Lace up your shoes, grab your passport, and take a lap around the world. For those seeking an adventure, why not combine the satisfaction of completing a marathon with the thrill of adding new X on your map? Destination marathons are a great way to do both.
If you’re like us, your workout wanderlust can’t be quenched. So go ahead — gallop next to a giraffe or sneak peaks of the famed Pacific Coast Highway while gunning for the finish line. And seriously, if running the Great Wall of China doesn’t get your blood flowing, we don’t know what will!
Whether a domestic journey or an international voyage, these races are worthy of the travel. Go ahead — book that flight and make these destinations your own personal stomping grounds.
Who wouldn’t want to run alongside a lion in South Africa? Not only will it feel surreal and magical (pretty much like The Lion King), it will likely cut down your overall time… especially if the lion is behind you. The Big Five Marathon is run in the South Africa’s natural savanna, so don’t be startled if a rhino is meandering near a water station. Just snap a pic and carry on. Inclines and rough terrain will keep you challenged and focused while the surroundings will keep your jaw perpetually dropped — marathon meets safari in this unforgettable experience. Fitt Tip: this is usually booked out a year in advance, so sign up sooner rather than later.
Save the pints of Guinness for after the race. Unless, of course, your blood is Irish, then you might be able to do both at the same time. Known as the ‘Friendly Marathon’ due to the supportive, spirited spectators, this event is run through the streets of Ireland’s capital. Starting at the city center, the route takes racers through the historic Georgian streets and several parklands. Soak up the greens and hit up the pubs for a pint and a traditional folk song after your footrace feat. Oh, and bring your best stride, you will have an audience.
The Great Wall of China
Climbing this marathon is an overload of greatness. And we do mean climbing. The 5,164 worn-down steps symbolize the historical influence of the winding wall, and you’ll come to hate them. Known as one the most challenging marathons in the world, the wall will not disappoint adventurers looking for an extreme task. When you’re done sweating your butt off and burning up your calves, explore the traditional wonders of Beijing. You may want to catch up your depleted calorie intake with Hangzhou delicacies (like fried insects); you’ve earned it, champ!
Bagan’s Temple Marathon
The Big Five Marathon series has got it going on! As if Africa and China weren’t enough, the Bagan’s Temple Marathon combines history with an epic running route. The course is packed with traditional Myanmar temples and untouched land of Myanmar. The small villages make the mainly flat course exciting as each bend holds a new historical community where locals still thrive, and will likely wave, as you hustle by. No matter who you pray to, this spiritual race will leave you awestruck.
Antarctic Ice Marathon
Still need that seventh continent crossed off your list? Each year, thousands of runners commute from the north to pick up the pace at the Antarctic Ice Marathon. The finish line is a few hundred miles south of the South Pole (yes, that is possible). Bring a jacket, or two, and all the Under Armour you own. And it would do you some major good to train in similar environments in the months leading up to the event — ditch the sandy beaches and find those ice-capped mountains. Temperatures dip to -20 Celsius (that’s -4℉, so you know) and the altitude gets up to 700 meters. Did we mention you should bring a jacket?
Come on now — you didn’t think we’d leave out The Boston, did you? With qualifying times starting at a seven-minute pace, this marathon is not only a good destination spot, but the course is shared with some of the best runners on Earth. With the very first race taking place in 1897, there have been over a hundred competitions and millions of runners that have participated in this famous course. This tricky little path will have you crossing Bostonian landmarks while sweeping over various terrains and elevations. Expect hyped-up spectators in leather chaps to holler encouragement from TJ’s biker bar, while the student section at Wellesley College brings their school spirit to the famous course at mile marker 12. Beware infamous Heartbreak Hill, though — the stories are true.
The World’s Coolest Marathon
Did you ask Santa for an ice-cold marathon this year? Known as the World’s Coolest Marathon, there’s no greater present than to trek on ice as you make your way through 26.2 miles of sub-zero temperatures, this time in the North Pole. This race is NOT for goosebump-ridden runners nor the couch potatoes — extreme explorers will likely be in your company if you choose to take on the challenge in one of the most distant lands. But after completing this Arctic competition, you will quite literally feel on top of the world.
