Five great running holidays

If you love to run and need a holiday why not combine the two? A ‘runcation’ is a great way to explore the world while keeping fit.

Whether you’re just getting started or you’re a seasoned competitor, runners are spoilt for choice when it comes to spectacular locations and prestigious running festivals. The hard part is figuring out which location and run best suits you and those accompanying you on your holiday.

Here are our top five running holiday destinations that marry running kudos with a stunning location. And we’ve included a few tips on how to prepare and make the most of the experience.

Athens Marathon

Run alongside ancient ruins in the footsteps where it’s believed the first ever marathon was run. The Greek legend states in 490 BCE, a man known as Pheidippides ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to announce victory over the invading Persians, and prevent the Athenians from mistakenly surrendering.
  
The Athens Marathon retraces Pheidippides’ steps and combines running folklore with stunning Greek scenery and a finish at the Panathinaikon Stadium, the site of the First Modern Olympic Games in 1896.
 
If you’re not up for a full marathon, ten and five kilometre events also take in views of many of Athens’ most famous landmarks, including the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus.
 
After the race, why not hang around and soak up some more history in Athens or head inland to check out mainland Greece? You could even pop over to the spectacular Greek islands for some well-earned rest and recovery.
 
When: November
Where: Athens, Greece
Tip: Don’t sweat the temperature (the average temperature in Athens in November is 15 degrees Celsius). Consider staying in Marathon rather than Athens itself as it’s a little cheaper. It also means you’ll be near the start of the race and can soak up some of that Mediterranean coastline pre-race. 

Big Five Marathon, South Africa

Held within the spectacular Entabeni Game Reserve in South Africa, there are no fences and no rivers separating you and Africa’s most famous wildlife. Look out for the ‘big five’; lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards and rhinos. You may also stumble across any number of animals including the giraffe, hippopotamus and numerous species of antelope.

There’s a full and half marathon option which both take in the stunning scenery of South Africa and provide plenty of opportunity for close encounters with the wildlife. 
 
Come early or stay later at the Game Reserve for the chance to see incredible wildlife. While you’re there it’s worth heading over to Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, or travelling down south to Cape Town to explore  South Africa’s beautiful and rugged coastline.
 
When: June
Where: Entabeni Game Reserve, South Africa
Tip: Register early as this event sells out nearly a year in advance and make sure your footwear is appropriate for the off-road portions of this race—think trail shoes or a hybrid.

Great Wall Marathon

Run on one of man’s great wonders and complete not only 42.195 kilometres, but also 5,164 steps of the actual Great Wall of China. You start and finish at the Huangyaguan fortress and run a distance of three kilometres along the wall (marathon runners complete this section twice). 

The running festival has a full and half marathon option as well as an 8.5 kilometre fun run.
 
After the race, consider heading back to Beijing to take in some of the sights of this amazing city. Head south to visit the Terracotta Warriors and cruise the Yangtze River. If you have the time, check out the futuristic cityscape of Shanghai and taste some of China’s most delicious delicacies in Hong Kong.
 
When: May
Where: Tianjin, China
Tips: Known as much for its spectacular scenery as its degree of difficulty, this one is worth training for. Try to find some steps and a few steep inclines to incorporate into your training. Also, don’t get too excited about the Chinese cuisine until after your race. Chinese cuisine in China can have a kick to it!
42km runners passing through Surfers
The Gold Coast Marathon

New York Marathon

Run in the world’s largest marathon through one of the world’s most diverse cities. Described as a 26.2-mile block party, the party atmosphere of the New York Marathon is unlike any other running festival. This race is about enjoying running for running’s sake. Starting on Staten Island, you run through the five boroughs of New York - Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan – and finish in Central Park.

Besides the full marathon on the Sunday there is a five kilometre dash to the finish line run on the Saturday.

After the Race you could stay in New York a little longer and see some of the many sights of this famed city. Then perhaps venture north to Boston and the Niagara Falls region, head south to Florida and Disneyworld, or west to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and the rest of the West Coast. Your options are endless.

When: November
Where: New York, United States of America
Tips: Because of the popularity of the race, participation is chosen largely by a lottery system held in January. Alternatively, for guaranteed entry you could run for one of the running festival’s charity partners or purchase a travel package to the US that includes entry. When looking into flights, go for ones that include complementary internal flights if you want to explore more of the country.

Gold Coast Marathon

Run in one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, along some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches. This is a runner-friendly course, with much of the party atmosphere of New York, but without any of the elevation. Known as one of the fastest and flattest courses in the world your only challenge will be to not get distracted by the sand, surf and seafood.

Besides the full marathon there is a half marathon a ten kilometre and a 5.7 kilometre challenge as well as a two and four kilometre junior dash for the kids.

Rest your sore muscles by lounging on spectacular beaches enjoying the mild winter weather. If you have energy left over why not check out the theme parks, or venture further inland to some of the green behind the gold in the hinterland. If you have more time consider heading up north to snorkel one of worlds natural wonders, The Great Barrier Reef.

When: July
Where: Gold Coast, Australia
Tips: With the start and finish of the race in Southport, look for cheaper accommodation options there that will provide you not only a saving but also a more convenient location. 
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