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10 of the World’s Most Unique Running Events

overhead shot of marathon

Running a marathon is an incredible accomplishment no matter where you do it, but there are some running events that will let you cross the finish line and cross some things off your bucket list at the same time. Run on the Great Wall of China, race among African wildlife, or pound the pavement through the French countryside while sipping on fine wines. Here are 10 of the world’s most unique running events.

Here are 10 unique running events across the world.

Great Wall Marathon - China

This iconic running event brings us to China – specifically the Great Wall of China. This infamous landmark spans over 13,000 miles. Fortunately, the race is a bit more manageable than that. Runners can choose to participate in the full marathon, half marathon, or an 8.5 km fun run. This is a notoriously difficult race due to the 5,164 steps runners have to conquer along with the distance and intense elevation, but the location is undeniably worth it.

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Midnight Sun Marathon - Norway

If you’re looking for an excuse to visit beautiful Norway, look no further than the Midnight Sun Marathon. This is the most northerly race in the world, so while it doesn’t start until the evening, it will be light the entire time. The race takes place in the Arctic capital of Tromso. Enjoy views of both mountain and sea while you race under the midnight sun!

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New York City Marathon - United States

The New York City Marathon is an iconic race through The Big Apple. Famous for its celebrity participants and incredible energy, this is a race you’ll want to cross off the bucket list. In 2022, 47,839 people from over 130 countries crossed the finish line in the Empire State. This is a popular race, so make sure to sign up early to secure your spot.

Looking for something more unique? The annual Empire State Building Run-Up challenges athletes to race up 85 flights – 1,576 stairs. Test your endurance and then take in the incredible views of New York City at the top.

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Big Five Marathon - South Africa

If both a marathon and an African safari are on your bucket list, look no further than the Big Five Marathon. Held in South Africa, this Marathon takes you up close and personal with African wildlife and will challenge you with its intense terrain. The Big Five refers to the animals you’ll likely spot during the race: elephants, rhinos, buffalos, lions, and leopards. Not for the faint of heart – but definitely an experience you’ll never forget!

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Le Marathon du Medoc - France

If you’re a wine lover and a runner, you might be interested in the Marthon du Medoc in Bordeaux, France. During this race, you’re encouraged to stop at the many beautiful wineries along your route to taste some vintages. You’re also encouraged to dress up. All in all, this one isn’t for those who take themselves too seriously. 

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Jungle Marathon - Brazil

This race through some of the world’s most beautiful and challenging terrain is one of the most intense journeys any runner can attempt. With high temperatures and humidity, swamp and river crossings, and dangerous wildlife, this isn’t a race to be taken lightly. On top of the intimidating conditions, the marathon is actually the short option. Runners can also choose a 127 km race or a 254 km race through the rainforest. This one definitely belongs on the list for its uniqueness, but it may not be everyone’s idea of a good time.

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Run Rome The Marathon - Italy

This amazing race allows you to conquer the ancient city of Rome, taking in landmarks like Piazza Venezia, Circo Massimo, The Colosseum, and St. Peter’s Basilica along the way. Gladiators await you at the finish line, making the experience even more memorable. After the race, you can enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful and vibrant cities – and a lot of good pasta!

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London Marathon - England

Add another stamp to your passport with the London Marathon, an iconic race through one of the world’s favorite cities. You’ll pass famous landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, all while being cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd.

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Marathon Des Sables - Morocco

If you’re looking for a challenge, you may be interested in the Marathon Des Sables. This one goes beyond your average marathon, challenging runners to a 250 km foot race over the course of many days. Participants carry their own backpacks of food and supplies. Running through the Sahara Desert means high temperatures and harsh conditions, so you’ll be surrounded by hardcore competitors at this event.

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Reggae Marathon, Jamaica

Escape the cold this winter and head to Jamaica for the Reggae Marathon. Typically held in December, this race is accompanied by a Reggae soundtrack to keep you motivated while you tread the island’s white sand beaches. The race begins at Long Bay beach Park, crosses into the town of Negril and then brings runners to the town of Green Island. This course is mostly flat and has a half-marathon and 10k option, so a great one for beginners!

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Planning a running event?

Second only to the challenge of running a marathon is the challenge of planning one. OnePlan can help. It’s an easy-to-use site planning software with hundreds of running specific features to help you ensure your event goes smoothly. Design your entire route as well as parking, traffic management and more in one place with over 130 running tools. OnePlan provides solutions to common pain points like collaborating with multiple stakeholders, accounting for event safety, and marking elements that are specific to running events like welfare points, traffic signage, spectators and runners.

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