Traveling to run: Asia's top destination races

Traveling to run: Asia's top destination races

Jogging through Mongolian grasslands. Sprinting past the temples of Angkor Wat. These races prove it's not always best to take things slow

Running might not be everyone's top reason for traveling, but over the coming months it could provide some of the best chances to see places you wouldn't otherwise consider.

Here are Asia's best destination races of 2013 -- and why you should consider signing up.

Also on CNN: World's 10 toughest endurance challenges

The Genghis Khan Grassland Extreme Marathon

No concrete here. Battered runners' knees get rare relief on the Mongolian grasslands.

Where: Xiwuqi, Inner Mongolia, China

When: July 6, 2013

The appeal: Just you, the occasional fellow runner and the idyllic grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

It doesn't get much more Zen than that. Unless you want to spend the pre-race night in a Mongolian yurt -- which is totally possible and almost expected.

After all, this event takes place in the home of Genghis Khan, with the ancient imperial city of Karakorum only a stone's throw away from Xiwuqi.

The race is part of the two-day Genghis Khan Festival, which means you can take part in unique cultural and culinary events throughout the weekend.

The run: The Grassland Marathon is a timed, off-road running challenge of varying distances (42.5 kilometers, 21.5 kilometers and 11.5 kilometers). Set on soft ground, green grass and rolling hills, this race provides much-needed relief for a seasoned runner's tired shins and knees.

According to race organizers, "it should be impossible to get lost." Unless, of course, one of the "hundreds of sheep, goats, horses, cows, donkeys and other cattle that roam the grasslands, bump over a marking sign."

We hate when that happens.


The Bromo Marathon

Need motivation to run faster? Convince yourself that big, simmering volcano is about to blow.

Where: East Java, Indonesia

When: September 1, 2013

The appeal: Want to go off the map for a weekend? We have the race for you, around an 820,000-year-old massive volcanic crater, courtesy of the inaugural Bromo Marathon in the mountains of East Java, Indonesia.

A challenge for your traveling skills and physical endurance, this race will certainly be one for the travel diaries.

By participating you'll not only have an adventure, you'll support local schools' efforts to improve literacy.

The run: The Bromo Marathon will take place in the villages surrounding East Java's Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park on a half-road, half-dirt course.

The event offers full marathon, half-marathon and 10-kilometer distances.

Known for its steaming top, Mount Bromo is one of five peaks in the center of the crater. That means you'll be running around an active volcano lodged inside of a volcanic crater.


Luang Prabang Half Marathon 'La Procession'

Laos Buddhist monks parade past Luang Prabong's revered Wat Xieng Thong, one of several historic sites on the route.

Where: Luang Prabang, Laos

When: October 5, 2013

The appeal: Give, run, party. In that order.

At its core, the Luang Prabang Half Marathon is about the act of charitable giving. Fitting, especially when you think about what Luang Prabang is most well-known for: the daybreak ritual in which saffron-robed, bare-footed monks collect alms in side-wielding urns from residents and tourists.

When you participate in the Luang Prabang Half Marathon, your entry fee ($200) and all other funds raised will be used to support and empower marginalized youth in the local community.

The race is in Luang Prabang, a small French colonial town in the mountains of northern Laos.

The run: The Luang Prabang Half Marathon takes place along a seven-kilometer paved circuit and runs past many of the town's most famous and beautiful landmarks, and along the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.

The event offers distances of seven kilometers, 14 kilometers and 21 kilometers.

The main reason a full marathon isn't offered? According to race organizers, "as a distance, it's a little anti-social (at least in terms of dealing with the post-run pain) and a big part of organizing this race is to have a great party."

Now these are the kind of people you want to run with.


Also on CNN: Diary of an ultra-marathon in Laos

Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon

Bangkok's annual marathon starts at 1:30 a.m. and at the beginning of the cool season, giving runners relief from the heat. Where: Bangkok

When: November 17, 2013

The appeal: If you're looking for a well-established big city race in Asia, this is the one.

The "World's Best City" (according to many travelers in multiple travel publications) and one of the world's most visited cities calls you to the Mighty Chao Phraya River.

The run: This race gives "One Night in Bangkok" a new meaning, as more than 50,000 other runners start at 1:30 a.m.

The Bangkok Marathon passes iconic Bangkok sites including the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the National Museum and across the Chao Phraya River.

Runners can choose from the marathon (42 kilometers), half-marathon (21 kilometers), mini-marathon (10.5 kilometers), and micro-marathon (five kilometers).


Angkor Wat International Half Marathon

The Angkor Wat Marathon might be the world's most scenic run. Good luck concentrating on your breathing.

Where: Siem Reap, Cambodia

When: December 1, 2013

The appeal: Running through the ancient temples of Angkor.

This is the race to leave aside your personal best goals and pride, and take time to marvel at one of the world's most impressive archaeological sites.

You'll take pictures, return high fives from local children and run Rocky Balboa-style through Victory Gate at the 15-kilometer mark.

Race proceeds benefit Cambodian land mine victims and a local initiative to combat HIV/AIDS.

The run: The Angkor Wat Half Marathon takes place inside the temple complex of Angkor, a mostly flat course lined by ancient trees that provide plenty of shade.

Runners can choose from the 21-kilometer half-marathon, 10-kilometer road race or three-kilometer fun run.

Don't expect fancy. Race organization is simple; local children hand out water bottles every 2.5 kilometers and kilometer markings are written on folded cardboard signs and spray painted on the road.