5 Asia-Pacific “Roads Not Taken” for Off-the-Beaten-Path Runners
When you consider top running events and marathons in Asia-Pacific, how often do you venture into the unknown? Perhaps it's time to travel more widely while pursuing the activity that makes you happy!
If you admire classic poetry, Robert Frost (1874 to 1963) should be on your list of favourites because he wrote the definitive poem for runners called “The Road Not Taken” in 1920.
The verses begin with the words “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” and goes on to describe the quandary people face when trying to pick one road over another.
Frost ends his poem by writing, “I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” Are you unafraid of roads less travelled?
Would you take his advice by shaping a list of Asia-Pacific top running events and marathons that may be outside your comfort zone? We can’t tell you which roads to take, but if these five don't intrigue you, nothing will!
1. The Thunder Dragon Marathon
Where and When: Bhutan; 27th May 2018
Why run here?
You’ll think time has stopped when you take in stunning mountain scenery, exotic wildlife, iconic temples, monasteries and holy sites as you travel diverse terrain. Overcome altitude variations by training properly, so whether you choose the half or full marathon at this race, you’re ready.
This road starts in Zhiwa Ling, follows the Paro Chu River and along the Wang Chu tributary before crossing the Paro Bridge to return to the Zhiwa Ling finish line. Traverse gravel roads, fields, mountain tracks and some paved roads as you explore the The Thunder Dragon Marathon. You’ll need a visa to get to Bhutan, so get moving if you want to travel this road.
2. City2Surf Sydney
Where and When: Sydney, Australia; 12th August 2018
Why run here?
Because this has been declared by runners to be one of the most popular runs on the continent, don’t be shocked to learn that around 80,000 participants tackle the 14km route that starts in Sydney city centre and winds up on gorgeous Bondi Beach.
The City2Surf Sydney August event is half-serious, half-fun. The fun part includes runners who come dressed for the occasion in gorilla suits and superhero get-ups! Does this mean serious athletes take a pass on this event? Hardly. Competitors are going to discover Heartbreak Hill about 7km into the race which has been known to take down even experienced runners.
3. 17th International Friendship Race in Historical Road Tango
Where and When: Kyoto, Japan; 17th September 2017 (Cancelled due to Typhoon)
Why run here?
Considered one of the top 100 running events in Asia, the Tango ultramarathon pairs a historical road with nature’s bounty plus a daunting challenge set to test your stamina to the max. Those undertaking the 17th iteration of the Tango can register for the 60km or 100km, attend the welcoming opening ceremony on the previous day and then show up at the Kumihama Hama Park start line to begin the journey to a personal best.
The Tango takes place in fall when Japan’s northern mountain passes and gorgeous views along the coasts of the East Sea and the Sea of Japan show off the colours of the changing season. You’ll want to stop and take selfies, but save that for after you cross the finish line and before you exchange information with new friends you’re sure to make along the way.
4. Great Hakka Marathon
Where and When: Nanjing County, China; 18th November 2017
Why run here?
There’s both a full and a half-marathon being staged in Hakka in mid-November at the Great Hakka Marathon 2017 as well as an 8km for those more interested in seeing the sights than breaking a sweat. Sign up for this exotic run around UNESCO World Heritage-designated Hakka roadhouses in Fujian Province and you'll also run past rice paddies and verdant tea plantations.
You won’t spot all 20,000 roadhouses, but you’ll immediately understand why these architectural treasures from the past attract as many visitors as the Great Wall of China. Wave to water buffalo as you progress along this scenic road less travelled. The buffalo won’t wave back, but after all, they're busy working while you take your off-beat runcation.
5. Bagan Temple Marathon
Where and When: Bagan, Myanmar (Burma); 25th November 2017
Why run here?
A recent addition to the marathon circuit, the Bagan Temple Marathon may well be one of those races where you’re tempted to slow down to take in the scenery. Your journey will take you into a mystical land where sacred pagodas and beautiful temples dot the plains of Bagan in central Burma. It’s the latest marathon organised by a company that stages marathons in Greenland, South Africa and China, so the route of this race pick has been carefully selected.
Like Australia’s Gold Coast Airport run, the terrain you cover during your 13km or 35km run is relatively flat so you can take a second peek at places like the Htilominlo Temple (circa 1211), Dhammayazika and Tuyin Taung Pagodas plus ancient villages usually only found on roads less travelled.
When perusing upcoming top marathons in Asia, how far in advance do you set your calendar? By season? A full year in advance? Or do you always take the road less travelled by opting for a more spontaneous approach to your runcation plans?