kilimanjaro Marathon is a fully registered IAAF race and qualifier for the famous Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa. If you want to pit yourself against the cream of Tanzanian and Kenyan runners and then experience some of the best wildlife viewing on the planet then this is the marathon for you!

Candice Bain is Founder at Desert to Jungle.

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Comments (1)

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  1. John says:

    Wow, I didn’t know there was a marathon at Petra. That must be one of the finest places in the world to haul your body over the distance!

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