Colombia – Plotting the Running Dream

For runners with the travel bug, plotting a marathon course in Colombia is a dream job and one the We Are Runners team bagged! Here we touch on how we actually went about doing it.


Here we are, in part of the world we’ve only ever lusted after with eight days, EIGHT DAYS, to find and plot three race courses – and they’ve got to be top notch.

After designing and being part of a superb marathon in Uganda last year we, Ellie & Paul, are in Colombia, working with Impact Marathon Series to design a 5k, half and full marathon to celebrate the end of a long period of conflict here, excitingly working with rehabilitating fighters from both sides to marshal the courses.

As a team, I would say we have just enough expertise for this job, outweighed enormously by our utter love of running…and stubbornness to get the job done.

How to start

There was very little preparation we could do from back in the UK – good ol’ Google Maps is slightly limited when it comes to rural South America. So work really began on our first day in the crazy city of Santa Marta at the very north of Colombia. Armed with a race starting point, a finish line, a lot of water and not a lot else, we travelled up a mountain and ran back down it. Pretty much.

The marathon and half marathon courses are to begin up in the mountains – and unmapped pathways can only be discovered one way! Luckily, we like to run and run and run so over days one, two, three and four, we discovered a fair few.

By day five of the trip we were ready to explore some deep valleys in the centre of the would-be marathon course. This was to be our most physically challenging day, and not only because it was Ellie’s 30th birthday. We ended up running for eight hours with enough water for four and got through the day thanks to a farmer, who Ellie would have kissed – despite the machete casually strapped across his chest – for the two glasses of water and bit of dried coconut he gave us. By the time we found a village we were thirsty, hungry, sunburnt, had adopted two stray dogs and, most importantly, had plotted the most fantastic stretch of course deep in the valley and along the river. Our runners are going to have to jump over stepping stones and clamber over rocks – this was the day we knew this course was going to be very special indeed.

Making runs into routes

So we had a series of beautiful shortish running routes, finding them had really been the easy, definitely the fun, bit. Days six to eight were spent in a less dehydrated fashion and used to join up these routes and then plot a way back into the lively centre of town, to finish the race right by the sea. There were many more paths once we emerged from the mountains but avoiding ‘questionable’ areas made our selection limited and sometimes frustrating. Ultimately though it also forced us to discover sections that made us near hyperventilate with delight (in particular a disused railway, lined by colourful houses pumping local music and rhythm into our stride).

The race itself happens on 11th Feb 2017 and we’re going back for Jan and Feb to tweak the courses into perfection and do all the necessaries. And by ‘necessaries’ I mean the obvious things – like including ‘angry donkeys’ in the risk assessment – scarier than you’d imagine, especially when the only way out of the situation is a barbed wire fence and a steep drop. We’ve got bamboo bridges to build across river crossing points, yes I know what you’re thinking – river crossing points!! This race is going to be superb! Wish we could take all the credit but rural Colombia is the real hero here. What. A. Place.


To find out more about the inaugural Colombia Marathon in Feb ’17, visit the Impact Marathon Series (IMS) website here. IMS create races in exciting spots across the globe with the aim of making an impact to handpicked local projects, if you love running – get involved!