This week marks marathon season. Not only does the London Marathon return this weekend, and see 30,000 people run 26 gruelling miles past the capital’s iconic sites, Travel Channel is airing Monster Marathon Challenge. Watch as presenter Rob Bell and five friends attempt to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days – the 777 Challenge. Below, the runners reveal their top marathons to try across the globe:
“It transforms the whole city for that one day each year,” explains Travel Channel presenter Rob Bell. “Apart from a couple of kilometres around Canary Wharf, where the crowds reduce to only one or two deep, the course swells with the most enthusiastic and witty support from well over half a million spectators. I’ve often laughed hard at comments made to us runners as we speed by – which is great for taking your mind off the pain. You cannot help but feel like a complete hero running those streets. It has the best fancy dress costumes, the most majestic of finishes (with Buckingham Palace in the background) and the strongest emotion and empathy between runners and spectators of any race I’ve run in the world. On that one spring day every year, London is the Marathon.”
“It was my first ever marathon, and my first sub three-hour marathon,” explains Monster Marathon Challenge runner Dan Honour. “It became the start of my quest to do all the marathon majors in less than three hours (NYC, Chicago, Boston, London, Berlin and Tokyo). Tokyo still remains…
“It was my first experience of the unbelievable atmosphere generated at the big marathon races. The crowd support was phenomenal. People lining the streets for the entire 26.2 miles all cheering for me, and with more than 150 live bands playing along the way, it felt more like a festival than a race. However, the long, gradual climb heading into Central Park that is 5th Avenue almost killed me.”
“It was amazing from start to finish,” says Monster Marathon Challenge runner Gareth Williams. “There were quite a lot of runners without it feeling crowded like London, Chicago or New York. I felt in complete control, had amazing weather with it being about 18 degrees, sunny and only a gentle sea breeze, and it was a really varied course – we started by the Australian Open tennis stadium, ran through the Australian Formula 1 track, along the beach, through the botanical gardens and finished with a lap of the MCG (an iconic sports stadium that holds about 100,000 people). I just had a smile on my face the whole way round.”
“It is actually an ultra marathon 89 km (approx. 56 miles),” explains Monster Marathon Challenge runner Steve Vials. “It is run annually in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is the world’s largest and oldest ultra marathon race. The race starts in the main street of Pietermaritzburg just before sunrise, as tradition dictates all the runners and spectators join in to sing ‘Shosholoza’, an old Zulu mining song, the title roughly translates as ‘Keep going. Move faster on those mountains’. It’s is really quite an inspirational moment and then the race starts. The first half of it consists of ‘The Big Five’ a set of hills, with a 1000m ascent and 1600m of descent. It’s a race that unifies a nation divided by politics and celebrates all that is great about running. The aid stations are extremely well stocked, and the support and energy you draw from the spectators is amazing. It is a truly inspirational and a once in a lifetime running experience.”
“Stenying is a small rural town in West Sussex with the beautiful South Downs forming a wonderful landscape for a marathon,” says Monster Marathon Challenge runner Peter Bocquet. “This was really my first experience of true grass-roots running, and it is the combination of the scenery, the local organisation and the camaraderie that makes it my favourite marathon. Although 10 minutes late for the official start time, I took off in pursuit of the early morning runners. There was ice covering the puddles, and, as I had just arrived from Singapore the day before, it was a bit of a shock.
Most of the course was in good condition, apart from the usual waterlogged field at four miles, which surprised many people when they broke through the ice. Up on the hilltops, conditions were raw, and steadily got worse as the wind strength increased. However, my complaining and moaning quickly gave way to laughter and happiness as I realised the sheer beauty of our surroundings. I crossed the finish line to much applause, even though I was towards the back end of the field. And the race hospitality didn’t finish there – the Stinger is the only marathon I have ever done that has provided a full English breakfast at the Finish Line… a truly wonderful experience that exemplifies the spirit of the running community. Inclusive, supportive and fun.”