As the world is becoming more ecologically aware, running event coordinators have focused on designing events that promote ecotourism. Ecotourism is generally regarded as travel to undisturbed natural areas. Ecotourism has become trendy, as it fosters ecological conservation and encourages travellers to respect unique cultures and preserve natural surroundings.
Ecotourism-friendly running events are held in historic cities and also in remote areas not commonly visited by tourists. The primary focus of the ecotourism movement is to encourage socially responsible travel by developing an appreciation of the environment and developing respect for local cultural, spiritual and political differences. This respect is important in underprivileged countries as well as well-established cosmopolitan cities.
Location: Fiona Tapajos, close to Santarem, Amazonia, Brazil
Course and Conditions: This event includes three races including a marathon, a four-stage 127 km race and a six-stage 254 km race. Runners may choose distance options and are allowed three days to train and acclimate to jungle conditions. The course includes remote village trails, river crossings, swamps, steep ascents and descents.
Unique Points: This is a quintessential ecotourism event, as it allows runners to personally experience a remote jungle environment. Runners face challenges posed by unique and dangerous conditions including extremely hot and humid weather.
North Pole Marathon
Location: North Pole, middle of the Arctic Ocean
Course and Conditions: This ecotourism-friendly event is held at the northernmost point on Earth, in the centre of the Arctic Ocean. The course is run on frozen water (ice) rather than on roads or trails. The course, which spans a distance of 42.19 km, takes runners 1.8 to 3.7 m from the Arctic Ocean. Running over Arctic ice in a remote area with sub-zero temperatures is a challenge for even the most experienced runners. Proper conditioning and training is essential if you are attempting this marathon.
Unique Points: This event is the only certified marathon run exclusively on frozen water. It is recognised by Guinness World Records as the “Northernmost Marathon on Earth”.
Location: Paris, France
Course and Conditions: One of the most prestigious and popular ecotourism-friendly races in Europe takes runners through the streets of the spectacular city of Paris. Described as a cultural sightseeing running tour, the marathon begins on the famous Champs Elysėes and continues to Place de la Concorde, passing the Louvre. Runners travel to the banks of the Seine River, passing Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. The course, run on city streets, spans a distance of 42.195 km. Runners are required to complete the marathon within five hours and 40 minutes.
Unique Points: Aside from experiencing the historical, architectural and cultural sights of Paris, the spectacular finish at the Arc de Triomphe honors runners with Parisian-made medallions and hand-crafted gifts. Biodeisel support vehicles, biodegradable drinking cups and composting stations are available to assist runners.
Econet Victoria Falls Marathon and Half-Marathon
Location: Victoria Falls, near Zimbadwe and Zambia, Africa
Course and Conditions: The course is relatively flat in most places and winds along the spectacular Zambezi River, close to the Victoria Falls waterfall.
Unique Points: There are opportunities to experience incredible scenery not accessible to other tourists. You will see wildlife including elephants and hippos relaxing in their natural habitats. When running through the Zambezi National Park you will be overwhelmed with panoramic views of the town of Victoria Falls.
Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race
Location: Near Maneybhanjang, India
Course and Conditions: The race includes five daily stages, each varying in distance and difficulty. The first stage begins in Sandakpha National Park and ends in the village of Sandakpha. The course has extremely steep ascents and descents. Other stages, mainly involving trail running, begin in Molle, with its breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains. Runners who participate in the 100 mile (160.9 km) stage race travel through dense isolated forests, jungles and small settlement villages. Wild horses, yaks and red pandas can be seen at high elevations.
Unique Points: Runners who participate in this event experience panoramic views of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makala and Kanchenjunga, which are four of the five largest mountain peaks in the world. Overnight accommodations are usually in rustic mountain huts offered by local residents.
Nature’s Path Whidbey Island Marathon
Location: Whidbey Island, Washington, United States
Course and Conditions: This event, north of Seattle in the Puget Sound area features a course that provides extraordinary views of the Pacific Ocean. The course, mainly on country back roads winds through peaceful farm villages and waterfront coastlines.
Unique Points: Runners will have panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean. Race participants receive gift bags made from recycled paper and unique items donated by local artisans. Finishers are awarded medallions hand-crafted from recycled glass.
Location: Brighton, United Kingdom
Course and Conditions: Located on the south coast of the United Kingdom, the course begins with a loop of spectacular Preston Park and follows a winding path through the city centre and the Brighton Pavilion. Beautiful stretches of coastal roadways provide runners with panoramic views of beautiful beaches and waterways. This is a relatively fast course on flat roads. There are a few rolling hills during the first half of the marathon. The second part is primarily on flat or downhill roads. Traffic is prohibited during the event.
Unique Points: Brighton, a coastal city, is a popular destination for European tourists, especially during the summer months. After completing the marathon, you may wish to spend a couple of days exploring the city, relaxing on the beach and enjoying traditional British cooking.
Volkswagen Prague Marathon
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
Course and Conditions: This is another event held in one of the most historically significant and unique cities in the world. The course takes runners through the streets of Prague, along rivers and across the famous footbridge that leads to the Old Town Square. The course, on relatively flat roads, gives runners views of stunning castles.
Unique Points: It has been reported that the Czech Republic has more than more castles per square mile than any country in the world. Prague is the host of multiple cultural events, including opera, classical music and traditional dance performances. Learning the culture of Prague is an experience of a lifetime.
Run Larapinta Stage Race
Location: Larapinta, located in the centre of outback Australia
Course and Conditions: This event involves trail running along sections of the Larapinta Trail in the MacDonnell Mountain ranges near Alice Springs. This is a four-day, four-stage event. Course options include The Malbunka, a long course with stages of 20 to 45 km per day. The Namatjira is a shorter course with stages of 10 to 30 km per day. Runners can choose to participate in all stages or can choose one stage of each event.
Unique Points: Course highlights include Ormeston Gorge, Finke River, Ochre Pits, Mt. Sonder and Standley Chasm. After completing the race, you may want to take a few days exploring the Australian outback, understanding local culture and visiting small villages in the area.
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States
Course and Conditions: The marathon run on city roads includes flat surfaces, rolling hills and a long jaunt along the Columbia River. A portion of the course crosses one of Portland’s historic bridges and ends at Waterfront Park in the downtown area. Aid stations and water sources are located adjacent to fresh-water hose connections, reducing the use of plastic water bottles. Bicycles are used for marathon course management.
Unique Points: Since the beginning of the marathon, more than 100,000 finishers have been given tree seedlings to help re-plant environmentally-damaged areas.
Reasons to Participate in Ecotourism Running Events
Ecotourism-friendly running events involve travel to remote locations, lush in nature, wildlife and culture. Runners participating in these events are able to gain an appreciation of natural habitats and the impact of humans on the environment. Ecotourism-friendly running events promote energy, efficiency, water conservation and most importantly, create economic opportunities for local communities, especially those in impoverished regions.