Getting in a daily run, even when we travel, has become a global lifestyle trend. Running tours can now be found alongside walking tours in almost every major city in the world and joining a local running group while away is exploding in popularity, too. So are marathons.
June 5 is National Running Day; a perfect opportunity to entice casual runners to aim higher by spotlighting some of the world’s most iconic foot races. From Greece and where it all began to adventurous routes through the African savannah, here are our picks for the best marathons in the world.
Run in the footsteps of history, namely Pheidippides, the Greek messenger who ran from ancient Marathon to Athens to deliver news of victory from the battlefields some 2,500 years ago. You’ll find this race atop every list of marathons, and rightfully so. This is the quintessential endurance contest, mostly for its prestige as being the world’s first organized marathon race.
The oldest marathon in the United States was run here in 1897. For many, simply qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a win, which requires runners to eclipse challenging set time standards corresponding to their age and gender. Once in, racers weave through eight New England towns and past many Boston landmarks. The crossing of the finish line is not only poignant for the marathoners’ display of strength and endurance but for remembering the victims of the tragic 2013 bombing.
Like a long, amped-up sightseeing tour, 40,000 participants begin in Greenwich Park, cross the River Thames, passing iconic Big Ben, Tower of London and scores of enthusiastic spectators before finishing up at Buckingham Palace, 26.2 miles (just over 42 km) later. Along with Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York City, the London Marathon is one of the World Marathon Majors.
It’s no surprise that the world’s most cosmopolitan city features the most international field of racers. Every fall, 50,000 runners and more than 2 million onlookers from every corner of the world descend on New York City for America’s largest marathon race. Beginning in Staten Island and ending in Manhattan, the scenic route takes in all five New York City boroughs.
Think you’re fast? Then gear up for the Berlin Marathon, one of the world’s fastest. With a mostly flat course and smooth turns, it’s relatively easy to complete. Before reunification, the race was held entirely in West Berlin. Today, the race starts and finishes near the Brandenburg Gate, covering both the East and West sides of the German capital.
Hawaii’s idyllic island of Oahu is home to one of the most attractive race courses. Starting at Ala Moana Beach Park, 30,000 runners make their way along Honolulu’s famous Waikiki Beach, past Diamond Head and Koko Head Crater before finishing up at Kapiolani Park. The course isn’t easy, with two notable inclines and the Hawaiian heat to contend with.
Paris International Marathon (April)* Writer’s Pick!
This one’s fun; well, as fun as a marathon can be. Nowhere else will your refreshment stops include drink stations serving beer and wine, and food stations offering oysters. Make no mistake though, this isn’t a race for men and women of leisure – you need a doctor’s note to compete. Capped at 37,000 runners, the Paris International is one of the most entertaining races in Europe.
Big Five Marathon & Safaricom (June)
Elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalos, oh my! Lace ‘em up among the Big Five on this spectacular race through the hills and valleys of the South African savannah. There are no barriers to protect runners from the wilderness here, offering perhaps the most adventurous conditions imaginable.
On a smaller scale, Kenya’s Safaricom pits just 1,200 runners against the varied terrain and elements, as well as herds of zebra, elephants, giraffes, and more. Here, racers raise money for conservation projects throughout Africa.
Welcome to possibly the toughest marathon on Earth. Celebrating just its 20th anniversary in 2019, China’s race along the Great Wall has already made a name for itself with its more than 5,000 steps to climb. To finish, racers coast through sleepy villages of the region’s lower valley, making it one of the more exotic courses, too.
If you enjoy running at night, then this is the race for you. Just don’t be surprised when the sun doesn’t set on Tromsø, Norway, around the summer solstice. The Midnight Sun Marathon kicks-off at 8:30 pm and runs all night, offering perhaps the most surreal race experience for the 4,000 runners from almost 60 countries who participate annually.
Are you a passionate runner? Do you squeeze your running shoes into your suitcase when travelling? If this sounds like you and you are ready to take your passion to the next level, make one of these epic races your next trip. Book online, by calling 1877 967 5302 or by visiting us at your nearest Flight Centre store.