Let's Think Big, Real Big

5 International races that will make you crawl to the finish line...but are sooo worth it!

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

I had been eyeing this one destination race for a few years. It is called Amazon Race Forest. Yeah, that's right. It is in the Amazon Rain Forest. Last week, I sat down and started doing some research of the logistics of the race. I'm looking at pictures of the jungle, sloths, and colorful frogs. Just as I'm getting really excited, I just so happened to jump to CNN and…..breaking news….Tarapoto, Peru was hit by a major earthquake. Needless to say, I'm looking for another race. I made a short list and did some research. Tell me what you think.

Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat International Marathon

Siam Reap, Cambodia

December 8, 2019

In this amazing race, you can run among the magnificent ruins of the Khmer Empire including the famous Bayon Temple. The Angkor Wat International Marathon accommodates all fitness levels including walkers. Half marathons are available. The best way to enjoy this race is to buy as a vacation package. Many companies sell this package. It will include stops in Hanoi, Vietnam and Halong Bay before your run on Angkor Wat. Added bonus: Angkor Wat International Marathon benefits victims of landmines and HIV/AIDS. Take plenty of pictures!

Imagine this for a road block.

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The Big 5 Marathon

Krueger National Park, South Africa

June 20, 2020

This race is hosted by Albatros Marathon Adventures. The Big 5 Marathon combines a challenging marathon course with a full African Safari vacation. This course is hilly with various terrains like concrete and dirt roads and sand. You literally get to run with the Big 5 Game of Africa. That is rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, and leopard plus other animals like zebra, giraffe, and antelope. This race is limited to keep you as intimate as possible with the game. Participants also enjoy safaris the week leading to the race. Only for the most adventurous runners!

Dracula's Castle

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Transylvania Marathon

Transylvania, Romania

May 2020

For all you Game of Thrones lovers out there, this race is for you. Located Northwest of Bucharest, Romania is the Transylvania Marathon that ends at Dracula's Castle. But, before you get there, you have to brave this ultra challenging mountain race. Pick your distance of a half, full, or ultra marathon. Either way, you will have to navigate through treacherous steep, elevation on road, dirt, and snow. One thing is for sure, you better be trained for this race. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Dram-matic scenery in this Scottish Race.

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Dramathon

Speyside, Scotland

October 19, 2019

Whenever I think of running a marathon, I think about hydration, water, maybe beer, but never Scotch. That is when I found the Dramathon. This race is amazing. It takes place in the Speyside region of Scotland with castles and rich farmland. You get to pass by the most pretigious scotch distilleries like Glen Farcglas, Cragganmore, the Balvenie on this grassy trail race. Choose from four distances: the Full Dram, the Half Dram, the Wee Dram, and the relay (the We Dram). The race ends with a scotch tasting at Glenfiddich Distillery.

Stairway to heaven in the Great Wall Marathon.

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Great Wall Marathon

May 16, 2020

The Great Wall Marathon is known as one of the world's most challenging marathons in the world. In fact, it is impossible to run the whole way through. There are many spots where the crowds bottle neck waiting for their turn to get through treacherous mountain steps. Be sure to include your stair workouts while training. Runners can expect to run up and down 5,164 steps before exploring the surrounding village. This race is sold as a vacation. Runners enjoy sight-seeing in Beijing and the Terra Cotta Warriors.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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