The rising numbers of accomplished and amateur marathon runners in India along with the country’s naturally diverse terrain has led to the organization of several competitive and non-competitive races over the years. We take a look at some of the most challenging marathons in the country’s running calendar. Warning: These are not for the untrained and the faint-hearted.
Satara Hill Half Marathon: A member of the International Association of Marathons and Distance Races, the Satara Hill Half Marathon passes through the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats. The winding hilly route is a demanding one, passing through several narrow trails and tropical forested areas, including the World Heritage Site of the Kaas Plateau. Usually conducted just after the monsoons in September, the route has often been compared to the famous Comrades marathon of South Africa for its challenging nature. The Satara Hill Half Marathon is scheduled for September 6, 2015.
Ladakh Marathon: A favorite among serious runners in the country, the Ladakh Marathon route is among the highest and most breathtaking trails in the world. The 42.1KM marathon starts and ends in Leh but traverses a network of valleys, villages and highland trails amidst unforgettable Himalayan landscapes. Reaching to heights of 11,500 ft the route crosses the mighty Indus River several times. Apart from the marathon, the event also hosts a half marathon, a 7-km race and the extreme Khardungla Challenge—a 72-km ultramarathon all the way up the Khardung La pass along the world’s highest motorable road. In its 4th year now, the Ladakh Marathon is scheduled for September 13, 2015.
Ultra India Race, Kerala: A two-hundred-kilometer event held in five stages, the Ultra India Race covers and elevation of over 5,000 meters and is largely self-supported. Held amidst the gorgeous natural scenery of Kerala, the race begins at Munnar and passes through several spice and tea plantations, tropical forest trails and meandering hills before ending at Thekkady. Participants are required to carry their own supplies through the race, and complete each stage in 10 hours. As the race course largely passes through isolated tracts, runners have to plan their rations accordingly and follow the route as per the map—making it a test of skill and endurance. The event was held between January 21 – 25, 2015.
Great Tibetan Marathon: Definitely the race of a lifetime, The Great Tibetan Marathon starts near at a height of 6,100 meters, to the sound of several traditional Buddhist horns echoing from the Hemis Monastery. The magnificent trans-Himalayan setting of the race is also severely oxygen deprived making this one of the toughest marathons to undertake. The route is a combination of graveled paths, village roads and wooden bridges and commands sweeping views of the Indus Valley as it passes through Martselang, Chusod Shabma, Chusod Yokma, and Palam before finally ending at Spituk Gompa. Besides the Marathon, the event also hosts a Half Marathon and a 10KM race and is usually scheduled in the month of July every year.
Main image: Ladakh Marathon