If you’re anything like me, you love taking on international races from around the world. I recently completed the Barcelona and Rome Marathons which were amazing. However, this got me thinking. What are the 10 Best Marathons in the world?
In this article, we are going to take a look at the top ten marathons in the world by notoriety. These are the biggest, most exciting races on the marathon circuit.
We will start with the 6 marathons you need to complete to become an Abbot World Marathon Major six-star finisher and then take a look at a few more interesting races that you can add to your list.
Ten Best Marathons In The World
Next Race Date: Sunday 3rd March 2024
No. Of Participants: 38,000
Course Terrain: Road / Flat
While running the Tokyo Marathon you will be greeted with some of the most iconic sights the city has to offer. The race takes place in early March and is one of the 6 Abbot World Marathon majors. The race started back in 2007 and had over 25,000 runners in its first year. It now sees approximately 38,000 runners line up at the start line with a large elite field.
You can expect a fast course as you run through the flat streets of Tokyo however some have said it can get repetitive as you double back on yourself, 4 different times during the race.
Entry Requirements: If you are over 18 and expect to complete the course in under 6:30 you can sign up for Tokyo. Unlike some of the other Marathons below, this one doesn’t have strict entry requirements.
Next Race Date: Monday, April 15th, 2024
No. Of Participants: approximately 30,000
Course Terrain: Road / Hilly
The Boston Marathon, the oldest annual marathon in the world, is a beloved race that takes place every year on Patriots’ Day, a holiday in the state of Massachusetts. The course starts in the rural town of Hopkinton and finishes in downtown Boston, passing through several historic and iconic locations along the way, including Wellesley College and Heartbreak Hill.
The Boston Marathon is a challenging course, with the infamous hills and unpredictable weather being the main obstacles for runners. Despite this, the race is immensely popular and attracts a large field of around 30,000 runners from all over the world each year.
Entry Requirements: To qualify for the Boston Marathon, runners must meet a certain qualifying time based on their age and gender in a previous marathon. The strict qualifying standards make the race a prestigious achievement for many runners and add to its allure as one of the top marathons in the world.
Next Race Date: Sunday 21st April 2024
No. Of Participants: 50,000
Course Terrain: Road / Flat
The London Marathon is one of the world’s most iconic races, taking place in the heart of the city on the streets of London. The race was first held in 1981 and has since become one of the most popular marathons in the world, attracting around 50,000 runners from all over the globe.
The course is relatively flat, with only a few gentle inclines, making it a fast and popular race for runners looking to achieve a personal best. Along the route, runners will pass by some of London’s most famous landmarks, including Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace.
One unique aspect of the London Marathon is the charity fundraising aspect. Many runners choose to run for a charity of their choice and raise money through donations from friends and family. In fact, the London Marathon is the largest annual fundraising event in the world, raising millions of pounds for various charities each year.
Entry Requirements: The London Marathon is a popular race and demand for places is high. The majority of participants secure their entry through the race’s ballot system, which opens several months before the race. However, there are also a limited number of charity places available for runners who choose to fundraise for a charity.
Next Race Date: Sunday 24th September 2023
No. Of Participants: 40,000
Course Terrain: Road / Flat
The Berlin Marathon is widely regarded as one of the best marathons in the world. Taking place in late September, the course winds through the streets of Berlin and passes by many of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. The terrain is predominantly flat, making it a popular choice for runners looking to achieve a personal best time. Eliud Kipchoge was able to break the marathon world record on this course in 2022 when he ran a 2:01:09.
With 40,000 runners from over 150 countries, the Berlin Marathon has a truly international feel. The race is also known for its large and enthusiastic crowds, who line the course to cheer on the participants.
Entry Requirements: Entry into the Berlin Marathon is highly competitive, with a lottery system used to allocate places. However, there are also opportunities to enter through charity partnerships and tour packages. Whether you’re a seasoned marathon runner or a first-timer, the Berlin Marathon is an experience not to be missed.
Next Race Date: Sunday 8th October 2023
No. Of Participants: 45,000
Course Terrain: Road / Flat
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the six World Marathon Majors and is known for its fast and flat course. The race was first held in 1977 and has since grown in popularity, with approximately 45,000 runners taking part in recent years.
