There are many epic places to go for a run in the world. My own personal bucket list is to go for a run in all seven continents. If you’ve got the time and the resources to do it, here’s a collection of seven of the most scenic running spots in the world.
Asia – Ladakh, India
If you love mountain ranges, head to India and go for a run in Ladakh. A mountainous region in the state of Kashmir, this sparsely populated area is home to people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent. Do take note that this is one of the highest places on earth, and running at altitude can be pretty tough.
The beauty of Ladakh lies in its isolation. It has the lowest concentration of people in all of Kashmir and you’ll be surrounded by the Himalayas. If you really want to take it all in, go for a solo run. When running alone in some parts of the region it can seem as if you’ve been running forever because it’s only you, the trail and miles of beautifully barren mountains.
The Ladakh International Marathon is open for registrations and will be held on September 13, 2015.
Africa – Limpopo, South Africa
If you have ever wanted to run with buffaloes, here’s your chance. The annual Big Five Marathon held every June in South Africa is a one of a kind race where you get to literally ‘run wild’ with the African wildlife on game reserves in the savanna. The 88 km race provides scenic views of the African grasslands’ diverse flora and fauna.
It was named Big Five because participants will run through the habitat of the savanna’s big five animals: elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion. Nothing separates the wild animals from the runners. No fences or bodies of water – just the runners, the route and the Big Five. If being chased by an elephant or lion isn’t enough to get you running faster, I don’t know what is.
The Big Five Marathon takes place every June, and this year’s race will be on June 20, 2015. Registrations are unfortunately closed, so if you want to run with the animals in 2016 you should book a spot early.
North America – Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon, Michigan USA
Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains, or the “Porkies”, topped Nike’s list of the best place in the world to go for a run in 2011. It still remains a top destination for runners across North America and international runners on vacation.
Part of the allure of the Porkies is the beautiful scenery that will make you appreciate all the conservation efforts to keep state parks such as this in pristine condition. You can lose yourself when running the trails here thanks to the trees, waterfalls and wildlife you’ll encounter. The running trails are easy on the feet, and that’s definitely a plus for any runner regardless of level. Just watch out for black bears and timber wolves!
The Porcupine Mountains Trail Marathon takes place annually in September. This year’s race will be on September 19, 2015 and registrations are open.
South America – Patagonia, Chile
Patagonia is probably one of the most breath taking places to go for a run – ever. Once you see the granite and ice spires reaching for the heavens you’ll feel humbled by nature’s awesomeness. This location has its own Big Five wildlife, namely pumas, condors, foxes, guanacos and rheas. Not as intimidating as lions and elephants, but wonderful and wild just the same.
What makes Patagonia special is the inspiring views this Chilean sanctuary provides – unbelievably blue lakes, gargantuan mountains, untouched pine forests, beautiful streams and proud glaciers adorn the landscape. Running here and marvelling at the sights is enough to lift your spirits and make you feel truly alive. Strong, cold winds await runners adventurous enough to take Patagonia on, but being chilled by the wind is well worth it.
The Patagonian International Marathon takes place on September 26, 2015. Registrations are open.
Australia – The Outback, Central Australia
This list wouldn’t be complete without a hot and arid landscape, and what better backdrop to have than central Australia’s red earth-infused Outback.
The aridness and isolation of the Northern Territory are what make the Outback such a uniquely beautiful place to go for a run in. You won’t see any cascading streams or moss covered trees over here. This is nature at her brutally honest best: no cloud cover, no shade – just the relentless sun bearing down at your back.
Running here is like running on another planet. The red earth is a surreal experience if you haven’t set foot on it before, and Uluru seems like it could get up at any moment and join you for a run. This is definitely an experience of a lifetime.
The Australian Outback Marathon takes place on July 25, 2015. Registrations for the Marathon, Half Marathon, 11km and 6km are open.
Europe – Mont Blanc Range, Chamonix, France
Peaks, valleys, glaciers and endless summits await runners brave enough to go up here. I say brave enough because the trail is demanding: it keeps changing levels on you. Climb and descend. Descend and climb. Rinse and repeat. It’s easy to lose your bearings here, so you have to know how to use a map and navigate.
Once you’re in the thick of it, be prepared to pick your jaw up from the ground because the mountains are just magical. There are five races held here annually, from the difficult 168 km UTMB® (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®) to the uber difficult 300 km PTL (La Petite Trotte à Léon). Whatever race you choose, be sure to take in the sights while you’re there.
The 5 races of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® will be held from August 14 – 30, 2015. Go visit their website and pick a race you feel you can compete in.
Antarctica – Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica
Antarctica is dubbed the ‘Last Frontier’ for a reason: not much can survive the harsh and biting cold save for whales, seals and a few Antarctic birds. Regularly averaging -40 degrees Celsius, life out here can be a frozen challenge. This is one of the reasons why runners take part in the Antarctic Ice Marathon and Ultra Marathon – to test the limits of what their bodies can do.
To run here you’re going to need your full thermo gear or you’ll turn into a popsicle. What do you get from running here? There’s a stark beauty in this frozen wasteland that you have to see with your own eyes to appreciate. Plus, the bragging rights that come from running in -40 degree weather, too cold even for penguins.
The contrast of the white snow, jutting mountains, chilled blue ocean encroaching on the white ice, floating icebergs moving like alien ships and the odd native animal all make Antarctica a desolate, beautiful place to go out for a run.
The 2015 Antarctic Ice Marathon and 100K will take place on November 19, 2015. Registrations are closed for the year, but you can register for next year’s event.