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11 of the world's craziest, most extreme marathons

By By Jordi Lippe-McGraw
May 05, 2016, 11:19:59 AM EDT

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.

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Polar Night Half Marathon While it may only be half the distance of a traditional marathon, this race is still one for the bucket list—it takes place in the beginning of January, during the Polar night-period, when the sun does not rise above the horizon. To make it even more extreme, the route is lit by torches to make it easier to see the aurora borealis as you run. It's also the northernmost AIMS-certified (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) half marathon in the world at almost 70° north.


Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon

When you head to Sin City, you expect flashing lights, quickie weddings and Elvis impersonators. Well, that's exactly what you get along this 26.2-mile route that takes place on the Las Vegas Strip after the sun goes down. The infamous Running Elvi don white lycra, sequins, and wigs to cheer on runners with crazy costumes and a boombox in a stroller that plays Elvis tunes while they run.

Each year the event also includes a Run-Thru Wedding Chapel where runners in love (or not) can say, “I do” during their run. More than 20 bands are also on hand, too, making sure there's no need for an iPod to keep you going. Snoop Dogg even performed one year.


Kyoto Marathon The opposite of a wild party in Las Vegas, this marathon may be the most spiritual. The course takes runners though the gorgeous city of Kyoto, passing by seven UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites, several temples, and numerous sacred shrines.

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