Months of preparation, early mornings, pain management, recovery sessions, constant meal planning; welcome to the wonderful world of marathon running. There’s no denying the lead up to a marathon is demanding. Yet, when race day arrives and you’re surrounded by thousands of competitors and even more cheering spectators, nothing quite beats the buzz of crossing that 42km finish line.
And, completing a marathon is no easy feat. It requires the right headspace, training, and of course, a plethora of courses to keep runners challenged and motivated. So, here’s our look at 10 of the world’s best marathons. As we embrace the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions, it’s finally time to start loading up your calendar again.
New York City Marathon
Arguably the world’s most famous marathon, the New York City Marathon takes place on the first Sunday of November, attracting professional and amateur runners from around the globe. Due to its popularity, runners are randomly chosen via a lottery system. Or, for those chasing guaranteed entry into one of the world’s most coveted races, runners can complete the 9+1 program or 9+$1K program where they run in nine sponsored races and either volunteer at another event or donate $1000 to a charity.
Big Sur International Marathon
Boasting a scenic smorgasbord of mountains, coast and forest, Big Sur International is one of the most impressive marathons in the world. A true workout for the calf muscles, runners rely on the beauty of the Californian wilderness to distract them from miles upon miles of steep ascents, including a total elevation gain of +2,182 feet. If there’s one word to describe this Californian marathon, relentless is definitely it!
One for the history buffs of the running world, Athens Marathon is an athletic celebration of the place where the marathon began. According to Ancient Greek legend, messenger Pheidippides coined the physical pursuit in 1972 after running 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the Greek victory over Persia during the Battle of Marathon. Today the race attracts over 40,000 running fiends who wish to retrace the historical steps each year.
Marathon des Sables
One for the ultramarathon lovers, Marathon des Sables pushes the envelope of marathon running with its invitation to cover 250km in seven days. A true challenge of human strength, endurance, determination and courage, each participant relies of self-sufficiency to not only complete the course, but also carry individual meals, water, sleeping gear and equipment whilst battling the demanding conditions of the Moroccan desert. Although, once completed, legendary status is guaranteed.
Kicking off in 1897, Boston Marathon claims the title of world’s oldest annual marathon. Adding to the prestige, runners of the Boston Marathon must log a qualifying time to enter the race, with men recording a sub-3:00 time and women recording a sub-3:30 time to be considered. Once the qualifying time has been achieved, runners are rewarded with one of the world’s toughest marathons in terms of hilly routes.
Held annually in January to coincide with the country’s cooler climate, this UAE-based race is known as the richest marathon in the world. First place male and female winners can expect a whopping $200,000 to hit their bank accounts. Not bad for a day’s run!
One of the most exclusive marathons in the world, the greatness of the London Marathon lies in how hard it is to land a coveted spot through the public ballot system, especially for non-British residents expecting to hit a PB on the relatively fast London course. Should you be one of the lucky 40,000 runners to land a bib, the world-famous course will see you start in the centre of the world at Greenwich Park before cutting a lap past Cutty Sark, The Shard and Tower Bridge.
A notoriously flat and fast course, Berlin Marathon is the race that officially put Eliud Kipchoge’s world record on the map when he completed 42km in 2:01:39 in 2018. So, if you’re a marathon runner who wants to push yourself to new limits, this German inner-city labyrinth is bound to provide the perfect stomping ground for your two running feet.
Gold Coast Marathon
It’s the Australian marathon that draws a 5000+ participant crowd each year. Surrounded by sand, surf and Queensland’s epic sunshine, runners take in the sights of the Gold Coast as they hit the pavement from Southport through to Burleigh, finishing in the scenic Broadwater Park. If one thing is for sure, Gold Coast Marathon is one of the best weathered courses to strive for that euphoric runner’s high.
Set in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, this is one marathon guaranteed to take your breath away, in more ways than one. As rubber hits the road, runners experience a winding route of dramatic lakes and snow-capped mountain peak views. If you’re the type of person who enjoys running in a state beyond your comfort zone, the Patagonia International course delivers a challenge worthy of your needs.