Napa Valley Marathon
Wine anyone? Only after 26.2 miles of fun. By the time you cross the finish line, it’ll certainly be wine o’clock as the rows of vines that make up the course taunt you at nearly every mile. Once you complete your strenuous outdoor journey, hop on another (perhaps more enjoyable?) journey — the Napa Valley Wine Train. Yep, it’s a train through the valley that serves WINE (and we’re not talking those little airplane bottles). Heaven. This is a good chance to rest your hard-working legs and soak up the pleasurable atmosphere of the world-famous wine region.
Big Sur International Marathon
Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway is a great way to feel alive, so you can imagine what running up the highway might do to a thrill-seeker. The mainly rural course twists and turns through amazing redwoods and farmland, and even provides live music if you lack motivation to finish the run. Plus, if you aren’t too distracted by the incredible beauty of the West Coast, you may record a time worthy of the Boston Marathon. That’s right — this marathon is a qualifier for the Big Kahuna.
Missoula, Montana is not necessarily a destination one thinks of when planning their next adventure. However, the Missoula Marathon is revered as one of the best races in the US. Perhaps it’s the entertainment posted up at the mile markers; jugglers and live bands provide the support you need to get through every aching mile. With the motto “A Marathon Runs Through it. And a River or Two as Well”, you get the picture of what to expect for a race in Big Sky country. The flat and fast course is scenic through the first miles, then ends in the traditional downtown streets of the city. And, again, it’s a Boston qualifier, so come with your A-game.
Inca Trail Marathon
Run the marathon. See one of the seven wonders of the world. Two birds, one stone. Machu Picchu is known to hold ancient spirits, and once the endorphins kick in, the magic only intensifies. Beginning near the Llactapata Inca ruins and strategically finishing in Machu Picchu, the course weaves through the mountaintops of the Andes, Inca ruins, and up and down steps built from ancient stone. Know that this race is for the tough and adventurous souls because following the completion of the trek, participants post up in the magical Machu Picchu for two days of exploration. Trust us — you will not find a marathon more rewarding for both the body and the soul.
Walt Disney World Marathon
Tap into your inner child, make a playlist of your favorite Disney tunes (Hakuna Matata, anyone?), and stomp around the happiest place on Earth. Disney World is home to one of the most visited (and cheeriest) marathons in the United States. Here, you will cover most of the park as you run past the Magic Kingdom Park, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studio. Don’t be surprised if the cast of Frozen is cheering you on or if Mickey is jogging alongside you. Soak up the magic one stride at a time.
Marathon du Médoc
With a motto like “Sport-spoilers, thugs, and record seekers are not invited,” you know you’re in for a good time. This French marathon located just north of Bordeaux encourages participants to dress in costume and really let loose. Sadly, the fun is limited to 8,500 runners each year. But if you are lucky enough to be one of the select runners, expect to weave your way through some of the most famous vineyards in the world. But don’t expect to just look at the grapes; you will be sipping the vintage at every mile. Yes, this is real life. If you’re not into running over 26 miles with a buzz, water and electrolytes are offered, too. Oh, and expect oysters to make an appearance along the route as a—uh—treat.
How can we not include the birthplace of the marathon? If you fancy a good history lesson, you will love running in the land of the Greek Gods. Racers are forever grateful to messenger, Phidippides for running the 24 miles (not 26!) from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of the victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. (Clearly, this was pre-cell phone era.) The route takes modern day marathoners through the same path Phidippides ran more than 2,500 years ago. History buffs, stop salivating, and sign up!
Midnight Sun Marathon
Calling all night owls! Or is it day owls? This Norwegian midnight run never goes dark, gifting participants with solid daylight throughout their 26.2 miles. Known as the capital of the Arctic, Tromsø, Norway is a getaway with a history of sharing its natural beauty. Need a better idea? Reindeer sledding and glances of the Northern Lights are a common occurrence here. A primarily flat course, the route will start you off at the city center, pull you across bridges, and force you to enjoy the incredible scenery in broad daylight… poor you!
Australian Outback Marathon
Looking for a true Aussie experience… well, you found it. The Australian Outback Marathon is authentic and raw, running through the vast openness of the Australian Outback. The ‘red Earth’ lays the way through Yulara, an isolated Outback village and various rock creations. Uluru—aka Ayers Rock—is a natural rock formation that will, quite simply, blow your mind. You’ll experience little peek-a-boos of Uluru as you climb several red sand dunes on the trail to the finish line. And since rock formations seem to be a thing in this region, you will see unreal views of Kata Tjuta on the last leg of the run. This probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway… bring your camera.