Most Interesting Marathons in the World :: The portal of the largest rankings on the Internet!

There are hundreds and hundreds of marathons in the world, but most of them follow a familiar formula: tour around the main sights of a town or city, run on mostly paved roads and pavements, and so on.

There are, however, some absolutely fascinating and unique alternatives out there. To that end, we’ve collected a select few of those together here, for your reading pleasure. Without further ado, here are the 10 most interesting marathons in the world.

The 10 Most Interesting Marathons in the World

1 Athens Marathon Where else could we possibly begin?!

Greece is, of course, the birthplace of the marathon. According to legend, in around 490BC a messenger called Pheidippides ran from the site of a battle – in a town called Marathon – to Athens, to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians. He reportedly ran the entire way in one go… and promptly died afterwards of exhaustion. The distance of his journey was approximated at 25 miles, which roughly formed the length of a modern marathon.

The first modern Olympics were held in Athens back in 1896, and the marathon was one of the most prestigious competitions. Entrants into the modern-day Athens marathon, therefore, are participating in an incredibly historical event on a variety of levels.

The Athens Marathon is usually held in November, is 26.2 miles, regularly attracts tens of thousands of runners, and finishes in Panathenaic Stadium, an arena built completely out of marble. If you’re thinking of entering, be warned that it’s no cakewalk! In fact, it features the longest uphill climb of any marathon, lasting approximately 13 miles.

Official Marathon Site:
2 Everest Marathon Marathons don’t come much more extreme than this.

Standing at a mighty 8,848m, Mount Everest is – of course – the tallest mountain in the world. Of course, some brave (or crazy, depending on your view) group of people decided that this sounded like the perfect setting for a marathon!

You won’t be surprised to learn that this is officially the highest marathon in the entire world. You have to hike for 15 days just to get to the starting point, which is located at Everest’s famous Base Camp, some 5,212m above sea level. From there, the race mostly runs downhill across rough terrain, and even across some pretty scary suspension bridges.

The Everest Marathon might be a standard length – 26.2 miles – but the sheer altitude, combined with the treacherous ground, make it an extremely challenging race. As you might expect, completion times are also significantly lower than they are in most marathons; the world record is 3hrs40mins43secs, set by Nepali Ram Kumar Raj Bhandari.

Official Marathon Site:
3 Great Wall Marathon The Great Wall is one of the most enduring and iconic man-made creations in human history. It has stood in one form or another for over 2,500 years, and measures a ludicrous 13,171 miles in length. From 1999 onwards, for one day per year, it has also been the scene of a particularly bone-splintering marathon!

On its 26.2 mile course, the Great Wall Marathon passes through a number of traditional, nearby local villages, along with a few miles of the actual Wall. Once on the Wall itself, competitors will have to climb and descend a whopping 5,000-plus stone steps. The toll that takes on runners’ legs is incredibly tough (particularly if you trip, which – with the fatigue – seems inevitable to us), and has led to this being termed one of, if not the toughest marathons in the entire world.

As you might be able to guess, this isn’t the most popular of marathons! Only around 2,500 runners are brave enough to attempt the feat each year. Those who do enter, however, are getting an incredible opportunity to see one of the most impressive structures ever made in an utterly unique manner.

Official Marathon Site:
4 Dead Sea Marathon The Dead Sea – shared by Israel, Jordan and Palestine – is one of the most incredible and famous natural phenomena in the entire world. It is generally regarded as the lowest land point on earth, sitting some 430m below sea level. Its fame comes mostly from its phenomenal saltiness, with the salinity being so high that going underwater is effectively impossible; however hard you try, you simply float on the surface!

This amazing place is also home to some seriously stunning desert scenery, which forms the perfect backdrop for the Dead Sea Marathon, held each year in April. It takes place on the Jordanian side of the sea, and runners descend a whopping 1,300m over the course of the race!

