12 Popular Marathons Around the World
One of the greatest perks of running a marathon is the excuse to travel somewhere new. In fact, “runcations” are gaining popularity yearly and new membership into “clubs” such as the Seven Continents Club (where runners run a marathon on each continent) is ever increasing. Looking for a destination race? Listed below are ten of the most popular marathons around the world and ones worth travelling to for the experience – true bucket list events.
Antarctica Marathon – Antarctica
Popular is an understatement for the Antarctica Marathon. This race, which is going on its 17th year, is already sold out through 2018. With only 136 finishers in 2015, the race is run on gravel roads on King George Island that connect the research bases of Uruguay, China, Russia, and Chile. All-inclusive ten-day packages, centered around the race weekend, start at $7,000 USD and include roundtrip airfare, meals, and guided tours. Be sure to dress warm, as race conditions call for 15 – 35oF below freezing, before factoring in the wind chill!
OSIM Sundown Marathon – Singapore
The idea for the Sundown Marathon was born during a night run among friends: if so many people train in the dark, why not race in the dark, too? The race, which begins at 10 PM, takes runners through downtown Singapore past the city’s many bright lights. In 2016, 30,000 participants are expected to compete in the event, up from 600 in its inaugural year.
What do the organizers say? “We want to inspire runners to break boundaries and push limits to achieve greatness.”
Tokyo Marathon – Japan
Although a relatively new marathon (first run in 2007), the Tokyo Marathon has quickly become one of the most popular in the world, with 35,310 finishers in 2015. Besides numerous participants, Tokyo also boasts an unprecedented amount of spectator support with more than 1.7 million citizens lining the streets of Japan to catch a glimpse of the runners. Perhaps the ultimate “runcation” destination, the world’s largest city has many amenities to offer, from fine dining to historical Geisha houses.
The Great Wall Marathon – China
Considered one of the world’s most challenging marathons, this sellout race features steep elevation changes, dizzying steps (5,164 to be exact), and breathtaking views. The course takes runners through rural villages, on top of the Great Wall, onto the infamous goat track, and around the fortress’s walls. With only 2,500 participants allowed every year, this marathon is on many bucket lists of adventure-seeking marathoners. With course records of only 3:09:18 for men and 3:32:12 for women, it is clear this race is not easy! Expect staggering 360-degree views of China’s countryside.
BMW Berlin Marathon – Germany
The second World Major marathon on this list, the Berlin Marathon is renowned as one of the world’s fastest. The most world records have been set on the course for both men and women. The current men’s marathon world record of 2:02:57 was set in Berlin in 2014 by Dennis Kipruto Kimetto. All in all, ten world records and countless Boston qualifiers and personal bests have been recorded on the course, which starts and finishes at the Brandenburg Gate and runs through multiple boroughs of Berlin. Taking place at the end of September, the Berlin Marathon is also perfect for any runner who also enjoys beer and wishes to partake in Oktoberfest activities in nearby Munich.
Virgin Money London Marathon – United Kingdom
The London Marathon is indeed one of the most popular in the world, with more than 30,000 finishers each year. However, the race is popular for an entirely unique reason, as well. It is one of only two races with Guinness Book of World Records staff on site who are able to verify world record attempts. For this reason, the London Marathon not only boasts a world record finishing time (Paula Radcliffe, 2:15:25 in 2003) but also the world’s fastest marathon dressed as a superhero (2:29:57), the world’s fastest marathon dressed as a lifeguard (2:55:54), the world’s fastest marathon carrying a 20 lb pack (2:56:39), and the world’s fastest three-legged marathon (4:45:21), among others. In 2015 alone, 33 world records were set during the race!
Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris – France
What better place for a marathon runcation than a city where all of a runner’s favorite indulgences – cheese, bread, wine, and chocolate – are available on every street corner post-race? The Paris marathon, which hosts 50,000 participants each year, is a favorite among foreigners not only for the scenic tour of the world’s most romantic city, running past the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Place de la Bastille, but also because of the city’s acceptance of outsiders during the marathon week. Since 1974, 18 countries have been represented by the winning male or female.
Boston Marathon – United States
Of all the marathons in the world, Boston is perhaps the most iconic. With strict standards for entry based on age and sex, the Boston Marathon is the most exclusive marathon in the world, outside of the Olympics. Held on a Monday, the entire city shuts down to celebrate the feats of the runners on Patriots’ Day. After the horrific Boston Bombings in 2013, the race holds an even greater significance to the 30,000 participants lucky enough to have qualified.
Sanlam Cape Town Marathon – South Africa
While South Africa is not often considered when runners plan their next race, it should be. The Sanlam Cape Town Marathon is the only marathon in Africa granted “silver status” by the International Association of Athletics Federations, meaning it is only one of a handful of races world-wide that adheres to a strict standard of excellence. The course steers runners through beautiful vantage points overlooking beaches, wildlife, and mountains. Post race, runners can sample South African wine while seeking their next adventure.
Patagonian International Marathon – Chile
Held within Torres del Paine National Park, the Patagonian International Marathon is another destination for those seeking distinction within the Seven Continents Club. The popular race, which boasts participants from six continents, is the only race on this list where runners can view glaciers and granite mountains simultaneously. While this excursion is certainly a pricey one with in-park hotel packages costing up to $4,000 USD, the breathtaking views are sure to make the experience well worth the price.
Everest Marathon – Nepal
The world’s highest trail running event, the Everest Marathon is a 26.2-mile high altitude marathon held every year in Nepal, which requires great stamina and endurance. The cost is $2500 for the 2016 edition.
The start line is at Gorak Shep (about 5184m – 17,000 feet), very close to Everest Base Camp. The finish line is at Namche Bazaar (about 3446m – 11,300 feet) and the course gets you over rough trails. It is the one of the world’s most spectacular races and has been held multiple times since 1987. The Everest Marathon was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest marathon in the world.
Petra Desert Marathon – Jordan
The Petra Marathon is a challenging adventure marathon set in the beautiful desert region of Jordan. The start line is in the ancient city of Petra, while the route takes runners on a stunning route through the area surrounding Petra. From the arid desert to the lunar-like mountain landscape, runners navigate challenging terrain in the very dry, desert heat. The route has an elevation gain of roughly 1,200m. A five-day package for this year’s event costs $898.
What’s more, you should know that Petra Desert Marathon is organized by the same company that established the Great Wall Marathon.