Marathon running is a great way to see the world. Pound the streets in vibrant cities normally clogged with traffic or experience rural trails well off the usual beaten path and make friends with strangers from around the world, all whilst drenched in sweat. It’s the best social leveller money can buy! Here are Skyscanner’s top regional marathon events in 2016.
1. Seoul International Marathon
Venue: Seoul, South Korea | Date: 15 March 2016 | Distance: 42.195km / 10km
Having been first inaugurated in 1931, this is Asia’s third longest running road race and attracts around 20,000 people annually. The energising spring weather means a later 8am start and conditions much more favourable for a long distance run than at most Southeast Asian events. The route starts in the heart of Seoul at Gwanghwamun Square and finishes inside the Jamsil Stadium, the venue for the 24th Olympic Games. When you finish, follow the lead of the locals and get stuck into an ice cold beer and a bowl of something spicy before hitting the town with wobbly legs.
2. Pyongyang Marathon
Venue: Pyongyang, North Korea | Date: 10 April 2016 | Distance: 42.195km / 21km / 10km
The Pyongyang Marathon is the ultimate bucket list marathon event for many runners and 2016 will be only the 3rd year the marathon has been open to foreign amateurs. This truly unique experience gives participants the opportunity to take part in the opening ceremony, one lap of a fully packed Kim Il Sung National Stadium, before heading out onto the streets of Pyongyang for a chance to interact with a capital and people still largely unknown to the rest of the world.
This marathon has a dress code, with runners forbidden from wearing any clothes with American and Japanese flags, and nothing bearing the word “America”. However, unlike on the strictly controlled guided tours of the city, the run gives participants a sense of freedom with no guides and plenty of positive interaction with the locals. The highlight of the race has to be the final stretch, entering the national stadium filled with 50,000 cheering North Koreans, enough to get anyone to the finishing line.
Foreign amateurs are forbidden from registering independently and must join an approved marathon tour. Highly regarded agency Koryo Tours has 2 night marathon packages starting at S$1150 from Beijing (includes return flights to Pyongyang).
3. Great Wall Marathon
Venue: Tianjin, China | Date: 21 May 2016 | Distance: 42.195km / 21km / 8.5km
The Great Wall Marathon is renowned as one of Asia’s most challenging and scenic running events with a route that includes the 6km Yellow Cliff Pass section of the Great Wall and 5,164 uneven stone steps with plenty of tough valley ascents and descents to give the legs a quality workout. Runners will pass through gorgeous rural farmland and tiny hamlets and receive cheers from village folk along the way. The 2015 edition was quickly booked out with 2500 runners from over 60 countries eager for the chance to challenge themselves on this brutal yet stunning once in a lifetime experience.
4. Laguna Phuket International Marathon
Venue: Phuket, Thailand | Dates: 4 & 5 June 2016 | Distance: 42.195km / 21km / 10.5km
Phuket is not normally a place associated with early morning wake up calls, but this event which started in 2006 as a way to get visitors back to Phuket after the 2004 tsunami, is a positive addition to any short island getaway. The marathon is tagged ‘Run in Paradise’ and takes competitors on a scenic route along the island’s northwest coastal stretch past outrageous beaches, turquoise sea, markets, rubber plantations and bucolic villages.
Runners are invited to a Pasta Party get together the night before the race, a great way to get to know your fellow runners, with dishes prepared by chefs at the Laguna Hotel. Race entry fees are put towards good local causes and how better to celebrate the completion of a marathon than a dip in the Andaman Sea and a plate of fresh seafood.
Entry costs S$105 for the marathon, S$90 for the half marathon and S$40 for the 10.km event.
5. Australian Outback Marathon
Venue: Ayers Rock, Australia | Date: 30th July 2016 | Distance: 42.195km / 21km / 11km
It’s quite a way to go for a run, but what a run it is. The deep red sands and the profoundly blue skies of the Australian outback dominate this marathon along with the backdrop of sacred landmarks Uluru and Kata Tjuta which show themselves at every turn and make this one of the most spiritually engaging running events in the region. Prepare for sand dunes, lots of sun and plenty of Aussie style socialising at this well organised event.
Packages start at S$940. Runners must book an all-inclusive package with a variety available to suit all budgets available here& your
6. Bali Marathon
Venue: Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia | Date: August 2016 | Distance: 42.195km / 21km / 10km
Taking place in Gianyar, one of Bali’s most fascinating cultural corners, the Bali Marathon has been growing impressively over the past few years with almost 5000 participants in 2015 and is an official qualifying race for the Boston Marathon. The route passes rural agricultural areas with rolling hills and after completing a few kilometres in the dark, the sun rising over the emerald rice fields is spectacular. The road is lined with a positive crowd including local folk dancers and smiling kids more than willing to hand out encouraging hi-5s to sweat drenched runners.
7. Great Hakka Marathon
Venue: Xiamen Fujian, China | Date: 27 November 2016 | Distance: 42.195km / 21km / 8km
This glorious marathon takes place in Nanjing County a short drive into sublime mountainous countryside from the bustling port city of Xiamen and offers runners to get up close and personal with Fujian’s most iconic sites, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Hakka roundhouses. These fortified communal dwellings dot the route, which includes stunning mountain ascents surrounded by terraced rice fields, swaying water buffalo and stretches along cobbled village streets and gently flowing rivers. It’s a challenging run, but rewards with an insight into a rural Chinese idyll.
8. Angkor Wat International Half Marathon
Venue: Siem Reap, Cambodia | Date: December 2016 | Distance: 21km / 10km
It may not be a full marathon, but this event simply has to be included in any runner’s dream itinerary. Not only do you get to start your run at the magnificent Angkor Wat temple at sunrise, you can also be assured your money is going to a good cause. The stated aim of the run is to raise awareness of the damage caused by landmines and part of the proceeds goes towards buying prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation and education programmes for victims.
The race also includes a 21km for wheelchair users and 10km artificial arm/leg event. Runners will glide under shady trees through this ancient UNESCO World Heritage site, passing some of the greatest temple structures ever built including the iconic Bayon and Ta Prohm temples making this one of the most awe inspiring runs ever designed.
We hope these challenging marathons in Asia and Australia have inspired you to start training. Book your flights early and have a blast! Article by P. Dixon.