The Christmas decorations are down, so is the thermometer. With a long wait for the summer weather looming, ’tis the season to flick through the travel pages and dream of running in sunnier climes. To really warm you up, Sheila Ryan lists some of the world’s hottest marathons.

Convict and Wenches Australia Day Run, Brisbane, 26 January 2011

OK, so it’s too late for Australia Day 2011, but it’s probably just as well. The 5.30am start time for the marathon (a selection of shorter races start later in the morning) is a dead giveaway of the searing temperatures expected. January is high summer down under and the organisers make no secret of the hot and sticky conditions expected, with temperatures above 30ºC and humidity above 80%. Australia Day, 26 January, is the day the “first fleet” arrived in Australia in 1788, and is Australia’s national holiday.

Dubai Marathon, United Arab Emirates, 21 January 2011

January is the coolest month in Dubai, but with an average maximum temperature around 24 ºC, it’s the equivalent to high summer for some of us. The official site of the Dubai Marathon is slightly cagey about the expected race-day temperature. The “General Information” section admits to approximately 10-15ºC at the 7am start. Those who were still running at noon in the 2010 race had to contend with 27 ºC, which should provide good motivation to get across the finish line as early as you can, even if a share in the US$2 million prize money remains a heat-induced fantasy.

Penang Bridge International Marathon, Malaysia, 20 November 2011

Malaysia beckons for those who fancy a hot race, with a starting temperature of 25°C, and that’s only thanks to a start time of 2am. By the official finish time, seven hours later, the thermometer could have climbed to 30°C, a temperature rarely experienced here in Ireland. Much of the race is spent on the 13.5km long Penang Bridge itself, which runners cross only to run around the toll plaza, and then return.

Racing in the heat, could anything be more fun?

Sahara Marathon, near Tindouf, Algeria, 28 February 2011

Compared to the multi-day blister-bath of the Marathon des Sables, the Sahara Marathon could be seen as a mere training run. Temperatures are only around 30ºC, and it is, after all, just one little marathon. There’s even a kids’ race, a 5km, a 10km and a half marathon on the same day. The event is run to demonstrate solidarity with the Saharawi people who have been living in refugee camps for more than 35 years. No excuses then.

Marathon des Sables, Morocco, 31 March to 11 April 2011

“Welcome to the world of lunatics and masochists,” warn the organisers of this notorious six day and 151 mile race across the Sahara Desert. Midday temperatures approach 49ºC, water is available but rationed and competitors must carry all their own food, clothes, sleeping bag and medical kit in a rucksack. And with day four comprising a 45-50 mile stage there’s no avoiding the midday sun. After six days of this you should be fantasising about returning to the grey skies and drizzle, although the organisers warn that many competitors go into a kind of depression after returning home from the race because everything seems dull and boring by comparison with what they have just done.

The Hottest Half, Dallas, Texas, 14 August 2011

OK, so it’s “just” a half marathon, but with an average minimum temperature of 24ºC and maximum of 36ºC it might feel like an ultra. The logic of the organisers is that anyone who lives in Texas and has trained for a winter distance event will have already run this distance in the “dog days” of summer. And as for the rest, they should harden up and take on a race that’s not designed to be easy.

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