The event takes place in the Bamiyan region of Afghanistan, an area that’s known for its beauty and security. When Afghanistan was on the hippy trail in the 1960s and 70s, this was one of the key destinations, a landscape of dramatic cliffs and bright blue lakes, with caves and citadels to explore. Its name means ‘The Place of Shining Light’.
Bamiyan city itself was home to huge statues of the Buddha, before they were destroyed in 2001. But the enormous caves are still there, along with hundreds of others which together formed a monastic community around 500-600CE. The area contains ancient ruins at Shahr-e Zohak and Shahr-e Gholgola, the Red City and the City of Screams, as well as side valleys reaching up into the mountains, where skiing takes place in winter months.
For security reasons, some information about the event is not publicised, and this inspired a film and wider project called The Secret Marathon – for more information click the button below.
The exact course and location varies from year to year, but Band-e Amir has been home to the event for the last two years. It’s Afghanistan’s first national park and an incredible sight with intense colours amid high-altitude desert.
Ever since the first event in 2015, there has always been a 10k option as well as the full 42.2k Etisalat Marathon of Afghanistan.
And in 2019 we added a Mini-Marathon for local children, in association with Frontline Children.
Terrain and Climate
The area consists largely of high-altitude semi-desert. It sits at around 3000m, beneath the mountains of the Hindu Kush, so the thin air presents a challenge and runners will feel the impact.
The courses usually involve dirt roads and non-technical trails, with short sections of tarmac. Road shoes are typically adequate.
Runners should expect cold mornings, followed by bright sunshine and clear skies through the day.