These are just a couple of the unusual and extraordinary marathons we found around the world that keep runners coming back for beautiful landscapes and an unforgettable experience. If you’re looking for a new twist on the marathon, these races will let you add a dose of excitement to your racing calendar.
Safaricom MarathonJune 25, 2016; Samburu, Kenya 1 of 8
This adventure race takes place at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya, meaning you'll be running in a habitat that's home to wild animals. Race officials prohibit deviating from the course, an undulating dirt path, to limit the chances of a run-in with an African animal. Besides taking place in a country that loves running, the marathon raises funds for the conservation and community development in Kenya.
In 2015, Elijah Mbogo won the Safaricom Marathon in 2:20:18.
Burro DaysJuly 31, 2016; Fairplay, Colo. 2 of 8
Running a marathon is tough enough, but this Colorado race requires each participant to push, pull or drag a burro along 29.5 miles (the long course) or 15 miles (the short course). Each burro is loaded with a prospector's pick, gold pan and shovel that weigh about 33 pounds total. With an entry fee of only $40, money costs should be the least of your worries.
In 2015, the long course winner crossed the finish line with his burro in 5:23:34.
Le Marathon du MedocSept. 10, 2016; Bordeaux, France 3 of 8
Each year, the wild and fun marathon chooses a different theme for its wacky weekend, and costumed runners taking part in this year's Le Marathon du Medoc will be part of the "Tales and Legends" theme.
But even more bizarre (or awesome!) is that this 26.2-mile race features 23 stops—that is, between 20 to 22 wine-tasting stops that also feature steak, oysters and other fine foods. So when picking an outfit for this race, consider going with something stretchy.
The race is limited to 8,500 participants.
Great Wall MarathonMay 20, 2017; Beijing 4 of 8
When the Great Wall of China was built, designers reportedly varied the height of the steps to impede attacks. Today, you can run along the country's most recognizable symbol during the Great Wall Marathon. Overall, the race will cover some 20,000 steps over rugged terrain.
The course has a 10-hour time limit. In this year's race, the winner finished the marathon in 5:27:20.
The Barkley MarathonsMarch/April 2017; Wartburg, Tenn. 5 of 8
Ultra-secretive and ultra-tough are two ways to describe the Barkley Marathons. The Tennessee race only takes 40 or so runners each year to attempt the 100-plus miles in the grueling backcountry woods.
To complete the full Barkley, runners must complete five loops of approximately 20 miles each in about 12 hours per leg. To make things even more difficult, there are no aid stations or trail markers along the course. In fact, every detail about this race is intended to challenge participants mentally and physically. And with no published entry procedure, prospective runners need to figure that one out on their own, too.
This year, Jared Campbell finished the race to become the only person to complete the Barkley Marathons three times.
Midnight Sun MarathonJune, 2017; Tromso, Norway 6 of 8
Nighttime runners will get a new experience at Norway's Midnight Sun Marathon. The 26.2 race usually starts about 8:30 p.m. and most runners finish around midnight. But nighttime doesn't necessarily mean you'll be running in the pitch black. As the northernmost certified marathon in the world, you'll be running in broad daylight in the middle of the night. Be sure to bring a sleep mask for pre-race ZZZs.
The race is capped at about 1,000 runners each year. In 2015, the winner finished in 2:26:14.
Man V Horse MarathonJune 10, 2017; Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales 7 of 8
This race pits man (and woman) against horse in a 21-mile showdown. It all started in 1980 in a hotel bar when Gordon Green overheard a debate over the running power of men and horses. Inspired by that conversation, he decided to organize an event across the Welsh terrain that features a runner against a horseback rider.
In 2004, a runner beat the horse for the first time, with a time of 2:05:19. Then in 2007, another runner outran the horse in 2:20:30. Since then, horses have claimed victory in every subsequent event.
Do you have it in you to claim one for mankind?