Running is ultimately about freedom.
Freedom to expand our boundaries and fuel the body and mind!
Projecting a need to reconnect with nature and escape danger, humans evolved to become natural runners. Although it may not always seem to be our favourite cup of tea...
From our resilient ligaments to the shape of our bums, the human body mutated to an ideal form for long-distance running starting around 2 million years ago.
Our upright, lean build advantaged us in “persistence hunting” allowing us to become top apex predators.We have evolved to run better than any other animal on the planet, outrunning even the mighty cheetah in distance and endurance.
However, competitive running as an official sport only dates as far back as antiquity.
Its initial form was born out of Olympia in 776 B.C, where the Ancient Greeks held a race in the first known Olympics.
Nearly 300 years later, “The Marathon” (as we know it today), was rooted in the legend of a Greek messenger who raced from the site of Marathon to Athens, (nearly 40 kilometers) to announce victory over the invading Persians.
Running transformed from a primal survival instinct that possessed great power in avoiding danger, to a refined discipline practised for thousands of years.
Moreover, the fruit of running remains the same.
“Runner’s high” is a natural feeling of euphoria summoned by pushing past our limit during aerobic exercise. The feeling induces pure bliss, reduced stress, and a decreased ability to feel pain due to a flood of endorphins, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
This biochemical cocktail helped our ancestors reconnect with their surroundings; increasing energy and focus as they fought off dinosaurs (if only!) and hunted down saber-tooth tigers.
Although our mind and body has evolved since then, the same “high” motivates us to push past our thresholds and thrive in competition.
Whether on a run dodging arrows or chasing a chicken down the road, there is no doubt that the ritual of running induces a connection to the elemental; increasing the desire to experience a raw form of existence.
Whether in the scorching heat of the desert, amongst the tallest peaks on earth or thriving in below freezing temperatures, running in the wild is in our nature. Going further, here are the top 7 foot races on the planet that maximise the natural ecstasy of running.
1. Marathon Des Sables
Known as the “ toughest footrace on earth”, Marathon des Sables takes place in the planet's most brutal environment; the Sahara Desert. Six days of infinite sand dunes, glaring sun and intense heat; with over 250+ kms ( 156 miles ) of land to be conquered. Mental resilience, focus and strength will be put to the ultimate test as you cross the fury of the desert.
This ultra marathon is one of the most exhilarating and desirable races in the world. With over 1000+ runners every year, there is a strong bond to the herd like nowhere else!
2. Polar Circle Marathon
The Polar Circle marathon is located in the remote arctic tundra of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
Known for its natural icescapes and spectacular mountain formations the race starts with a run through sparkling glacier tongues and translucent snow-covered ice sheets; where musk ox roam across the silent arctic desert. The 42.195 km race takes place in temperatures dropping nearly -10 degrees Celsius, crowning the race as "the coolest marathon on Earth''. The colourful northern lights electrify the night sky as the magnetic scenery and fresh air are sure to provide enough ammunition to power through the finish line.
3. The Jungle Ultra
Hidden deep within the hostile and mythic Amazon, The Jungle Ultra provides 230km of sweltering jungle to graze through as runners have the exclusive opportunity to explore the bizarre challenges of the largest remaining tropical rainforest on earth.
The ultra-marathon is split into 5 stages through intense undergrowth, river crossings and eerie cloud-filled mountain valleys; dodging prancing jaguars and alluring carnivorous plants.
*Watch your step - as the only thing worth tripping on in is the infamous shamanic brew “Ayahuasca” said to boost mood, improve mindfulness, and develop an intense awareness of the body.
4. Australian Outback Marathon
The outback of Australia is known for its vivid shades of oxidized red and vibrant orange landscapes.
The off-road “Australian Outback Marathon” course is made up of 42.195 kilometers of bush trails and “red earth” where glorious sunsets illuminate the backdrop of the legendary Ayers rock in Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park.
Synchronise to your favourite didgeridoo track while navigating through the Aussie outback as the race holds the title for being “the most isolated and awe-inspiring” marathon on earth.
5. Kilimanjaro Trail Run
Rising majestically above the African plains, lies an invigorating race on the roof of the world's tallest freestanding mountain.
The Kilimanjaro Trail Run offers multi-distance events on an elevation of 3850 meters (12600 ft) where runners overcome the provocations of high altitude and unpredictable weather. The race atop the dormant volcano provides the most spectacular scenery of Tanzania. Combine the footrace with a safari to the neighboring Serengeti to experience the oldest ecosystem on earth, with its annual animal migrations joining the race.
6. Big Sur International Marathon, USA
A rugged stretch of misty coastline between Carmel and San Simeon, Big Sur is tucked between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the restful Pacific Ocean. The Big Sur International Marathon follows the most scenic route on Highway ; a 6-hour course amongst the dramatic rolling hills.
Start underneath the towering redwoods and sprint across the iconic Bixby Bridge for a full immersion in “the great outdoors”. The Big Sur International Marathon promises the most epic views of the American West Coast.
7. Bagan Temple Marathon
Myanmar’s “Bagan Temple Marathon” offers a spiritual take on marathons. The run paves through the ancient Bagan plains with over 2200 sacred temples. Chasing peace amongst a labyrinth of intricate pagodas.
The Bagan Temple marathon is a profound way to reconnect with the elemental.After your run, reach new heights with a floating hot air balloon ride over the raw terrain. The rides typically last between 45min - 1hour; the perfect amount to cool down and reflect on the true feeling of exploring beyond what you thought possible.