Push your limits on your next holiday and combine it with a running event. Asia is host to some amazing marathons in locations of exceptional natural beauty and historical significance. These events allow you to venture into places inaccessible by road and to experience the friendliness and amazement of the locals.
We’ve put together a list of our favourite races in the region, all of which have long and short distances for both runners and walkers.
So arrange your travel itinerary around these scenic races and start training!
Angkor Wat International Half Marathon, Cambodia
The popular Angkor Wat International Half Marathon runs through a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Catch the sun rising behind Angkor Wat before the race starts. As the whistle goes, set off along country roads past the 13th century reservoir and royal bathing pool of Srah Srang, through two of the impressive 23-metre-high entry gates of Angkor Thom and past ruins of several ancient temples. In addition to the amazing scenery there is also a 10km race for landmine victims, and the entrance fees help support many charities including providing prosthetic limbs for the victims.
Bhutan International Marathon, Bhutan
Adventure and spiritual seekers need to add the Bhutan International Marathon to their bucket list. This once-in-a-lifetime marathon in the Land of the Thunder Dragon weaves along rural roads following the Mo Chhu River through the Punakha Valley. At every turn there are stunning views of monasteries, rice paddies, rainforest and villages. The race finishes at the historic Punakha Dzong, considered to be the most beautiful and important dzong in the country.
Bagan Temple Marathon, Myanmar
Combine running with temple-hopping at this stunning race. Myanmar’s spectacular plain of Bagan stretches away from the Ayeyarwaddy River and is dotted with over 2,000 ancient temples and stupas dating back over 800 years. The starting line for the Bagan Temple Marathon is at the 800-year-old Hti Lo Min Temple. Yes, it’s hot and dusty but the glimpses of ruined temples accompanied by the cheers of the locals as you pass through their small villages will keep you going to the finish line.
Bromo Marathon, Indonesia
This fiery marathon takes place in one of the most dramatic places on earth – the active Mount Bromo volcano on East Java, Indonesia. Bromo Marathon sets off from the tiny isolated mountain village of Tosari and Ngadiwono. Mount Bromo itself is located in the centre of Tengger Caldera, a huge volcanic crater. The race winds along paved and dirt trails circling the ancient crater, offering breathtaking views of the smouldering moon-like volcanic landscape. Along the way run past isolated temples and through villages inhabited by the Tengger people.
Vietnam Mountain Marathon, Vietnam
If you’re tired of road running, perhaps it’s time to hit the trails. Vietnam Mountain Marathon is an extraordinary trail race that winds through the valleys and mountains around Sapa. Run between villages, through rice terraces, across bamboo bridges and past water buffalo and cheering ethnic minority people. The race will take you to villages inaccessible by road, where locals still wear their ethnic dress. Curious children line the pathways amazed by the crazy foreigners who pay to run the steep hillsides that they walk every day. The race ends at the hilltop Topas Ecolodge, where in the evening, the fun continues with a lively mountain running party and bonfire under the stars.
TATA Mumbai Marathon, India
Mumbai may not be your first choice as a marathon destination. It’s chaotic, crazy and fast-paced. But channel some of that energy and you’ll discover that “pounding the pavement” is a great way to experience this incredible city. The TATA Mumbai Marathon runs past iconic sights such as Flora Fountain, Marine Drive and Chowpatty. As a special treat it takes you along the Bandra Worli Sealink – it’s the only time of year when the sealink is open to pedestrians. But it’s not just about running. This race brings the entire population of Mumbai onto the streets – and the atmosphere is electric!
Luang Prabang Half Marathon, Laos
Every morning at sunrise silent lines of saffron-clad monks slowly walk the streets of Luang Prabang in Laos to collect alms. But on one morning each year the monks are replaced by local and international runners wearing the latest running shoes. This is the Run for Children: Luang Prabang Half Marathon. It’s also known as ‘La Procession’ as the runners follow the same route as the barefoot monks. The race starts in front of the iconic National Museum and runs along the peninsula looping through golden temples, UNESCO-protected buildings and the scenic Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. It’s for a good cause too, as all funds raised go to support Lao Friends Hospital for Children.