Run Around the World: 13 Best Places to Run a Marathon

By: Freelance Contributor

Have you ever dreamed of running the iconic streets of Paris or London while achieving a goal that any athlete can respect? For many, running a marathon is a dream realized through intense training and mental preparation, but to add an exciting twist, consider combining this amazing activity with travel to one of these exciting destinations. You’ll be rewarded with some spectacular sights!


13. Tromsø, Norway

North of the Arctic Circle in Norway’s top end lies the town of Tromsø, home to the world’s most northernmost marathon, the Marathon of the Midnight Sun. This subarctic town experiences no real darkness from late April until mid-August and this is what’s known as the midnight sun. Participants from over 50 countries flock to Tromsø in June to run in this race which starts at midnight and is run through the night…the only catch is it’s not even dark! If you want to experience the unique feeling of perpetual daylight while running a course filled with beautiful Norwegian scenery, this one’s for you.

Tromso Norway

12. Athens, Greece

The Athens Marathon in Athens Greece may be the most steeped in history. It represents the true event of a Greek foot soldier who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in 490 B.C. The race takes place each year in early November with the route starting in the town of Marathon with runners circling around the War Memorial before continuing through the scenic landscape of Greece and into the city of Athens where runners finish with a dash into the Panathenaic Stadium.

Athens Greece

11. Paris, France

What better way to see the City of Lights than running right through the heart of it. The Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris takes place in April and the route is spectacular. Starting out at the base of the Arc de Triomphe, runners then stride down the Champs-Elysées, towards Place de la Concorde. Other sights include Place de la Bastille and Château de Vincennes, before the difficult return journey where you enjoy spectacular views of the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. The Marathon de Paris is one of the 5 biggest races in the world with 50,000 participants each year, so if you’re a runner this one should probably be on your bucket list.

Paris marathon

10. Boston, Massachusetts

Taking place in April each year, the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts has the distinction of being the oldest race in the world. In fact it will be going into its 119th year in 2015. The point to point route for this iconic road race starts in the historic New England town of Hopkinton and finishes in Copley Square in downtown Boston. Getting into the oldest race in the world isn’t a walk in the park either, participants must first qualify by meeting strict standards for their age and gender. Registration is then opened first to those athletes who qualified with the fastest times, so if you want to cross this race off your list we suggest you start training!



9. London, England

The seeds of the now famous London Marathon were planted when 2 London running club members decided to cross the pond and run in the New York Marathon in 1979 after hearing how successful an event it was. They came back with a challenge to the city of London: to use the beautiful and historic streets to put on a city race that would welcome the world. After funding and organizing was completed, the first London Marathon was held in 1981 with 7,747 runners accepted out of 20,000 applicants. Like the Paris Marathon, this course give runners the opportunity to see the city sights like Big Ben, the London Bridge and Westminster Abbey. The popularity of this race is overwhelming so if you’re considering it, get your name in the ballot early.

London marathon

8. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Another beautiful European marathon destination is Amsterdam, Netherlands. Home to the Amsterdam marathon which is a notoriously fast paced road course through the heart of this historic Dutch city. The race’s start/finish is in the over 85 year old Olympic Stadium which was restored to its current glory in 1996. The course then takes participants through the city streets past historic landmarks, windmills, and along the Amstel River before finishing back in Olympic Stadium. This race takes place in October and includes 16,000 participants from all over the world.



7. Ayers Rock, Australia

Imagine running in the heart of Australia’s rough and rugged outback. Surrounded by desert landscapes, monolith rock formations and deep red earth.  The Australian Outback Marathon gives participants this unique running experience, one that won’t soon be forgotten. Part of the draw for this race is the chance to run with views of the world famous Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations which draw millions of tourists to this otherwise barren landscape each year.  The race course itself is fairly flat and mostly on sealed roads and soft red sand tracks. Since we all know temperatures in the middle of the outback can be extreme, this marathon is held in the winter month of July when temperatures are most pleasant.

Ayer's Rock


6. Big Sur, California

One of the most difficult and visually stunning marathons in the United States is Big Sur which takes place along California’s coast. Participants must battle steep inclines and strong headwinds as they make their way from Big Sur State Park to Carmel California. Though the route is a tough one, runners are also rewarded with stunning views of California redwoods, rural ranches and most of all the Pacific Ocean. So if you’re an athlete looking for a challenge combined with some fun and picturesque views, make your way down to Big Sur in April.

Big Sur California


5. Limpopo, South Africa

Home to the Big Five Marathon, possibly the wildest marathon in the world. This race route takes runners through the Entabeni Game Reserve where participants may get the chance to run with zebras, antelopes and giraffes through the territory of a pack of lions. The race isn’t as hot as one might expect for Africa since it takes place in the winter month of June, although it’s still dry and sunny. When a race’s start time is determined by the location of nearby lions, elephants and other African animals with no fences separating runners, you know it’s going to be a wild time.

Limpopo south africa game reserve



4. Honolulu, Hawaii

Have you ever wanted to run a marathon in paradise? Well the Honolulu Marathon gives you that very opportunity. The third largest marathon in the U.S. attracts more than 30,000 runners from around the world each December. The route takes you past the famous Waikiki Beach for spectacular ocean views as well as past Diamond Head and Koko Head volcanic craters. Part of the reason for this races popularity is the fact that it’s relatively flat terrain and no cut of time make it suitable for first time marathon runners and even walkers. Combine that with the perfect weather and scenery that only Hawaii can offer and you get the ultimate marathon experience.

Honolulu Hawaii


3. Pauillac, France

Bet you didn’t think running and wine could go hand in hand, but at the Marathon du Medoc they do just that. Spirited (and slightly intoxicated) runners tour the country roads through France’s Bordeaux wine region stopping to sample the best wine and foods the region has to offer at 22 stations placed along the race route. As if the amazing local food and drink isn’t enough to persuade runners, the race course is stunningly beautiful as it winds a loop through the French countryside past over 50 chateaux. Yet another element to this race is the costumes worn by runners, each year a different theme is picked and runners don their most creative frocks for the occasion.  As one might expect this is a popular race so participation is limited to 8,500.

Pauillac France


2. Berlin, Germany

This race means business. The Berlin Marathon takes place each year in September and has long been renowned as the world’s fastest marathon course. Professional marathon runners from all around the world dream of getting into this race and trying out this scenic city course. Demand far exceeds availability and for the 2014 race, 74,707 participants pre-registered for the lottery which selects 40,000 lucky participants who will get to run. Running in this mega marathon is truly a pleasure and an honor.

Berlin marathan


1. Tianjin, China

Each year in May, traffic along the Great Wall of China in Tianjin Province increases dramatically. This is due to the running of the Great Wall Marathon, one of the most challenging runs in the world. Along with the incredible scenery of this run, a major attraction is the over 5,000 steps one must climb along this winding route. This iconic race started in 1999 with the first year including 292 runners and has since grown to a sold out crowd of 2,500 participants from over 60 nations. Athletes looking for a reason to escape to China need look no further, but make sure you register and start training early!

Great Wall China