Technically, with a length of 50km (31 miles), this is actually an “ultra marathon”. That’s right; if a regular, 26-mile marathon didn’t sound hard enough to you, there’s a whole new level of challenge you can try out! One of the best things about this particular race, however, is that there are multiple events for different distances. If the ultra marathon sounds too taxing, you can simply opt to run a regular marathon, or even a 10K.

Official Marathon Site:
5 Marathon du Medoc The Marathon du Medoc is easily the most unusual race we’ve looked at so far.

Despite being a regular-length marathon of 26 miles, this is fondly known as the “longest marathon in the world”. That’s because the actual running is only one part of the events which unfold across the day (held in September every year). Along the way, runners are supposed to stop off for twenty three glasses of wine, in order to celebrate the famous vineyards of France’s Medoc region! And it’s not only wine on the menu. Entrants will also be treated to a variety of food, including cheese, steak, foie gras and ice cream. We told you it was an unusual marathon!

As you can guess, this isn’t the most serious of races. The idea is more to simply have fun, evidenced by the fact that 90% of entrants run the marathon in fancy dress. It won’t surprise you to learn that this isn’t a fast race either, with the general target time being around 6hrs 30mins. This is one marathon where the focus – in the words of race president Vincent Fabre – is very much on having a good time, rather than getting a good time.

Official Marathon Site:
6 North Pole Marathon With most marathons being held at the most temperate time of year in their respective countries, the worry is often getting too hot in a marathon. That is certainly not the case with the North Pole Marathon!

The race takes place at the geographic North Pole itself, meaning – if you’re brave enough to enter – you’ll quite literally be running on top of the world! Given that the North Pole isn’t actually made up of land, you’ll also be running on frozen ice floes, with only a couple of meters separating you from the freezing Arctic Ocean below.

This is a standard 26.2 mile marathon (with a half marathon option also available), but that’s just about the only normal thing about it. Entrants must dress in full-on polar clothing to protect themselves from the brutal sub-zero temperatures, and trudge through some pretty heavy snowfall. This is certainly a marathon that only the most extreme competitors should attempt to tackle.

Official Marathon Site:
7 Safaricom Marathon From the frozen tundra of the North Pole, straight to the sunny heart of Africa; we’re truly going all around the planet on our tour of the world’s most interesting marathons!

If you’ve always wanted to go on a safari, then the Safaricom Marathon is a challenging and utterly unique way to do exactly that. Each year, a modestly-sized crowd of entrants race through the stunning Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, located right in the heart of Kenya.

This is certainly one of the toughest 26.2 mile marathons you can enter. The course itself is hilly, the ground isn’t particularly smooth, and the elevation – around 5,500ft above sea level – brings its own set of challenges. That being said, you couldn’t ask for a more spectacular setting. The course passes through plains and woodland, and along rivers. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the park’s extensive wildlife.

Finally, this is one marathon in which you’re truly running for a reason. Proceeds from the event go towards education and community development in the area, as well as conservation for protecting local animals.

Official Marathon Site:
8 Volcano Marathon More experienced marathon runners frequently find themselves looking for new challenges, in the form of increasingly extreme settings for their races. Well, if it’s an extreme setting that you’re after… then look no further!

The Volcano Marathon takes place in northern Chile, and is one of the highest desert marathons in the world. The desert in question is the famous Atacama, which is the driest on the entire planet. The race starts at a hefty 4,475m above sea level, meaning that entrants will have to battle significantly thinner air than usual as they race around.

The scenery is arguably worth even this incredible challenge, however. There are breath-taking panoramic views throughout the 26.2 miles, including ten different volcanoes along the route. As part of the event, outside of the marathon itself, you’ll also be taken to visit some of the area’s most amazing sites, including the Valley of Death and the Valley of the Moon.

Official Marathon Site:
9 Burro Days World Championship Pack Burro Race Most people would agree that it’s more fun to run a marathon with a companion, as opposed to flying solo. Sometimes, however, it can be hard to find someone willing to join you. The good news with the Burro Days World Championship is that you won’t be running it alone. The twist, however, is that your buddy for the race will be… a donkey!

