In 490 BC the Greek messenger Philippides ran the entire distance between Marathon and Athens of 42.195 Km (or 26.219 miles) just to announce the historical Greek victory over the Persians. He then immediately collapsed and died of exhaustion. The modern generations look at his achievement with admiration and take it as a challenge to run circuits of the same length, but with less fatal consequences.
Since 1896, amateur athletes try to overcome their personal best in marathons that are organized all over the world. The difficulty level varies from one circuit to another, and few racers can boast about running these five hardest long-distant races:
The Great Wall Marathon
If your two favorite hobbies are running and history, then the marathon that runs on the Great Wall of China should be on your bucket list. This is one of the most challenging races in the world that will make you crawl, jump and run over the 5,164 steps that are spread over the 26-mile circuit. It is the type of marathon that will give you muscle cramps for several weeks after you complete it, but the spectacular Chines landscapes will make every effort worthwhile.
The Inca Trail Marathon
When people think of long-distance races, they imagine running for hours over a flat terrain, like a sandy beach. However, few believe that the same marathon can take place vertically as it does in the Andes on the ancient Inca trail. The race starts at an elevation of 8,650 feet, and it goes up and down exposing the contestants to different weather conditions and terrain surfaces. The benefit of running this race is passing through historical sites like Machu Picchu and The Lost City of the Incas.
The Antarctic Ice Marathon
If you hate running in bad weather, then you should stay away from the southernmost marathon on the planet that takes place in Antarctica. The race resembles circuits made by 19th-century explorers who wanted to reach the South Pole. Although it will not get you close enough to arrive at that geographical point, the race will expose you to severe weather conditions like high winds and temperature oscillations. Less than 50 people chose to run this marathon every year, which shows just how difficult the challenge is.
The Pikes Peak Marathon
US professional runners have a career goal that is almost as important as an Olympic Gold Medal: to complete the Pikes Peak Marathon. This circuit is a slow ascent to the 14,115-foot peak of the highest mountain in Colorado. The race is famous both for its difficulty and for the tragic accidents that have marred its history, which is why the entry number of participants is limited to 800.
The Everest Marathon
If you want to test your limits, there is no better place to do it than on the highest mountain on the planet. Every year the Everest hosts a marathon for the truly dedicated racers. The highest peak that you can reach during the race is at 5545m (18200ft). However, this is far from being the hardest part of the marathon. The entire circuit begins 14 days before the start of the race with a trek around the Himalayas that ends at the Everest Base Camp. This marathon is a once in a lifetime experience that allows you to explore the Nepalese culture and challenge your running abilities on one of the most unforgiving mountains in the world.