Running a marathon is feat unto itself. Add in extreme temperatures, steep climbs, and wild parties—and it seems nearly impossible. But that doesn’t stop determined runners from trying each year. In fact, 50 runners just competed in the North Pole Marathon, where they faced negative 40-degree temperatures. Yet there are races some argue are even more extreme.
While there were more than 1,200 marathons in the U.S. alone in 2014, according to Running USA’s Annual Marathon Report, there are a select few that go above and beyond when it comes to creating a wild running experience.
Some are not as difficult in terms of altitude or incline, but certainly make for an interesting jog. For example, thousands of runners take over the Las Vegas Strip at night for the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon, where you can partake in a run-through wedding and race against hundreds of Elvis impersonators. On the other hand, the Kyoto marathon might just be the most spiritual ever, as the route includes several sacred shrines and temples.
Then there are the out-of-this-world torturous races like The Great Wall of China marathon. With more than 5,000 steps to climb along the 26.2 mile route, it’s no wonder that it takes runners about 50 percent longer than the average marathon time. And while there may not be any steps, runners have to watch for predators when they participate in South Africa’s Big Five Marathon. Did we mention the course runs directly through a lion territory?
For those who think 26.2 miles just isn’t enough cardio, there are ultra marathons to test out, too. Marathon des Sables in Morocco is a six-day, 251 kilometers (156-mile) race through the desert and is considered the hardest of earth. But, that could be up for debate because the Antarctica 100K (62 miles) takes place just a few hundred miles from the South Pole at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains.
Scared? Inspired? Click through to see 13 of the world’s wildest marathons.