To help you out, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best marathons around the world, which all boast excellent organisation, fantastic crowds, and amazing courses. Here are 10 city marathons you absolutely have to add to your running bucket list.
Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris
As a runner you’ll be hard pressed to find a more exhilarating experience than joining 50,000 fellow athletes for 26.2 miles through the City of Love. Held in spring when the city is at its most beautiful, the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris winds its way through picturesque streets, famous scenery and stunning architecture. The looped course stars and finishes at the Arc de Triomphe, and passes the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris also boasts a mini-party midway through the race, where you’ll run through an underground tunnel full of disco lights and music.
Every April the streets of London are transformed by a sea of roaring crowds, elite athletes, amateur runners and charity fundraisers to create one of the most memorable marathons on the sporting calendar. With over 600,000 spectators flocking to the capital to cheer on 35,000 runners, London’s is an atmosphere that few races are able to match. The course itself is a relatively flat one with sights at every turn, culminating in a spine-tingling home stretch along The Mall past Buckingham Palace. You’ll also be running behind one of the most star-studded elite fields in distance running, with the race consistently attracting the best runners from around the world.
Following hot on the heels of the first modern marathon at the 1896 Olympics, the Boston Marathon started in 1897 and has been a mainstay on the distance running circuit ever since. Securing a place to run Boston is an achievement in itself, with qualifying times well below four hours across the board for under-50s. If you do manage to qualify you’ll be well rewarded for your efforts. The race takes place on the state holiday Patriots’ Day, which makes for a party atmosphere in the crowd, and the relatively flat course passes the city’s most famous sights.
Few races around the world give a better view of a city than New Zealand’s Auckland Marathon. The highlight of the race is undoubtedly the crossing of Auckland Harbour Bridge, which is 43 metres above sea level and offers runners a breath-taking vista of the city spread out in front of them. Auckland can get extremely busy on race day, so if you have anyone coming along to support you try to buy them a Supporter Ferry Ticket, which will take them from the start line to meet you at the finish.
If you’re aiming for a PB the next time you take on the 26.2 mile distance, then look no further than the Berlin Marathon. Germany’s capital has played host to no less than nine marathon world records since 1977, and it comes as no surprise when you look at the extremely flat and fast course. The only challenge you’ll face is not being distracted by the myriad of landmarks on the course, including the State Opera House, the Siegessäule column, and the finish line at the Brandenburg Gate.
What better excuse to combine a race with the holiday of a lifetime than the Honolulu Marathon? The race starts on ‘Ala Moana Boulevard’, which means ‘path by the ocean’, and takes in Waikiki Beach and the city of Honolulu itself. Hawaii’s relaxed attitude towards life is reflected in its biggest marathon, which has absolutely no cut off time. That means if you’re worried about how fast you can run, or if you want to walk the marathon distance with no time pressure, Honolulu could be your perfect race.
With its course starting and finishing in the 1928 Olympic Stadium, the Amsterdam Marathon is a race steeped in history. When you’ve left the stadium you’ll be carried to the famous Vondelpark by the roar of the crowd, before following the route of the Amstel River to the city centre and through the Rijksmuseum passage to south Amsterdam. If you do decide to take on the Amsterdam Marathon, make sure you download the official race app, which covers everything you could possibly need to know about the big day.
New York knows better than any other city how to do things big and bold, and their marathon is no exception. From its humble beginnings in 1970 when 55 runners ran laps around Central Park, the New York City Marathon has quickly grown to become the largest marathon in the world, with over 50,000 people taking part every year. The race has since branched out from Central Park, and covers an unforgettable course starting on Staten Island and covering all five of the city’s boroughs, offering up a diverse 26.2 mile bite of the Big Apple.
Athens Classic Marathon
No one can claim to be a marathon addict without going back to where it all began. At the Athens Classic Marathon you’ll be following in the famous footsteps of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, who in 490 B.C. inadvertently created the modern day marathon when he ran from a battlefield near the town of Marathon all the way to Athens. The race starts in Marathon, passing ancient tombs and small towns before finishing in the stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896.
Puerto Rico Marathon
“Puerto Rico Marathon – Run in paradise!” Now there’s a slogan to turn heads. Having only held its inaugural race in 2013, the Puerto Rico Marathon is the newest event on this list, but more than makes up for it with its slick organisation and stunning scenery. Held around the capital city of San Juan, the course, strikes the perfect balance between city streets and ocean views, and with a 5am start time you should avoid the majority of the mid-day heat. Puerto Rico is also an official New York and Boston Marathon qualifying race – what better way to secure your entry for those events than 26.2 miles of paradise?