The worlds craziest extreme marathons! Sahara, North Pole, South Pole, and Kilimanjaro

Ready for a real extreme marathon exeperience ? Here they are.

Many people would say you had to be crazy to run a marathon - period. But for the marathon enthusiast after that extra special extreme marathon experience, let's take a look at the five craziest marathons that the world has to offer. That is the Kilimanjaro marathon, the North Pole Marathon, the South Pole Marathon, Sahara Marathon and the Tiberias Marathon :

  • the "highest",
  • the lowest,
  • the hottest,
  • the most southern and perhaps the coldest,
  • and the most northern of all marathons.


First up, the "highest"- Mount Kilimanjaro marathon !

mount kilimanjaro marathonThere's an old saying in Africa that goes something like this: every morning, a gazelle wakes up, and knows that it has to outrun the fastest lion, or i''ll be killed. At the same time, a lion wakes up. It knows it has to run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it'll starve.

That all adds up to the fact that it doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle - when the sun rises, you'd better start running!

In the country of Tanzania, south of the equator, there is the highest mountain in Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro.

There, in March each year, two marathons are.

There is,

  • the standard 42.2 kilometre race
  • and a 21.1 km half marathon.

The Kiimanjaro marathon isn't an actual climb-run up the Kilimanjaro - but the gain in altitude is still substantial, going up about 300 meters during the race (from 800 to about 1000 meters) making it quite rough as a marathon.

The Mount Kilimanjaro course

Both races start at the sport stadium in Moshi, and then go on down to Dar-Es-Salaam via the main road.

This stretch was chosen for the fact that it's a relatively flat section of road. Then, right at the eight km point, the runners head back toward Moshi for a time, and then turned toward the mountain and began the ascent to the city of Mweka.

Fortunately, that spectacular view of the mountain is quite inspiring; helping to make the time pass faster.

Finally, at the 32 km mark, the runners turned back toward the stadium, and made a downhill run to the city.

Of course, given the conditions of the race, tables are set up at regular intervals to provide water, "sponging points", and even some "showers" in order to keep the runners refreshed and cooled down.

The runners also don't lack an audience.

The route snakes its way through a lot of villages, towns, and farms, past forests and coffee and banana plantations.

The shorter race pretty much followed the same route as the longer, but the turnaround point is at the 10 km mark.

The whole race is set up by the Kilimanjaro Marathon Club, and also members of the Tanzania Amateur Athletics Association, and the Kilimanjaro Amateur Athletics Association.

Naturally, this has led to many Tanzanians and Kenyans competing, and then athletes from Ethiopia and Uganda also participate.

As a little side note, package tours to climb Mount Kilimanjaro are also available for people to climb it either before or after the race.

If you are still up for the walk.

Most Southern (and maybe the coldest?) - South Pole Marathon.

south pole marathonAs a contrast to the North Pole Marathon, you've got a race taking place in the last great frontier in the world: Antarctica.

The runners fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to a few hundred miles from the South Pole, eighty degrees south latitude!

You just don't get much more southern than that.

Given the extreme weather conditions, the runners meet with the race coordinators to check the environmental conditions.

If conditions are favourable, the course will wind and snake a full 26.2 miles through the Patriot Hills.

The runners will face a snow and ice course, sub - zero temperatures, high winds (cold winds!), and an incredible view of a horizon that literally curves! Talk about an incredible race.

And when it's all over, there's be a huge dinner for all of the participants.

You're sure to have worked up an appetite;)

The Lowest, 200 meters below sealevel ! Tiberias Marathon.

You have to wonder about that word: "lowest".

Where would you run a marathon that was considered a low spot?

Well, how about 200 metres below sea level?

The lowest marathon in the world is run around the Sea of Galilee as part of the Festival of Sports Activities and Tourism in Tiberius : the Tiberias marathon.

Organised by the Israeli Athletic Association and the Tiberius Municipality, it is a great course to run; virtually all of it is flat, and in a cooler temperature than you might expect.

The path runs (if you'll excuse the pun!) all around the shores of the Sea of Galilee. When you consider what a beautiful and historic area the Jordan Valley is - it is a great place to run.

The runners cross the River Jordan - via a bridge, rather than walking on water - and then make their turning point at Kibbutz Ein Gev to swing back to Tiberius.

Yes, I know, that Kibbutz name sounds totally false, but it really exists!

Finally, the race ended at the Golden Tulip Hotel. As a safety precaution, only people born after 1994 can run the full race.

A ten kilometer race is made available for those "older" folks - and a walking race as well.

Of course, the organisers make sure to have drink and sponge stations, medical staff on standby, and the usually race controls for keeping the track clear. Every runner gets a medal, and trophies go to the top three.

You can visit their official homepage here.

Most Northerly, the North Pole Marathon

Have you ever considered running around the North Pole? Now there's a race there.

Well, just this month (April 2008), the first ever North Pole Marathon was run.

check out the video below :

It was quite the exciting and chilling event, to race around the top of the world for 26.2 miles, and to survive the bone - chilling temperatures.

When you consider that the runners have to push themselves to run over the freezing waters of the Arctic Ocean, the North Pole Marathon is a truly unique event. Now, that is walking on water!

Also, the race has a team event :

This is unique, and allows that the times for each team's first three runners should be added up and compared against the other teams.

Also, any runner who has completed a marathon on every continent was allowed to join the North Pole Marathon Grand Slam Club by running in the race.

To check out the pretty cool webpage of the North Pole Marathon (linking out), you can click here.

"Hottest" Marathon (or at least you would think so!) - The Sahara Marathon

sahara marathonIt doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the hottest spot on Earth: the Sahara Desert.

Well, close to Tindouf, which lies in the Algerian territory, they run the Sahara Marathon.

This year (2008) marks the eighth time the race has been held. Given the high temperatures involved, it has some of the shortest races as well as the full marathon route; they include

  • a 10 km,
  • a 5 km race,
  • and a short one for children.

The main reason for the event is to bring attention to the Saharawi people, and encourage physical activity among their youth.

Also, the program aims to raise money to finance humanitarian programs.

Many of the Saharawi are in refugee camps, so any programs to help their children are welcome.

Anyone who participates in the race is transported to the course. The route is marked with a variety of markers: flags, piles of stones etc.

One positive aspect of the race is that the course is largely flat.

Also, as with other marathons, water stations are along the route.

Given the extreme conditions, in this race they are at every 3 km, and the International Red Cross with have medical support provided via vehicles that follow the racers.

Also, racers are encouraged to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and something to cover their necks. When you consider that temperatures can reach over a hundred degrees, the race is a true test of endurance.

So - if your regular street marathon just isn't a challenge anymore - how about going for one of these extreme marathons.

Pick your height above sea level or the temperature and just go for it!

The support and back up is amazing.

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