Top 6 Extreme Marathons from Around the World

    If you’ve conquered some of the most popular marathons in your area and now feel like you’re ready to really challenge yourself – it’s time to discover some of the world’s most extreme marathon trails.

    See the world and put your fitness level to the test with some of the toughest terrains, weather conditions, altitudes, and breath-taking views all the way to the finish line.

    Get ready and start training now.

    Great Wall of China Marathon

    Set in one of the wonders of the world, this marathon covers 21.1 miles (34km) and will leave you in complete awe. The amazing view will help you tackle the steep uphill terrain, with a total of 5164 steps to climb throughout the race.

    The unrelenting incline means that the Great Wall of China Marathon is known as one of the toughest, passing through villages and over rivers every May. Runners must complete the run within six hours.

    Not sure you want to take on this big of a challenge just yet? The marathon offers three different distances: a marathon, a half marathon and a 5.3-mile (8.5km) fun run for those that just want a taste of the trail.

    Where: China

    When: May

    Distance: 21.1 miles

    Mount Kilimanjaro Marathon


    Every year around 25,000 people climb one of the trails of Mount Kilimanjaro, so why not take it a step further and enter the marathon scheduled in February? The run takes place under the highest summit point of Africa over 26.2 miles (42.2km) of mostly tarred roads, to ensure a manageable race for participants with the changing altitude.

    While the Mount Kilimanjaro Marathon does require you to get used to running at a higher altitude throughout the race, the trail does not extend to the summit of the mountain as the extremely high altitude would be too dangerous for the runners.

    The Mount Kilimanjaro Marathon also offers three varying distances to suit your level of fitness, so you can work your way up to the main trek and acclimatize to your environment.

    Where: Tanzania

    When: February

    Distance: 26.2 miles

    Polar Circle Marathon

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    If you’ve ever felt the need to cool down during a race, the Polar Circle Marathon could be the answer you’re looking for. Located in the Arctic desert, this marathon requires you to tackle extreme temperatures, with a trail that passes glaciers, lakes, and valleys, along with a variety of rough gravel roads covered in snow. There’s also the possibility of icy terrain throughout the run, which usually runs during the month of October.

    Remote and largely unseen by the vast majority of tourists and athletes, the area of Greenland in which the marathon takes place is actually on the ice cap itself, offering you a rare opportunity to try a long distance run that you’ve most definitely never experienced before.

    You’ll need many specialist items of clothing and safety precautions to take part in the event, which spans a distance of 26.2 miles (42.2km), as well as a shorter, half marathon. Or, you can sign up to what’s known as the Polar Bear Challenge and push yourself to the max by running both options – the full and half marathon versions of the Polar Circle.

    Where: Greenland

    When: October

    Distance: 26.2 miles

    The Everest Marathon

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    The Guinness Book of Records lists it as the world’s highest marathon, so the Everest Marathon is the ultimate challenge for those who both have a passion for extreme races and ambition to climb the mountain. Rocky terrain is enhanced by a starting point of 17,000 feet at Gorak Shep, with a finishing line located at Namche Bazaar, at 11,3000 feet.

    A trail of 26.2 miles (42.2km) across snowy peaks with significant ice exposure, all participants need to arrive in Nepal around three weeks before the start of the race to acclimatize themselves to the altitude and environment surrounding the marathon trail. Use the time to explore the country with a sightseeing tour of the capital and a fourteen-day expedition to the starting point of the race at base camp.

    There are four different programs available, including a full and half marathon, as well as joining the race at base camp or participating as a non-runner.

    Where: Nepal

    When: May

    Distance: 26.2 miles

    Marathon Des Sables

    Not only does the Marathon Des Sables take place in a tough environment – the Sahara Desert – but is a grueling seven-day-long event that, at times, rations the amount of water available to each participant at any one time. Go over this amount, and you will receive a time penalty. This race is not one for the casual runner.

    A multi-stage event, runners, must carry all of their equipment and food on their backs throughout the marathon, with communal tents pitched for participants to sleep in every night. Expect to face plenty of dunes, hot white sand, and sweltering heat, with temperatures sometimes reaching up to 50°C – conditions not for the faint hearted. The trek is approximately over 156 miles (250km) and split into six different stages.

    Where: Morocco

    When: April

    Distance: 156 miles

    Big Five Marathon

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    Roam amongst Africa’s wild animals – from elephants and lions to rhinos, zebras, and giraffes – with the Big Five Marathon that is set in the South African game reserve of Entabeni. Featuring a 26.2 miles (42.2km) marathon and a half marathon throughout the reserve, you won’t find any fences or barriers separating you from the native wildlife and their habitat as you traverse the route of the race.

    A hot, dry environment, you will need to be aware of the rocky surface which may feature pebbles and possible potholes in the ground throughout the race. You’ll run across a valley, through wooded areas and up plenty of hills to ensure this is more than enough of a challenge for those with a strong determination when it comes to fitness.

    With such beautiful scenery and the chance to get up close and personal with the African wild, there’s no shortage of things to spur you on until the finish line.

    Where: South Africa

    When: April

    Distance: 26.2 miles

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