National Parks are places of wonder. So wondrous, that they are not allowed to be traipsed over for a minimall or suburban neighborhood. Some of the most amazing scenic views are preserved for generations, both that came before and will come after, to cherish and behold. The best way to see a National Park is by naturally communing with all it has to behold. What better way to get a view than to strap on your shoes and see these National Parks on foot racing toward your dreams of finishing a marathon.
Known as one of the harshest trail runs in cold weather months, running the Thy National Park is not for the novice athlete. The run takes place in Hawaii, one of the most scenic and fantastic places on the globe. A trail run that goes through mountains and beach, it has a little something for every taste. One of the most highly internationally attended races around the globe; cold weather people come flocking to see more than just rough terrain and ice. Gravel road and sand make for a challenging race to the finish line. Even the most seasoned and trained athlete can find it difficult to stay upright when hitting wet spots. From dunes that are desolate with raging sweeping winds, to small quaint villages that provide some emotional and physical refuge, there are sites around every twist and turn of this amazing race. Wildlife, locals and awe-inspiring natural trails, are what await you at the Thy Trail Marathon.
42k, 21k & a 10k
Located in Chilean Patagonia, in the Providence of Ultima Esperanza, is where the Patagonian International Marathon houses participants that come from over fifty various regions around the world. Started in 2012, it is quickly becoming a marathon favorite. All three races end in the same place, at the amazing Hotel Rio Serrano to share in the celebration of a feat well done. Racers make their way through the magical Torres del Paine National Park on a path that is less traveled. No manicured road race, the terrain is rough and untamed. Although the race is grueling and challenging, it is a light competition where everyone is just out to do their personal best.
42km, 21km & 10km
Death Valley might sound like something that could kill you, but it is a manageable scenic and exotic race where all are welcome. Climbing less than 500 feet, it is a desert run that, although the name sounds dull and drab, the competition and scenery is not. Although the course is entirely under sea level, there are mountain and panoramic views abound. Ranges such as the Blacks, the Funerals, and The Cottonwoods, line the path with some of the most exquisite things that you only find on the desert floor. Not the desert climate you would expect, it isn’t about sitting on the sun or being parched with scorching heat, the Death Valley is run at the perfect time of year to enjoy the most tepid weather there is. An excellent race for newbies to seasoned athletes, it is a Boston qualifier that is slightly flat and fast. But it is also exotic, unique and filled with a whole lot to see. The best part about the Death Valley Marathon is that it only takes a few participants, so it is an intimate affair that isn’t overwhelming and allows you to chill out and just work toward your personal best.
The seventh in a series of Vacation Races, the Yosemite Half Marathon is held in California annually. The course runs almost entirely through the Yosemite National Park. Running at high altitudes is a challenge, so training is of the utmost to conquering this marathon. Even the most seasoned runners find it challenging to make it to the finish line. A steep uphill is followed by a sharp decline, which can be hard on the joints. All in all, the scenic nature of the Yosemite half marathon, can’t be beaten. Yosemite National Park is a bucket list, gotta see place to be. Why not do it the best way, by strapping on your shoes and getting a bird’s eye view while pacing yourself and accomplishing an amazing feat.
Founded in 1984, this is one race that has been going strong ever since. The Sixfooot Marathon stretches from the awesome Blue Mountains to Jenolan Caves. Located in Australia, it attracts smaller audience and requires registering well in advance. Not only an awesome fun run, runners race for a cause. Founded to raise money for the Rural Fire Service & Six Foot Track Heritage Trust, growing to over 850 registrants last year is an amazing accomplishment. A difficult course, it is marked with sometimes arduous hurdles and steep heights. But, the camaraderie is one that you simply don’t get with other races. Whether it is the cause or the beautiful scenic landscape that calls participants from around the world to this run. There is not a whole lot of competition, just good old-fashioned runner's high running.
