Pushing Yourself: 5 of the Hardest Marathons in the World

hardest marathons

Many people find their high in life through running. For some, it’s a form of stress relief. Others use it as a way to push themselves and reach new goals physically and mentally by entering some of the hardest marathons in the world.

Let’s be honest, ANY marathon is hard. Whether you’ve been training for years and it’s the hundredth one you’ve run or it’s the first marathon ever and it’s part of running for charity or a life goal from a bucket list, a marathon is not your typical run through the park.

There are some marathons that truly aren’t for the faint of heart though. Many marathon enthusiasts travel around the world to participate in particularly hard marathons.

We’ve got a list of five of the toughest marathons from around the world.

1. The Great Wall of China Marathon

That’s right you can run a marathon on the actual Great Wall of China. This isn’t just one of the most memorable places you may run it is considered one of the hardest marathons in the world by many professional runners.

There are more than 20,000 steps to the course and you’ll be challenged by the terrain while in awe of the experience of running on one of the seven wonders of the world.

It’s held annually in May and offers a marathon, half, 10k, and 5k option for runners of all levels to be able to choose the length that best suits them.

2. Inca Trail Marathon

Hailed by many as THE most difficult marathon in the world this demanding but incredible race through the Indes Mountains leading to lifts in elevation of more than 10,000 feet and finishing in Machu Pichu.

Less than 100 participants run it every year with even fewer finishing due to being unprepared for the conditions of the race and the differences in elevation. 

The 2019 winner was Kristen Clarke, a mother of two from Canada. She only started training for the August race in the spring and did her best to prepare for the elements and environment she’d face.

3. Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon in Colorado

Pikes Peak Marathon makes every runner’s top ten list of hardest and most challenging events. All runners must qualify to be in the race and should be aware that evacuation or rescue from the course is not an option by vehicle so it’s one you’ll need to find the strength to finish on your own.

4. Catalina Island Eco-Marathon

It’s the hills and the heat that add a new level of challenge to this event. Runners who have competed around the world have taken significantly longer on this course due to the difficulty.

If you want to push your limits the Eco-marathon is not the only event that Catalina Island hosts for runners.

Duo and Triathalon as well as a 50km Avalon and boating events. There are also fun runs, kids runs, and even a rugby festival to take in.  

This is definitely a race that is on most runner’s lifelong bucket list.

5. Iditarod Ultra-Marathon

This is not like any other marathon you’ve run. It is the extreme ultra-marathon and is the longest in the world. This isn’t an event you complete on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It is 30 days of mental and physical survival and endurance.

It will be one of the most challenging experiences a participant will ever have physically and mentally. 

There is nothing that compares to this Alaskan endurance test with temperatures as low as -50F. 

Are You Ready for Your Hardest Marathon?

There is no greater high than the feeling of accomplishment and victory when you train hard and it pays off by competing one of the world’s hardest marathons.

Check out our other great articles such as training for a marathon in NYC or starting with a micro marathon.