The course takes runners through 29 of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods and past many of its famous landmarks, such as Grant Park, the Magnificent Mile, and Lincoln Park Zoo. The cheering crowds and energetic atmosphere make it a memorable experience for both runners and spectators.
Entry Requirements: To participate in the Chicago Marathon, runners must be at least 16 years old and able to complete the race within 6 hours and 30 minutes. The race also offers a qualifying system for runners who have met certain time standards in previous races. Overall, the Chicago Marathon is a must-do for anyone looking for a fun and fast-paced race experience.
New York City
Next Race Date: Sunday 5th November 2023
No. Of Participants: 53,000
Course Terrain: Road / Flat
The New York City Marathon is one of the most famous marathons in the world, and for good reason. The race takes place in early November and starts in Staten Island before crossing the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn. The course then takes runners through Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx before finishing in Central Park.
With over 53,000 participants, the New York City Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the world. The race attracts runners of all abilities, from elite athletes to first-time marathoners. The course is relatively flat and fast, with a few inclines and declines throughout the race.
As you run through the five boroughs of New York City, you’ll be treated to some of the most iconic sights in the world, including the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and the Empire State Building. The atmosphere along the course is electric, with thousands of spectators cheering on the runners every step of the way.
Entry Requirements: To run the New York City Marathon, you must be at least 18 years old and have completed a qualifying race within a certain time. The exact qualifying times vary by age and gender, but generally range from 2 hours and 45 minutes to 5 hours and 30 minutes. You can also qualify by entering a ballot but this comes down to the luck of being drawn.
Great Wall Marathon
Next Race Date: Saturday 20th May 2023
No. Of Participants: 3,500
Course Terrain: Trail / Hilly
The Great Wall Marathon is known as one of the most challenging marathons in the world. This race takes place on the Great Wall of China and includes over 5,164 steps along the way. The marathon attracts runners from all over the world who are up for a true test of endurance.
The Great Wall Marathon was first held in 1999 and has since grown in popularity with 3,500 runners participating in the 2022 edition. The race begins at the Yin and Yang Square, and after a short run on flat ground, runners will start to climb the Great Wall of China. The course is a challenging mix of steep ascents and descents, with runners facing uneven steps and rugged terrain. The race ends back at the Yin and Yang Square.
Entry Requirements: The Great Wall Marathon is not recommended for beginner runners. The minimum age for participants is 18 years old, and they must have completed a full marathon or a half marathon in under 2 hours and 45 minutes in the past two years. The Great Wall Marathon is not for the faint-hearted, but those who complete it can proudly say they ran one of the toughest marathons in the world.
Antarctic Ice Marathon
Next Race Date: November 2023 (exact date TBA)
No. Of Participants: Limited to 55 Course
Terrain: Ice / Altitude
The Antarctic Ice Marathon is one of the most unique and challenging marathons in the world. Held annually in November, the race takes place at Union Glacier, Antarctica, and is the southernmost marathon on earth. With limited participation of only 55 runners, this race offers a truly intimate and exclusive experience.
Runners will navigate through the snow and ice on a course that is set at an altitude of 700 meters above sea level. This extreme terrain presents a difficult challenge to even the most seasoned runners. To make it more difficult, the temperatures can range from -20°C to -5°C, making it a true test of endurance.
The race also includes a half marathon option for those who are not ready to take on the full 26.2 miles. Participants will have the opportunity to witness breathtaking views of the unique and beautiful landscape of Antarctica.
Entry Requirements: Due to the extreme conditions, the Antarctic Ice Marathon has strict entry requirements. Participants must have completed a marathon in less than 4 hours and 30 minutes, or a half marathon in less than 2 hours and 15 minutes, within the past two years. In addition, runners must provide a medical certificate indicating they are in excellent health and able to complete the race in such conditions. It will also cost approximately $20,000 to participate in this marathon.
Big 5 Marathon, South Africa
Next Race Date: Saturday 23rd June 2023
No. of Participants: 250
Course Terrain: Trail / Hilly
The Big 5 marathon is a unique and challenging race that takes place in Entabeni Game Reserve in South Africa. The course takes runners through the heart of the African bush, where they have the opportunity to see the Big Five game animals – lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, and rhinos – in their natural habitat.
