If you’re looking for an exciting new place to run a race, there’s no shortage of destinations around the world. Whether you prefer a marathon in a major city or a scenic half marathon with coastline views, this list of destination races will get you pumped to run (and travel).
No article on destination races would be complete without the big three in the U.S.:
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, inspired by the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world with more than 50,000 participants each year. The course runs through all five boroughs of the city, ending in Central Park. The Chicago Marathon starts and finishes in Grant Park, weaving through 29 different neighborhoods. The race is held every October and regularly attracts nearly 40,000 runners.
Other noteworthy U.S.-based races include:
On the coast, check out the Hood to Coast Relay. This 197-mile team relay in Oregon pits teams of 12 runners against each other starting at Mount Hood and finishing at the Pacific Coast.
The Bay to Breakers 12K starts in downtown San Francisco and finishes along the Pacific Coast’s Ocean Beach.
If a destination race isn’t entertaining enough for you, visit the entertainment capital of the world for the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & Half-Marathon.
Traveling up north, the Niagara Falls Marathon is a fantastic course that spans two countries, starting in Buffalo and finishing at the edges of Niagara Falls in Canada.
The Athens Classic Marathon is a historic choice, as it is inspired by the run of Pheidippides, a messenger who ran roughly 25 miles to share news of Greece’s victory in the Battle of Marathon. Today, the course starts at the Marathon battlefield and ends at Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.
La Grande Classique brings 25,000 runners 16 kilometers from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the town of Versailles.
Moving southwest near Bordeaux, wine-loving runners can do the Marathon du Médoc. It’s one of the most unique marathons in the world, complete with wine tasting, fancy costumes and French food.
The Berlin Marathon is the race to target if you’re looking to set a PR. It was where Kenyan Dennis Kimetto set the current world record of 2:02:57 in 2014.
Runners can experience the height of summer in the Norwegian town of Tromsø during the Marathon of the Midnight Sun. This run starts in the middle of the night, with the sun setting above the horizon, illuminating the road ahead.
If you’re looking to traverse the coastlines of some popular European countries, try the Cape Wrath Challenge in northern Scotland. This six-day event features five different runs, the last of which is a full marathon. The runs are completed on some of the most remote and challenging terrain in the U.K.
Italy Coast to Coast is a four-person relay going from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It winds throughout the vineyards and olive tree groves of Marche, Umbria and Tuscany. It is known as a sociable, friendly event where runners can fully appreciate the countryside, post-run meals and refreshments.
For a more mountainous view, the Swiss Alpine Races provide incredible views of the Alps as runners trek through roads and trails near the resort town of Davos, Switerland.
The Marathon des Sables in Morocco is one of the toughest in the world. Because it takes place in the Sahara Desert, organizers provide shelter and water at every stage of the race.
In Kenya, the Safaricom Marathon takes runners across the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, along river banks and through some amazing scenery.
Comrades Marathon and the Two Oceans Marathon are popular with South African and international runners alike. The Comrades Marathon is an ultramarathon (approx. 56 miles long), and alternates annually between uphill and downhill races. The Two Oceans Marathon provides runners with stunning coastal views of both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans along its Cape Town course.
Australia & New Zealand
The City2Surf in Sydney starts downtown a weaves 14K to the finish at Bondi Beach.
The Melbourne Half Marathon takes runners past Melbourne’s famous landmarks and finishes in the Melbourne Cricket Grounds stadium.
Traveling to Auckland, New Zealand, you can catch the Waiheke Half Marathon. Hosted on the nearby island of Waiheke, runners travel along quiet roads while taking in stunning views of vineyards and beaches.
The Moscow Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon are two of the most popular races in the Eastern Hemisphere. In Moscow, runners pass nearby to the Bolshoi Theatre, the Kremlin and the Cathedrals of St. Basi and Christ the Saviour. The Toyko Marathon is the most recently added marathon to the World Marathon Majors (in 2013).
The Bagan Temple Marathon is a recent addition to the marathon circuit and takes runners to the sacred pagodas and beautiful temples around the plains of Bagan in central Burma.
South America & Antarctica
Tackle 26.2 miles of trail at the Inca Trail Marathon. Another one of the toughest marathons in the world, this one climbs more than 10,000 feet in elevation and takes runners over thousands of Inca steps. Because it takes place in a national park, runners run without bib numbers and participation is limited.
If you prefer running in the cold, test your limits at the Antartic Ice Marathon. This is definitely one for adventure marathoners, as conditions can get extreme. It is the world’s southernmost marathon, with temperatures well below zero and a cost of more than $18,000.