Thunder Dragon Marathon in Bhutan
Bhutan or Druk Yul (the land of the Thunder Dragon) as it is known in Bhutanese, is mystical, enchanting and like nowhere you have ever been. This tiny Himalayan kingdom nestling between Tibet and India is a country of raw natural beauty and dramatic landscapes that range from sub-tropical plains to steep mountains and valleys.
Regularly voted one of the world’s top travel destinations, Bhutan still remains accessible only to the privileged few. The Thunder Dragon Marathon is your chance to see the country at ground level, to immerse yourself in its unique culture and enjoy an unforgettable running and travel experience.
The Thunder Dragon Marathon features a Full Marathon – 42.195km / 26.2m and a Half Marathon – 21.1km / 13.1m
From the start at Zhiwa Ling, the first few kilometres are downhill on the road before crossing a metal bridge swing bridge festooned in prayer flags. It then follows the Paro Chu River downstream the tributary of the Wang Chu, where runners are at 2200m altitude.
The route is undulating along the Wang Chu tributary – climbing gradually above the latticework of rice paddies up stream on one side of the river before crossing a bridge and returning down the other side on a gentle descent.
Arriving back on the road near Paro the half marathon is reached and the runners in the 21.1km will stop – spectators will be brought to the half marathon point to see the finish then both spectators and half marathon runners will return by bus to the start area at Zhiwa Ling to see the full marathon runners finish.
The Marathon will then climb steadily for 4km up the side of a valley passing above Paro Dzong then up to Zueray Dzong, the highest point of the race (2530m).
From here you start to drop to the valley passing by the luxury Uma Resort (2413m).
Dropping sharply back to the river, the route crosses the ornate Paro Bridge in front of Paro Dzong. From here the route passes to the South of the town before rising up on the road for 3km to 2,400m, followed by a short climb on a wide track before picking up forest trails along a line of Chortens festooned with prayer flags.
A short but steep climb at 30km on road takes you onto forest trail around a valley spur before dropping back to the valley. The final 10km are along an undulating dirt road through villages before dropping steeply on road with incredible views of the Tigers Nest as you approach the finish line back at Zhiwa Ling.
The first half of the race is easier than the second half with long sections of flat to undulating running on the road and gravel trails of the river banks. This makes the 21km suitable for all runners and run/walkers regardless of pace as there is no cut off time.
The Marathon and Half Marathon start at the 5 Star Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro. At the start, the races are blessed by the local Monks to bring good luck and a safe race.
At the 21.1km of the Marathon course, the Half Marathon finishes along the Wang Chu Tributary. Spectators and Half Marathon Runners will be transported back to the start area at Zhiwa Ling.
The Marathon finishes back at Zhiwa Ling.
All Runners will recieve a medal after crossing the finish line and refreshments will be available.
There will be water stations at approximately every 4km along the routes. Water will be served in bottles. Some stations will also server energy drinks and bananas. Gels will be available at the 30km point.
Final details about the timing will be announced in your participant guide. The Thunder Dragon Marathon and Half Marathon will be manually timed.
The cut off time for the Marathon is 8 hours but has some flexibility depending upon the weather conditions. There is no cut off time for the Half Marathon. All Runners who do not achieve the cut off will be picked up and driven to the finish line.
Kilometre signs are places every 5km along the route. Directional signs are placed frequently and tape is used to clearly direct Runners along any unmarked paths.
An extensive team of local Bhutanese Marshalls will be at key points along the course to give directions and ensure your safety.
Please note that some sections of the Marathon and Half Marathon Routes are run on roads which are not closed to traffic. Although traffic is not heavy, take care and look out for vehicles.