Off-Road World Races
Of course, there are plenty of runners around the world who prefer fell running, multi-terrain races or simply crave something different from road racing.
Again, it is impossible to list every existing event in this category, but we have chosen the more notable races as well as those that some of our members have been to and can share their experiences.
Race: Great Wall Marathon
Location: Great Wall of China
What it is: Taking place at one of the most impressive man-made wonders on Earth, the Great Wall Marathon is one of the more unique marathons in the world. The race is split into two distinct sections, with the first part consisting of two laps of a 9km run up to, across and down the Great Wall of China, and the second section being run through villages and rice fields along asphalt and gravel roads. Much of the first part of the course features steep ascents and descents as well as thousands of steps, and the second section includes a gradual but long ascent – which may come as an unpleasant surprise after over 20km of running! With a wide range of gradients and terrain, each section of the Great Wall Marathon requires a different strategy, and the race is a formidable challenge for any runner.
Recommended for: Experienced runners who want to race at one of the world’s most picturesque locations.
Race: Marathon des Sables
Location: Sahara Desert, Morocco
What it is: Billing itself as the ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth’, the Marathon des Sables is 6 day, 151-mile endurance race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. Overall equivalent to 5-and-a-half regular marathons, it is a very mentally- and physically-demanding and difficult challenge: Competitors need to carry all supplies that they require (apart from tents) – i.e. food, clothes, medical supplies, etc. – on their backs throughout the duration of the event, temperatures often rise to above 120°F during the day, much of the surface consists of rocky, uneven ground and sand dunes, and the 4th day consists of a 45-50 mile stage across the barren wilderness. Although a very tough race to complete, there is a great camaraderie between those participating, and the sense of pride at successfully finishing such an extreme challenge is a feeling that can’t be beaten!
Recommended for: Fit athletes with tough mental strength.