In an effort to try to think about something other than the unsettling state of the world, I’ve spent some time today looking into opportunities around the world for people to come together for running races with a difference – ones that encompass more than one country. The idea of cross-border races popped into my head because I knew that such a thing exists and, given that borders between countries seem to be thickening at alarming rates, including the one south of us, I wondered how many such events might be available. Runners and spectators alike always have so much fun at destination runs, cross-border races might be something that should encouraged to improve cross-border relations. Who knows? What better way to promote understanding between nations than bringing people together through sweat, sneakers, sore muscles, Gatorade, and exchanges of race swag!
My Sunday afternoon research suggests that unless there are many cross-border running races that have not bothered with any online presence (which would be really, really counterproductive for them), there are precious few. Most of these are between Canada and the U.S., but there were a few interesting surprises.
- The Bay of Fundy International Marathon, which happens to be very near where I live, is set in an utterly charming location. Runners start in the small town of Lubec, Maine, then cross the bridge to Campobello Island, New Brunswick, where they run the entire (not very big) island before crossing back across the bridge to Maine. If you like fresh seafood and quiet, scenic places, this is an opportunity not to be missed. The main attractions on Campobello Island are Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s summer home and a few lighthouses. This year the opportunity presents itself on June 24, 2018. As with all of these international race events, there are a variety of distances offered, although not all the routes cover both countries.
- The Niagara Falls International Marathon is the other race cross-border race I knew about already. A friend of mine completed this several years ago and pronounced it a must. Runners cross into Canada from Buffalo, NY over the International Peace Bridge and then run along the scenic Niagara Parkway, ending at one of the world’s most famous natural wonders, Niagara Falls itself. This run gains in popularity every year and is considered one of the most scenic in Canada, taking place this year on October 14, 2018. There are several distances to choose from for those not quite ready for a full marathon.
- The Detroit Free Press International Marathon promotes the fact that their marathon course runs “through” water twice, once going over the Detroit River by the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario and then going under the river by running through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Interestingly, the event organizers offer both an International Half Marathon and a U.S.-only Half Marathon. I’m not sure if the U.S.-only Half is for people who are afraid they won’t be allowed into Canada or whether they’re concerned they won’t be allowed back into the U.S.! This year’s race takes place on October 21, 2018.
- The Sault International Festival of Races is a local race event that includes a half marathon, a 7-mile bridge run, and a 5K. It is set in a lovely if somewhat remote part of both countries, and is scheduled for a lovely, cool time of year, right in the heart of the stunning fall colours. A perfect time of year for running. This year’s event, which incorporates the twin cities of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, takes place on Sept 29, 2018.
- The YMCA CHOK International Bridge Race is a local fund-raiser for the YMCA that spans the Detroit River between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario. This June 3, 2018 event includes a 10K and a 5K (Canada only).
- The Run Internacional – the U.S. – Mexico was a huge surprise for me. I was buoyed to find that despite the fact that there are hardly any cross-border races in the world there is one that crosses the contentious U.S.-Mexican border, despite all the rhetoric of “build the wall, build the wall”. This race takes place in the border cities of El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Mexico. As they explain on their website, “The U.S-Mexico International 10K is more than a race. It’s about the unique greatness of the largest borderland in the world. It illustrates how ONE community, united by an international boundary line, blends itself into ONE region, Region UNO.” This is the kind of message I love to read. I love the fact that this initiative is shared by community organizations in border cities in the U.S. and Mexico, and I love that they’re promoting their message through an international race. Why don’t we hear more about these kinds of initiatives and positive messages? This year’s U.S.-Mexico 10K is being held on Nov 3, 2018. I hope they get a terrific turnout.
- The Monaco Run must be a beautiful, scenic marathon route. It runs through the stunning Principality of Monaco, and actually crosses two borders, heading briefly into both France and Italy. There is also a 10K that is run entirely within Monaco.
- The X-Border Challenge, England to Scotland is a local event that must be for very hearty runners, and I say that as a Canadian who isn’t afraid to run in the winter! Its 10K route takes the participants from Carlisle in England to Gretna Green in Scotland … in January. Two things: first of all it is pretty darn raw (cold and damp) in January in that part of the world and, secondly, it is pretty darn dark in January at that latitude. So that would translate into an authentic experience, for sure! This opportunity is available to all hearty souls on January 27, 2019.
These 8 races are the only cross-border international races I could find. Not many, is it?! Does anyone reading this know of any others? If so, they need better promotion!
I found a few races that go across state lines in the U.S. and one that crosses a provincial border in Canada (the Nova Scotia to New Brunswick Cross Border Challenge that runs across the Tantramar Marshes in June). Those sound like fun, but they don’t carry the same weight of international cooperation as cross-border races between countries.
The Istanbul Marathon, run in October or November every year, has always advertised itself as the only race in the world that includes two continents. It starts on the Asian side of Istanbul, crosses the Bosphorus on the First Bosphorus Bridge, passes many historic sites, including the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and then ends in the İnönü Stadium in the European part of Istanbul. For runners who like running across bridges, there are three bridge crossings on this route! Although the inter-country cooperation isn’t present, it undoubtedly has plenty of international feeling, not to mention incredible sights and a wealth of learning opportunities.
Running really is good for your mental and physical well-being, maybe even your spiritual well-being. And when you can’t run anymore you have so many wonderful memories to draw on! What other destination races would readers recommend, especially for slow runners who love to see new places and learn about the world?