There is something thrilling about traveling to an exotic land to experience new foods, new customs and a new culture. Combine that euphoric rush with an exciting 26.2-mile run, and you have a recipe for a one-of-a-kind vacation.
Enter the Mystery Marathon, a unique race series that enticed runners with a destination race held in an unpublicized location. After much guessing and speculation, the location was disclosed on September 26, 2012, and now runners have the chance to participate in a a destination event unlike any other.
This inaugural, boutique series will take runners to Ethiopia for the chance to participate in the Haile Gebrselassie Marathon. In addition to participating in Ethiopia's first international marathon, runners will get to experience a civilization rich in culture, vibrancy and running history.
As if traveling to Ethiopia wasn't tempting and mysterious enough, Mystery Marathon marketing manager Lynne Scharf reveals some more fun facts about this event.
What's the history of the Mystery Marathon?
Lynne Scharf: The Mystery Marathon began as a concept from the founder of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series, Tim Murphy. He thought it would be interesting to promote a race in an unpublicized location, and hold a contest—with clues and prizes—for people to guess its location. The idea really took off, and we found there are a lot of adventurous runners out there who love the thought of not only traveling somewhere exotic to run a marathon, but also playing along in trying to unravel the mystery country. We had 16,000 runners from all over the world enter the contest!
This is the inaugural event, but we are researching and exploring several incredible options for 2014. Stay tuned for the announcement of Mystery Marathon II in a new exotic locale!
When is the race and where exactly will it be taking place?
The race will be October 20, 2013, and it will take place in the lakeside city of Hawassa, approximately four hours south of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
The city of Hawassa is one of the flattest cities in Ethiopia. There are no major hills on the route, but there are a few gradual gradients leading up from the lakeside roads into the center of town. Hawassa is at an elevation of 5,500 feet, roughly the same as Denver, Colorado, or Davos in Switzerland.
On top of a chance to run through Hawassa, what's unique about the course?
One of our goals is to provide a truly multi-cultural experience to our runners. We will be incorporating traditional Ethiopian elements in as many aspects of the event as possible, from local entertainment along the course to a cultural fair at the pre-race expo.
What can runners expect along the course?
Although the race will definitely have an Ethiopian flair, race operations will remain at the standard expected by Western runners, with live music, aid stations, bottled water, replenishment drinks, course support, etc.
Why Ethiopia and how was this chosen as the destination?
Ethiopia is home to one of the world's most cultured civilizations, and it also has a rich history of distance running. For the past 50 years, it has been the training ground to some of the world's greatest athletes.
In addition, the people of Ethiopia are incredibly warm and friendly. Hospitality is an important part of life in their country, and they are proud to share their Ethiopian heritage with visitors. It seemed the perfect spot to kick off our series of boutique destination running events.