Deciding on the best marathons around the world is a tough call. One runner’s idea of hell can be another’s dream course. Two of the definite benefits of running races is for motivation of course. But it can also be a great way to see the world.
For us, we’ve gone for a mixture of the most interesting and different, as well as the most important on the international marathon circuit. Of course if you disagree, feel free to vent your spleen at the bottom in the comments.
Here’s our list of the 10 Best marathons around the world.
The Original: Athens Marathon (November)
Legend has it that a messenger ran 26 miles to Athens to announce the Greek victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
The Athens Authentic Marathon replicates this historic journey right from Marathon. It winds through some coastal villages until you finish at the white marble Panathanaikos Stadium in Athens.
This race is renowned for being tough, and its historical significance means the 18,000 places disappear fast.
One of the Best Marathons for Beginners: Amsterdam (October)
If you’ve never been to the Netherlands, let me tell you- it’s flat! And for those of your who aren’t crazy about hills, this is very good news indeed.
The Amsterdam Marathon has been running since 1975 (though it’s debut was back at the 1928 Olympics). The highlight of this race is the pass through (yes through!!) the historic Rijksmuseum, which houses masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
There’s also passes through the classic Dutch countryside with windmills and all.
17,000 entrees make this a nice popular race in one of the popular parts of the world.
An All nighter: The Midnight Sun Marathon (Norway, June)
When you go running at night, you expect it to be dark. But not if you’re in the arctic circle in June.
Our Next entry on our best marathons list is the Midnight Sun Marathon. And it gets its name because it’s daytime at midnight!
Based in Tromso, in arctic Norway, this race takes advantage of the 24 hour summer sunlight in that part of the world.
it starts and finishes in the city centre. The first 20 ks take you on an uptown route as you can grab some great views. Thankfully, the second 20 is far flat as you are taken back into the city centre.
If you’re worried about Arctic temperatures, June sees averages of about 9 degrees (48F).
Run Dressed As A Chicken: The London Marathon (April)
The Virgin London marathon is included here mainly because of its phenomenal charity work.
This means that runners not only try to complete the 26 miles but often do it dressed as batman. Fanously, Lloyd Scott took 5 days, 8 hours to complete it dressed in an antique diving suit in 2002. Not to wanting to rest on his laurels he then took and amazing 26 days dressed in a snail costume in 2011.
The regs have now been changed and you have to finish within a 24 hour cut off point.
This famous course goes around all the famous sites of London, definitely a great way to sightsee. If you can get a place.
The Oldest and Most Prestigious: Boston (April)
Of course events a few years ago threatened to blot the history of the US’s oldest and most prestigious marathon. Fortunately it has got over that fateful day and Boston Marathon is famous rather than infamous.
Boston Marathon takes in several of new England’s prettiest areas and contains the infamous Heartbreak Hill at those critical 20-21 mile marks.
But get past that and it’s all down hill from there and runners can enjoy the thousands of spectators egging them on.
Entry also requires a qualifying time, which is only ascertained when all the entrees have been judged. This can leave a lot of people sweating on whether they have got in or not.
Canada’s Coast Run: BMO Vancouver Marathon (May)
The revamped course for Vancouver’s 26.2 miler sees it going past more coast than ever and take in 12 different areas of the city.
This event is limited to 5,000 runners so it maintains an almost intimate atmosphere. There’s also a plethora of music groups to keep runners entertained.
Hit the Wall: Great Wall Marathon, Tianjin, China (May)
If visiting that rather long wall (5,500.3 miles (8,851.8 kilometers)) in China is on your things-to-do-before-I-die list, why not run it??
The route starts in Huangyaguan, which is just away from Beijing, and winds through the Chinese countryside. You then head to the wall and this is where the ‘fun’ starts.
The wall part of the course is decidedly up/down- in fact you can expect to scale 5,164 steps in total. This is why this marathon has an 8 hour cut off limit because runners can expect to finish up to 50% slower than their usual marathon time.
Safe to say, this is not a race for beginners, and get in plenty of hill training before you enter this bad boy.
If you do manage to avoid collapsing from exhaustion half way through the race, then you’ll be treated to 360 degree panoramic views of China.
Safari On Foot: Big Five Marathon, Limpopo, South Africa
You may have seen the clever t-shirt slogans with stuff like “run like you’re being chased”. Well this might just come true as you run this race through the Entabeni Game Reserve in the Waterberg district of South Africa.
This private park houses the “Big Five” game animals: lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos. No they aren’t in cages, but the race start is dictated depending on the location of these great beast (presumably to avoid coming too close to them).
Now, if that’s not motivation to get you round that course in record time.
But in all seriousness, this is a tough run as you wind through the beautiful hills and valleys. It should however, be on the bucket list of any discerning runner.
Become an Eco-Runner: Patagonian International Marathon (September)
The Patagonian International Marathon allows you to run, take in the beautiful Chilean vistas and do your bit for the environment.
Held in the mountainous Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, this marathon takes you past luminescent lakes and waterfalls.
As one of only 1,000 runners admitted, on completion of the race you don’t get prize money. Instead the race organisers plant a tree in the name of each runner who finishes the race.
Let’s finish with some speed: Niagara Falls International Marathon (October)
Of course, Niagara Falls need no introduction but this may be your first introduction to the marathon.
Whereas some of the races on this list are particularly challenging, the Niagara Falls International Marathon is flat.
In fact the only hill is when you cross the International Peace Bridge. Oh yeah, did we forget to mention, this course actually crosses over into the States into Buffalo. So get your paperwork fixed up:-)
You can enjoy 18 miles of falls parkway. Also, the finish line is right at the falls themselves, making for a great photo opportunity as you complete the run.
This is limited to 1,500 or so runners so entree is tight but well worth the effort.
Whatever you do get yourself joined to a marathon near you and enjoy that once in a lifetime feeling.