Looking to combine your next holiday with a life-changing run? Among the several competitive races organized around the world, some stand out as vibrant experiences for all kinds of runners, amateurs and elites alike. Here are 10 marathons to choose from in some of the most exciting cities across the globe.
As an event that has consistently attracted celebrities—both from within and outside the running community—the annual London Marathon has an atmosphere few others can match. The race attracts more than 30,000 participants and over five times the number of cheering spectators, who shriek and support the runners through their start at Blackheath and Greenwich Park up to the finish at the Mall.
The first Boston Marathon was held in 1897, and the legacy of the historic race only keeps reinventing itself with every coming year. With its stringent qualifying criteria, it’s one of the toughest marathons to participate in, but there’s no denying that the race is ultimately worth it. All along the course from Hopkinton to Boylston street, expect to run amidst a carnival of holidaying spectators as well as some of the most accomplished athletes in the world.
Athens Classic Marathon
For history buffs, this is a dream run. The Athens Classic has been going on since 1972. The course at Athens follows the path of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier credited for inventing the modern marathon in 490 BC, as he ran from a battlefield near Marathon (an actual town) to Athens. On its path are several ancient monoliths and picturesque villages, before finishing off at the stadium which held the first ever modern Olympic Games in 1896.
While not as overwhelming as London or Boston, the Stockholm Marathon lets you enjoy a pleasant taste of Scandinavia in June, and the raucous spectator support more than makes up for the smaller scale of the race. The course starts right outside the 1912 Olympic Stadium, and has two near-identical rounds that cross over various bridges (including the 90-ft-high Vesterbron), before ending inside the track.
Thanks to its many charms, the city of Amsterdam attracts a veritable pool of international runners in October for this event. The course begins and finishes at the historic 1928 Olympic stadium, with runners racing through Vondelpark, dodging cyclists past Amstel River to the city centre and then cutting back through the Rijksmuseum passage to south Amsterdam.
What’s not to love about the City of Love in spring? The Paris marathon has a following of over 20,000 participants who are cheered on by hordes of locals and tourists alike. The course squeezes in a host of the city’s top attractions including the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre museum and several beautiful cobblestoned neighbourhoods serving as distractions along the way.
Said to be the largest racing event in the world, the New York Marathon has come a long way since its origin when runners took laps around Central Park. Today, it attracts more than 50,000 participants, including some of the best athletes in the world, charity runners raising millions for various causes, amateurs taking part in associated events, all on a massive course that starts from Staten Island, winds through all of the city’s multicultural boroughs, before finishing off with a hilly stretch on Central Park.
A largely flat and easy course, the Berlin Marathon is famous for hosting several marathon records since its inception in the 70s. The course is a history lesson through the diverse neighborhoods of East and West Berlin and rife with the historic city’s postcard moments, including the State Opera House, the Siegessaule column and the Brandenburg gate where it finishes.
That Chicago is a runner’s city is evident in the turnout of participants and spectators alike in this annual event in October—which sees support crowds running into a million. Crossing through more than 25 neighborhoods in the city, the race course runs through its historic sections including Wrigley Park, Lake Michigan and Chinatown, and is followed by a massive after party at the vibrant Grant Park.
Puerto Rico Marathon
A relatively young entry into the marathon circuit, the Puerto Rico race nonetheless offers a stunning course that combines the best of San Juan city sights with breathtaking ocean scenes. A compact and well-organised marathon, running the race also serves as a qualifier for the Boston and London marathons—yet another reason to take on this multicultural event.
Main image: flyers-southend.co.uk