The race has a limited number of participants with only 250 runners able to participate. The course is tough with uneven terrain, steep hills and sections of sand, making it a true test of strength and endurance.
In addition to the main marathon, there are also options to run a half marathon or a 10k, both of which take place on the same day as the main event.
Entry Requirements: Entry to the race is open to anyone who is over 18 and physically able to complete the course within the cut-off time.
Next Race Date: Sunday 9th April 2023
No. Of Participants: 10,000
Course Terrain: Road / Mostly flat
The Rome Marathon takes runners on a scenic tour through the ancient city of Rome, Italy. The race is typically held in early April and has become a popular event in the running community, attracting around 10,000 participants from all over the world.
The course of the Rome Marathon is known for being mostly flat, with some slight inclines and declines. Runners start at the Colosseum and pass by famous landmarks such as the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain before finishing at the Arch of Constantine.
Entry Requirements: Participants must be at least 20 years old on race day.
Overall, the Rome Marathon offers a unique and unforgettable race experience, combining the beauty of ancient Rome with the excitement and challenge of a marathon.
Tips For Marathon Race Day
1 – Don’t Set Out Too Fast
If there’s one mistake that most beginners and even a lot of veteran marathon runners make, it’s starting out too quickly. You might feel like your “banking time” but this usually comes back to bite you later in the race. Even with banked time, the slow down at the tail end of the marathon will likely hurt your target goal.
Before your race, make sure you have a race plan set out and attempt to follow it as strictly as possible to reach your goal time.
2 – Eat What You Normally Eat
When eating the night before the race and the morning of the race, don’t be experimenting with new foods. In the lead-up to your race, you should be dialing in your race nutrition. Know what works well the night before and the morning of a race. Prepare during your long runs to see how your body reacts to different foods.
3 – Stay Hydrated And Fueled
During your race, you will need to stay hydrated and fueled. You may choose to use gels or potentially some form of bar to get fuel during the race. On average our bodies can hold around 2000 calories worth of energy. We burn approximately 100 calories per mile while running, so we need to get that extra 600 calories from food or gels during the race.
Again, I would recommend testing these gels before race day to see how they affect your stomach. You may find you can digest bars much easier than energy gels.
Make sure you are well hydrated in the days leading up to the race and get plenty of fluids in before heading to the start line. I would recommend stopping drinking at least an hour or so before the race.
4 – Use The Bathroom Before The Race
The last thing you want during a PB attempt is needing to run to the bathroom. While there will be toilets on the course these can be seriously busy, especially early on in the race. I would recommend waking up early, getting your breakfast in, and enjoying a coffee about an hour before you leave the house. Once you arrive at the race, try and get to the toilet for a pee before entering your pen.
5 – Get A Good Nights Sleep
When it comes to running 26 miles, you need all the rest you can get. Make sure to get to bed early on the night of the race as well as the night before. Sometimes you can be excited or nervous on the night before the race, making it harder to get a full night’s sleep. This is why it’s important to get a good long sleep two nights before your race. This will help you be fully recovered and ready to take on the 26.2 miles ahead of you.
6 – Test Your Run Outfit / Gear
Make sure you have tested your running gear before turning up at the Marathon. The last thing you want is a bag or shorts that are rubbing and causing serious chaffing, making for a very uncomfortable race. Ensure you have worn your shoes on at least one or two short runs before marathon day to break them in and ensure they are comfortable.
Personally, I like to have worn all my race gear in a practice session to ensure that I can run without any problems on the day.
7 – Enjoy The Race
Last but not least, enjoy yourself out there. Lots of marathons have many amazing sights to take in on the way around. Soak up the crowds, cheer on fellow runners, and enjoy every minute of the race. You worked hard to be here.
So there you have it. Those are 10 of the best marathons from around the globe. Let us know which one you will be taking on next? Will you be trying to hit a PB in Berlin or will you take your chances in an adventure race such as The Big 5 or Antarctica Marathon?
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