This weekend will be the 38th running of the New York City Marathon. The marathon is an event steeped in history. Accounts vary, but it is said the Greek messenger Pheidippides, in 490 BC, ran from the plains at the Battle of Marathon all the way to Athens to declare the Greek victory over the mighty Persian army. Upon delivering his message of triumph, he dropped dead from fatigue. It makes for a great story, but the race named for that event is a mighty one, drawing participants from all over the world to locations far and wide to challenge themselves in a great feat of physical and mental will. IgoUgo members, never ones to turn down such challenges, have conquered various marathons and lived to tell about it. This is certainly travel on the very beaten path at its finest.
The Place: Anchorage, AK
The Race: Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon
While the race does not actually start at midnight, it is held each year during the summer solstice and the accompanying bright nights of Alaska’s sky. According to cgwolf5, the race features “gorgeous scenery, beautiful weather, lots of water stops, and great people.” She says, “We saw a bear on the route the night before as we surveyed our relay points and there were two to three moose on the trail during the run.” Ems agrees, saying, “The marathon was a challenge, considering that it was on both trails and road. The beauty of the course, however, is unparalleled! The scenery definitely takes one's mind off the race!” Incidentally, in the “Best Way to Get Around” portion of her journal overview, Ems doesn’t mention “running.”
The Place: Beijing, China
The Race: Great Wall Marathon
In case running 26.2 miles wasn’t enough of a challenge on its own, the Great Wall Marathon travels along part of the ancient wonder and includes a lot of uneven terrain—and stairs. The athletic and adventurous alcoholly claims, “Your legs will hurt after the 'race preview' day, when you walk the wall section of the course. And the next day. And even more during the run. Don't even contemplate walking the day after the race. But it's beautiful—amazing scenery, great people. A fantastic way to see a 'less-trodden' part of the Wall at Jixian, you get plenty of opportunity to take heaps of photos and to run one of the most beautiful and challenging courses in the world.”
The Place: Atlanta, GA
The Race: The Atlanta Marathon and Half-Marathon
Another November staple, this race—like many big-city marathons—includes the shorter half-marathon distance as well, for those looking for a more civilized accomplishment. Either way, you’re sure to burn enough calories to enjoy your meal later in the day. As longtime member barbara sees it, “The Atlanta Half-Marathon has turned into one of my Thanksgiving Day traditions. Held every Thanksgiving morning in Atlanta, it is a wonderful way to start the day—and to not feel guilty about the pecan pie you'll eat later.” If there were pie at the end of every race, it would make things much easier.
The Place: Boston, MA
The Race: Patriots’ Day Marathon
Considered by many to be one of the preeminent races in the world, the Boston—or Patriots’ Day—Marathon is also the oldest annual marathon and among the most popular. The course is also home to “Heartbreak Hill,” positioned during the devastating 20th mile when many runners “hit the wall.” Regardless of the pain involved, jennandwes claims, “Marathon Monday is one my favorite times to be in Boston. It's a fantastically fun day that really brings out the best in the city. For the partiers at heart, you can watch from several of the bars on Boylston St., or you can head out to Newton and cheer runners on through the hills.”
The Place: Quito, Ecuador
The Race: Maraton de Quito
At an altitude of around 9,000 feet, Quito is a real proving ground for marathoners. As if running the grueling distance was not difficult enough, the added hardships of thin air and hot sun make this marathon a testament to any competitor’s will. IgoUgo’s most marathoning member, Shady Ady, recounts his experience as he “headed to the country’s capital, full of hope and determination at something resembling success.” Did he succeed? “I'm happy to say this was achieved,” he says, “completing the marathon at an altitude of 2,800m with only two weeks’ training, taking in the sights and delights of La Parque Carolina, around which most of the marathon was run.”
The Place: Walt Disney World, FL
The Race: Disney Marathon
It’s a mystery as to why people—even runners—would want to go to a place as happy and upbeat as Disney World just to subject themselves to the personal anguish that can accompany a marathon, but maybe the sight of Mickey Mouse is motivating. Floridian jangarys has witnessed this January event and noticed that “many of the participants don mouse or Goofy ears, making for some memorable photo opportunities. I like to watch the finishers as they make it down the final stretch past the Boardwalk Hotel. When they see the big EPCOT ball come in view, they all smile in relief, knowing they are almost to the finish line.” Come to think of it, once people see that finish line, it probably is the happiest place on earth.
The Place:Monterey, CA
The Race: Big Sur International Marathon
As long as you’re going to be pounding the pavement, the road might as well wind along some of the best scenery the country has to offer. Though the hills of Highway One make for some heartbreaking stretches, the Big Sur race is easily one of the most picturesque ways to complete the goal of running a marathon. Apparent marathon aficionado barbara claims, rightfully, that “the Big Sur Marathon is a beautiful race along the prettiest highway in the United States. For one day a year only, Highway 1 is closed to traffic to accommodate runners, and the incredible ocean views are worth every second of pain you will feel as you navigate the difficult and sometimes windy course. When you get to the top, however, and you look over your shoulder at the mountain you have just conquered, at the sea churning below the cliffs, your breath will be taken away. It is truly a triumphant moment for any distance runner.” Breathtaking may not be the ideal word to use there, but we get the picture.
The Place: Philadelphia, PA
The Race: Philadelphia Marathon
On the heels of the biggest marathon in the world in New York City, the Philly marathon is entering its 15th year this year. PA native pointerbd likes the competition, and loves that the race “is traditionally run on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It is made up of several thousand runners from all over the WORLD who come to test their skills on this 26-mile loop. Because of the interesting and varied scenery, it is a popular run that even beginners have been able to complete with decent times on their first marathons." Decent times or not, it’s amazing just to finish.