The state of Colorado, USA, has a long and storied history in mining. In the heyday of mining in the area, miners would take donkeys (“burros”, in Spanish) with them when they went prospecting. This tradition is still celebrated courtesy of the annual Burro Days festival in the summer, which began back in 1949 and continues to this day.

There are a whole host of events at Burro Days, but the centerpiece is undoubtedly the Pack Burro Race. Each entrant is given a donkey, which is loaded with a pack that symbolizes the equipment miners used to carry. They then lead the donkey with a rope along a lengthy course that runs for some 30 miles, looking after their newfound four-legged friend the entire time.

Official Marathon Site:
10 Man Versus Horse Marathon Humans against nature. Man against beast. These are age-old themes which have been explored countless times over the millennia. They continue to be explored – albeit in a slightly unusual manner – in Wales each year, at the Man Versus Horse Marathon.

The whole thing originally began as a simple pub bet back in 1980, when one man claimed he could run faster than a horse over a long, cross-country distance. He was wrong. Over the following years, however, it evolved into a fully-fledged event, which today features a more-or-less standard marathon length and thousands of runners competing against dozens of horses.

As you can probably guess, the horses usually win. Since 1980, in fact, only two humans have won: Huw Lobb in 2004, and Florian Holzinger in 2007. Still, even if there’s almost no chance of you triumphing, this is still an extremely scenic marathon which – across its 22 miles – takes in some picture-perfect examples of Wales’s trademark rugged landscapes.

Official Marathon Site:


Marathons are absolutely fascinating events, and we would say that the main reasons for that are twofold.

Firstly, there’s the history. This is an event which has its origins in ancient history, and even the modern marathon stretches all the way back to 1896. Every time a person enters a marathon now, wherever they are in the world, they are partaking in an incredibly historic tradition.

Secondly, there’s the consistency of the length. That might sound simple, but given that that’s basically the entirety of the rules – that a marathon distance should be 26.2 miles (though some are slightly longer or shorter, and there are also ultra marathons which form a completely separate sub-category) – it has allowed for an incredible amount of flexibility and invention.

That’s something we saw in abundance in the world’s ten most interesting marathons which we studied. They were all more or less the same length, but the variety between each of them – in conditions, location, and so on – was staggering. Whatever the specific marathon, though – however crazy the setting – it can still be easily compared to one which you might run in your local town or city. They are all still marathons, and every marathon runner can experience the same incredible sense of achievement on completion.

Finally, we want to clarify that it certainly wasn’t easy narrowing down our list of the ten most interesting marathons in the world! There are hundreds and hundreds to choose from after all, and – whether through history, setting, or some other factor – each one is unique and interesting in its own way.

That being said, there are a select few that stand out from the crowd. We’re confident that we picked the right ones for our chosen ten, but there were certainly others that came close.

One of the most difficult to omit was the Midnight Sun Marathon. It takes place in Tromso, Norway, and is the northernmost officially-recognized marathon in the world. Tromso’s location means that, for a period of time each year, the sun literally never sets. This marathon doesn’t actually start until 20:30, and yet you can still expect to be running under the shining sun throughout, however long you take!

Another near miss was the Walt Disney World Marathon, set in what might just be the most fun place on earth. Running a marathon is always pretty tough, but we’d imagine it gets a whole lot easier when you have Mickey, Donald Duck and the rest of the gang cheering you on!

Our final honorable mention has to be the Niagara Falls Marathon. Not only does it afford unbeatable views of the famous, enormous waterfalls, but it also gives you the chance to literally run from one country to another (the USA to Canada); how cool is that?!

If you’re a marathon runner, then the sky really is the limit in terms of challenges and amazing experiences. If you simply ask yourself where you could run a race in your wildest dreams, we’d bet there’s a pretty good chance that there’s already a marathon set up there to cater to your needs! If you’re looking for the most interesting places to begin, however, then our top ten collection provides you with a perfect way in which to get started.