5km, 14km & 16.5km
Although technically the National Park Eifel race has some road racing, there are also many obstacles and challenges. A very scenic route, there are sites of Germany’s most miraculous scenery from every angle. First initiated in 1997, the race is always on the first Sunday in November. Running enthusiasts can participate in one of the many events from the 16.5km to the 5km. A small and rather intimate competition, there are only about 400-500 runners entered annually. A rough and unmanicured trail, most of the course runs directly through the forest. Only the 14km is run on the road. A tough but challenging race, it is one of the few that allows marathoners to see the German countryside in all its glory.
A very exclusive competition, the Endurancelife Exmoor Marathon limits participation to just 500 entries, which makes it highly coveted and desirable. True Coastal running, of all the Coastal races, the Endurancelife is considered the toughest terrain and most arduous course in a category all its own. The race has runners trekking through the Exmoor National Park, racing across amazing trails that are both scenic and ideal for running enthusiasts both novice and seasoned. Don’t be fooled that this is a delicate race. Although exquisite and beautiful in sites, it can also be treacherous with steep hills, wooded valleys that are dense and hard to see through, river and cliffs that can make someone dizzy and historical ruins that are isolated from the outside world. Outstanding views abound, the Endurancelife Exmoor Marathon is not only a challenging event, but it is also seeping with rich tradition and historical wonder.
The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is not for the newbie or the faint of heart. One of the most grueling events that a marathoner can endure, it is a self-sufficient extreme marathon that leaves runners on their own, isolated and vulnerable to nature. A seven-day event, this ultra is more than just your average marathon run. Known in running circles as “the Big Daddy” of extreme marathons with reason, this South African excursion is not for just any athletic imagination or runner. Runners from all walks of life and corners of the globe flock to the Orange River Valley and then across the Great Kalahari Desert to be the first across the finish line. Covering over 250km of dry desert conditions, the average day temperatures can reach more than 40 degrees Celsius and drop to less than 5 degrees. Although the organizers provide some equipment, runners are expected to bring their own bag and know how to survive in the cold, being tired and then wake up to do it all over again. If you are looking to be in an elite class of runners, then this is the race to try. Just train hard, making it across the finish line is not only not a guarantee, but it is also not something most participants do.
The Grand Canyon Half Marathon may be in its infancy with only four years under its belt, but it is quickly gaining lasting power. The course has trails that run next to the Grand Canyon National Park. A larger event and gaining momentum, last year as many as 1500 participants made their way across the park, which at its deepest point, reaches a depth of more than a mile long. Although never actually going through the Grand Canyon, the views and spectacular sights are something of bucket list proportions. From forests to grasslands, runners get to see a side of Northern Arizona that is tucked away and ready to be explored on foot. The event is not just for seasoned athletes only, and although newbies are welcome, the journey to get to the finish line will not be easy. A series of peaks and valleys will be arduous for anyone who registers for this race. Be ready for some cold temperatures with ranges that can be anywhere from 31 degrees to 58 degrees. Runners must be prepared for whatever comes their way.
Considered in a series of “Vacation Races” the Zion Half Marathon is more than just a race, it is a weekend excursion getaway. Located in Utah’s very own Zion National Park, the scenery that runners encounter along the trail is nothing short of majestic. Although only three years running, it already has a huge following. Runners not only get to see the sights of nature in its purest form, they also get to view tiny towns along the way like Springdale and Virgin with locals who are more than enthusiastic about cheering racers toward the finish line. There is a cut-off of 1500 runners, so making reservations and accommodations ahead of time is recommended. A combination of both trail and road running, it is open for old time marathoners and newbies alike.
Set in Jackson Wyoming, the Grand Teton Half Marathon is for tree huggers to city folk alike. A challenging course, runners will cover climbing points as well as steep elevations that will challenge even the most seasoned athletes. Crossing Jackson Hole, participants will race across the Snake River and then finish at the Teton Mountain range for a celebration of grand proportions. Although not running directly through the national park, runners will get a first-hand look at the majestic nature of the Grand Teton and encounter a rough terrain filled with obstacles that only well-trained running enthusiasts will make it through. The high elevation is something to take into account when racing in the Grand Teton Half Marathon. If you are not a native, it makes the run that much more challenging.