Strange Marathon Stories

Updated on December 4, 2017
Rupert Taylor profile image

I've spent half a century writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.

The idea of running a marathon has a lot of appeal - after the event. The race used to be dominated by scrawny people with a negative body-fat percentage. But today, average folk are moved to take part, which, says Runner’s World, has changed the race: “Since 1980, average marathon times have gotten slower (by 44 minutes for men and 38 minutes for women), a result of runners of all abilities joining in.” "All abilities" is a euphemism for those of use no longer in the peak of physical condition.

So, for couch potatoes, here are some goofy marathon ideas, and some for really keen competitors who are going to have the event to themselves,

Source

High Altitude Marathon

For many of us the trip from the recliner to the fridge at half time is about the limit of our exercise program. But, there are those among us who want a mightier test of stamina. For them, 26.2 miles is not enough.

So, let’s go to Gorak Shep to check in on these intrepid runners. Just getting to the starting line is an ordeal because Gorak Shep is in Tibet, at an altitude of about 17,000 feet (5,184m).

The air up there is thin so runners have to acclimatize. That involves a 15-day trek from Kathmandu while under medical supervision. It’s all about getting oxygen into the bloodstream. At high altitude there’s less oxygen so the heart has to pump harder to maintain adequate levels. That means fatigue sets in earlier than at sea level.

Assuming they’ve made it to Gorak Shep without keeling over with altitude sickness, runners are ready for the race. The finish line is Namche Bazaar, altitude 11,300 feet (3,446m).

“WooHoo, it’s downhill.” Not so fast Binky. The folk who run this event point out there are “two steep uphill sections.” Not only that, the ground is rough with patches of snow and ice as well as rickety suspension bridges. And, there’s the ever-present possibility of encountering an ill-tempered yak, not to mention the yeti.

Not surprisingly, the winners are almost always locals because their bodies are totally at home with the altitude, and, probably, because they rarely eat potato chips or drink beer.

The current record holder is Ram Kumar Raj Bhandari of Nepal, who finished in three hours, forty minutes, and 43 seconds. The cost of being part of this insanity is around $2,500, but that does not include airfare to Katmandu.

The Wino’s Marathon

Trust the French to come up with the Marathon du Médoc.

Over the 26.2 mile course through Bordeaux’s picturesque vineyards and magnificent chateaux, participants engage in activities that are the antithesis of the long-distance runner’s creed. Fancy dress is very strongly encouraged; so competitors might find themselves jogging along in the company of a Pope and a Smurf.

Source

Five kilometres into the run is the first refreshment stop; it is, of course, for wine. There are 22 more such reviving stations along the way, and it is not uncommon for runners to be over-revived. This being France, there’s also food to sample – cheeses, bread, fruit, foie gras, steak, and, near the end, oysters.

This intake has a predictable effect on those with a more delicate digestive system, so competitors may spot a Roman centurion or Wonder Woman throwing up in the ditch.

The organizers set a time limit of six hours and 30 minutes for the event and those that beat the clock get a complimentary bottle of wine (of course) and engraved wine glasses. The entry fee for the September “race” is $95, and each year around 10,000 people take part.

Triple 7 Quest

Time to get serious. Steve Hibbs of Wyoming takes all the blame for creating a company called Marathon Adventures, which organizes seven marathons, in seven days, on seven continents.

The ordeal starts in Perth, Australia and then goes to Singapore, Cairo, Amsterdam, Garden City, New York, Punta Arenas, Chile, and King George Island, Antarctica. That’s 183.4 miles, often while jet-lagged.

The cost of $16,000 includes accommodation, but only the air fare from South America to Antarctica. The awesome physical challenge and the price thins the number of entrants down; nine runners took part in 2017.

One of them, Chau Smith, was celebrating her birthday by completing the Triple 7 Quest in 2017. Most people might go out to a nice restaurant and chug down a few wobbly pops. Not Chau Smith. Oh, by the way, it was her 70th birthday.

Not content with inflicting this kind of torture on his clients, Steve Hibbs has upped the ante for 2018. The Triple 7 Quest is now the Triple 8 Quest, with an additional marathon in New Zealand.

The Marathon Des Sables covers the equivalent of six marathons in five days through the Sahara Desert. The longest stage is 57 miles.
The Marathon Des Sables covers the equivalent of six marathons in five days through the Sahara Desert. The longest stage is 57 miles. | Source

The Modern Marathon Is Born

A Greek soldier called Pheidippides is said to have run the roughly 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of victory in battle over the Persians. According to what is likely a myth he is supposed to have said “Niki!” (Victory!), and then dropped down dead. That was in 490 BCE.

Statue of Pheidippides.
Statue of Pheidippides. | Source

When Pierre de Coubertin resurrected the ancient Olympic Games in modern form in 1896 he decided to honour Pheidippides. The longest race of the games was from the Marathon Bridge to Olympic Stadium in Athens, a distance of 24.85 miles. The marathon distance varied a bit until it settled down at 26 miles.

Then the British royal family messed about with the course. The 1908 Olympic Games were held in London. The marathon course was laid out from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium, about 26 miles. So that the finish line could be located opposite the royal family’s viewing box an additional 385 yards had to be tacked on.

Several years of earnest discussion by high-profile officials ended when the official distance was settled on at 26.2 miles.

Bonus Factoids

Fairplay, Colorado is the place to be if you want to drag your ass, literally, around a marathon course. Competitors must complete a 29-mile course in the company of a donkey. The animal has to carry 33 pounds of mining gear. On the surface, the purpose of this event is to pay homage to prospectors and miners of the gold rush. More likely, the motivation is an excuse to kick back and have a few giggles.

Justine Galloway completed the 2017 New York Marathon in six hours, six minutes, and 51 seconds. That was well below the winning woman’s time set by Shalane Flanagan of two hours, 26 minutes, and 53 seconds. There’s a good reason why Ms. Galloway took almost four hours longer; she ran the race backwards. A neurological disorder caused her to lose some muscle control when running forwards but it doesn’t bother her when jogging backwards.

The Big Five Marathon takes runners through a South African game park. Its name is derived from the big five animals - elephants, rhinoceroses, buffaloes, lions, and leopards. The organizers boast “No fences, no rivers, nothing at all separates the runners from the African wildlife!” So, encountering the big cats might put a little extra zip into the runner’s strides. If they have lost any marathoners as a feline lunch item they have kept very quiet about it.

Sources

  • Everestmarathon.org.
  • “The Marathon du Médoc: Running the World’s Longest, Booziest, Race.” Vicky Lane, The Guardian, September 17, 2014.
  • “Meet the 70-Year-Old Runner Who Ran 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days.” Melissa Hung, NBC News, February 22, 2017.
  • “The 10 Strangest Marathons on the Planet.” Chas Newkey-Burden, The Telegraph, March 12, 2015.
  • Burrodays.com

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Rupert Taylor

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • k@ri profile image

        Kari Poulsen 7 months ago from Ohio

        I really enjoyed this, Rupert! These are some strange races. The one in Tibet must be something. The highest I have ever been was about 10,000 feet in Taos, NM. I spent the week literally panting, lol. I love the French one. It must be wonderful to watch. And Chau Smith doing the Triple 7 Quest for her 70th birthday. What a woman!!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, caloriebee.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://caloriebee.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)