Running Wild: The World’s Most Unusual Marathon Trips for 2020 with Untamed Borders

PRESS RELEASE: With their first marathon departure of the year departing this week, adventure travel operator Untamed Borders share their most intrepid running adventures for 2020, to some of the world’s most fascinating and least visited regions. With marathon and fitness tourism becoming more popular, runners are looking for new and exciting challenges and experiences. These Untamed Borders itineraries are designed to give guests a genuine insight into the countries they visit, whilst giving something back to the communities they meet. And, of course, running a race they will never forget.

Having operated commercial tours to Afghanistan since 2007, marathon tourism started for Untamed Borders in 2015, when founder James Willcox joined a small group of international and Afghan people, who together set up the first ever Marathon of Afghanistan. The marathon and 10KM races were an opportunity to create a sporting event which would bring unity and normality to people in a country more associated with conflict and often divided on ethnic lines. To this day, the event remains the countries only mixed gender sporting event. Working in partnership with organisation Free to Run, who use adventure sports, including running, to create safe spaces for women and develop female leadership in post-conflict regions of the world, the organisers ensured that half of the runners have always been Afghan women. The total number of runners across the two races has increased from 120 in 2015 to 775 in 2019, with the addition of a 1KM children’s race.

Now entering its sixth year, the success from the Marathon of Afghanistan led Willcox to help organise and run trips to some of the world’s most unique and unknown races. “Untamed Borders now have five marathon departures a year. This year we will be taking around 70 international guests to participate in some of the world’s most exciting races” explains Willcox.From the deserts of Saudi Arabia to training with female runners breaking taboos in Iraq, these events are all about bringing people from around the world to share a common experience. In most cases entry cost from the international runners covers the race entry for local runners, which, most importantly, makes these events accessible to all. Events like these promote sport, which help young women and men to stay on the right track, rather than falling into drug use or extremism.”

Willcox adds that “operating in countries that generally see very few visitors, Untamed Borders has a responsibility to the communities that call them home. Events like the marathons mean that both our guests and the people they visit benefit in a positive way from the experience.”

 Untamed Borders Upcoming 2020 Marathon Itineraries:

Somaliland Marathon – February 2020

Now in its third year, the Somaliland Marathon remains the countries only mixed gender sporting event. Based in the capital Hargeisa, the 10km and full marathon races were first set up by a small team of international people and Somalilanders to encourage more Somali’s to participate in sport, regardless of sex or national origin. The first event in 2018 saw 200 Somali and international runners taking part across the marathon and 10km races, which increased to 300 runners in 2019. The 2019 event also saw a large rise in female participants from 13 in 2018 to nearly 50 in 2019.

This trip is an excellent opportunity to experience this self-declared Horn of Africa nation and support the work of the Darlington Foundation, the events charity partner, an organisation promoting and supporting the education of students in Somaliland. Guests also have the chance to visit local places of interest, including Las Geel, home to some of the world’s best-preserved ancient cave paintings.

Untamed Borders 5 day itinerary costs $1450. This includes race entry, accommodation, local and international guides, excursions and most meals. For more information please visit www.untamedborders.com/itinerary/somaliland-marathon/ or email info@untamedborders.com

 Riyadh Marathon – February 2020Rub al khalid sunset by Javierblas

Until this year, the Riyadh Marathon has only been open to Saudi Arabia nationals and residents, but due to the countries new visa system, international runners can now also take part. Guests will have the chance to visit places of interest in Riyadh including Dirryyah Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh where the history of the Al Saud Dynasty began, before taking part in the marathon itself. The race makes its way across the desert and through farmland on the outskirts of Riyadh, an area which provides a safe environment for all participants to run.

Untamed Borders 4 day itinerary costs $1075. This includes race entry, accommodation, most meals, museum entry, local and international guides. For more information please visit www.untamedborders.com/itinerary/riyadh-marathon/ or email info@untamedborders.com

Mogadishu Marathon Mogadishu Half-MarathonMarch 2020

This March, runners from all over the world will gather with Somali athletes to compete in the fourth edition of Somalia’s Mogadishu Half-Marathon. This year, the race is co-organised with global running and fitness community, Midnight Runners, with $200 from each Untamed Borders booking going towards race entry for Somali runners. This race is a testament to the idea that running is open to everyone, bringing hope, progress, and change in a corner of Africa that is often portrayed as a place of only negativity. After the race, guests will have the opportunity to explore Mogadishu with a security team and local guide.

Untamed Borders 3 day itinerary costs $1600. This includes race entry, accommodation, all meals, security detail, local and international guides. For more information please visit www.untamedborders.com/itinerary/mogadishu-marathon/ or email info@untamedborders.com

Marathon of Afghanistan 2019Marathon of Afghanistan – October 2020

Each year, Untamed Borders take 20 international guests to join the Marathon of Afghanistan, which takes place at an altitude of 3000m in the Bamian province, in the central highlands of Afghanistan. Starting at the famous UNESCO Buddha niches, the race passes through Band-e Amir, Afghanistan’s first National Park. The Bamian province is recognised as one of the safest areas in the country and remains almost completely untouched by violence. The event is organised in collaboration with charity organisation Free to Run who use adventure sports, including running, to create safe spaces for women and develop female leadership in post-conflict regions of the world.

Untamed Borders 10 day itinerary costs $2350. This includes race entry, accommodation, all internal flights, most meals, local and international guides. For more information please visit www.untamedborders.com/itinerary/marathon-of-afghanistan/ or email info@untamedborders.com

Erbil Marathon

Erbil Marathon – October 2020

Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan is the perfect place to experience life in Northern Iraq. After visiting the ancient citadel and other famous sights in Erbil, guests will visit Lalish, the spiritual home of the Yazidi people, before training with female runners breaking taboos in Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan has mostly escaped the violence that the rest of the country has experienced and is a great way to get a flavour of modern Iraq and discover famous Kurdish hospitality.

Untamed Borders 6 day itinerary costs $1850. This includes race entry, accommodation, all internal transport, some meals, local and international guides. For more information please visit www.untamedborders.com/itinerary/erbil-marathon/ or email info@untamedborders.com

Please note: Exact dates of the races are not published for safety reasons. For full dates and further information or images please contact Elise Wortley: elise@untamedborders.com

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Notes to Editors

About Untamed Borders

Since first operating pioneering tours to Afghanistan in 2007, Untamed Borders have continued to offer bespoke trips and small group adventures to some of the world’s most interesting and inaccessible places. Specialising in cultural, trekking, marathon and skiing trips, Untamed Borders offer some of the most unique itineraries in the travel market today.

Operating in the Middle East, East Africa, former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus, Untamed Borders takes over 250 guests a year to unusual and largely unvisited areas of the world. Travelling in small groups and using local guides, the Untamed Borders mission is to add positive benefit to the countries and communities they visit.

Other ucoming destinations for 2020 include: Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, Siberia, Caucasus, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Untamed Borders and Media

Untamed Borders continue to provide access and support for film crews, journalists, photographers, brands and other professional people to some of the world’s most inaccessible places. In addition to logistical expertise, Untamed Borders provide risk assessments, consultation and management of all sizes of productions and all types of projects. Previous clients include: National Geographic, The North Face, Arc‘teryx, Lonely Planet and Newsweek.