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Top 10 Marathons in the World

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Are you planning on running a marathon this year? If so, you may as well make it one of the top 10 best marathons in the world! There are over 800 marathons organized each year across the world and the settings couldn’t be more different.

Whether you fancy running across the African desert or racing past the London eye, there are organized marathons for all of it. Read on for more information about the 10 best marathons in the world!

Marathon Runners with arms in air

Top 10 Marathons in the World

New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon attracts many runners from all over the world and they are drawn in to the appeal of the big city.

The atmosphere of the whole city on this day is fantastic with the crowds flooding out onto the sidelines to support and motivate the runners.

This marathon is watched on TV all over the world, too, making it an event that takes the world by storm every year.

This marathon was the first organized marathon in a big city, and it is such a special experience. 

  • Route: This route takes you right through New York City. It begins on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge which is on Staten Island and it takes you through many of the different areas of New York, exploring the ethnic diversity that spans the city. You will run through all five of the boroughs and you will end up finishing in the famous Central Park. 
  • Size: This marathon sees 30,000 people take part in the challenging run.
  • Difficulty: It is mostly on pavements and paths and, as it is in the city, it is relatively flat.

However, towards the end of the run you should be aware that there are a few rolling hills as you come to the finish line in Central Park.

This marathon usually takes place in November, with the first wave of runners setting off at around 8am.

There are nine different start times, as all of the 30,000 can’t start at the same time - that would be mayhem! The last wave of runners leave the starting point at 12pm. 

Watch the Video

Schneider Electric Marathon De Paris

The Schneider Electric Marathon De Paris Marathon is a fantastic way of exploring the city. Paris is a beautiful city and you won’t be bored running through its streets.

The streets of Paris are usually overrun by cars and tourists, so this is a very rare opportunity to run through the streets of Paris without the worry of all of the cars.

The route takes you past all of the iconic landmarks in Paris, including the Louvre.

The atmosphere in Paris during the race is fantastic, with 80,000 people taking to the streets in support of the runners.

The atmosphere is fantastic and is very motivational for the runners.

  • Route: The marathon starting line is at Avenue des Champs-Élysées. You will run past Paris' beautiful sights, including the Opéra Garnier and the Eiffel Tower. The finish line is right by the Arc de Triomphe, making it a perfect end-of-marathon photo background. 
  • Size: This is the biggest marathon in Europe, and one of the biggest in the world. The marathon attracts runners from over 140 different countries and 57,000 runners take part in the run each year!
  • Difficulty: This run is relatively flat being a city run. It is mainly run on the roads, making it quite a low level of difficulty. It runs in April and so the temperature is usually not too hot.

Watch the Video

Antarctic Ice Marathon

The Antarctic Ice Marathon is incredibly difficult and is only suitable for those who have trained for a very extreme marathon!

This marathon is usually run in December and is run at an extremely low temperature.

You won’t get sweaty like some of these other marathons that’s for sure!

If you participate in this race, you will need to wear ski goggles and balaclavas, making sure that your temperature is kept nice and high! 

This run is often completed as part of the 7 continents marathon club, which has 388 members. These runners complete one marathon in every continent. 

  • Route: This route begins at the Union Glacier exploration camp which is 600 miles away from the South Pole. 
  • Size: The Antarctic Ice Marathon is one of the smallest marathons due to the high entry price and difficult course. There are typically well under 100 participants
  • Difficulty: This is one of the hardest marathons in the world and you will be running it for the fact that it is extreme. It is a very difficult challenge even for those who are used to extreme conditions. The conditions underfoot are ice and snow, making it very hard to run and the race is at an altitude of 700 meters. The winds also add to the difficulty level with the Katabatic winds reaching 300kph.

Watch the Video

London Marathon

London comes alive during marathon day, creating a buzz throughout the city.

Thousands come out in support of the London Marathon runners. Many different types of people run this race, and they are from all sorts of walks of life.

You will also see many people running in funny costumes, as well as many celebrities running the race.

With the finish line being right up by Buckingham Palace, there is nothing like finishing this race.

It is quite difficult to get a place in this marathon as it is so sought after.

  • Route: The course through London starts at three different starting points and you will pass through Greenwich, Surrey Keys and the Docklands. You will cross over Tower Bridge at the halfway point of the race. Towards the end of the race, you will run along the Embankment, past the London Eye and past Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.
  • Size: This is a very big race, with 350,000 people running through the streets of London on this day. 
  • Difficulty: This route is very flat and so is not too difficult. It is run in April and so there are no extreme temperatures or weather conditions to contend with.

It can be a very busy course which means sometimes your personal best can be hard to meet.

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Baxters Loch Ness Marathon

The Baxters Loch Ness Marathon begins at Fort Augustus and you will run over the beautiful Highlands which give you many beautiful views on this scenic race.

You will follow the route down the banks of Loch Ness and run along the shore of the loch. You will then run into Inverness and end the run there. 

This is not a city marathon, like most of the ones explored above. Instead, it is very quiet and remote.

This marathon is a great experience for runners as it is very friendly and informal. You are even met with a warm meal at the finish line! 

  • Route: The marathon travels along the Loch Ness River and begins at the course's highest elevation between Fort Augustus and Foyers. You'll finish at Bught Park in the center of Inverness.
  • Size: This is a smaller event with under 10,000 runners participating in all the events, with about half running the marathon.
  • Difficulty: The race takes place in October so the weather is pretty temperate. This run is run mostly on roads so it is not too difficult. There are a couple of uphill sections of the run, with one uphill section between 17 and 20 miles being specifically challenging. 

Watch the Video

Honolulu Marathon

The Honolulu Marathon takes place in Hawaii in December. This is great for most people as a trip to Hawaii in December is exactly what you need, while most of the Northern Hemisphere is suffering from the depths of winter.

This is a great marathon with a fantastic atmosphere. The 30,000 runners who take part in this marathon are mostly made up of Japanese people.

The run begins in the darkness as it starts at 5am. This is because later in the day, the temperatures rise so high that it will be too hot.

This means that the crowd support is not as high as other runs because not many people would like to get up that early! 

  •  Difficulty: This run can get quite difficult towards the end of the race because the temperature will begin to rise. There are a couple of sections of the course which have a few uphill climbs which can be difficult.
  • Route: This course begins in Ala Moana Beach Park and ends in Kapiolani Park. You will run past many of Honolulu’s wonderful sites such as Waikiki Beach and Koko Head Crater. 
  • Size: This marathon has 30,000 people running the race each year. This is a big event! 

Watch the Video

Uganda International Marathon

The Uganda International Marathon is fantastic and it stands out because of the community spirit that it creates. This marathon is very different from the other marathons on this list.

This marathon takes place over the course of a week and those participating in the run will run through the rural villages and along the heights of Pine Ridge.

You'll run past Lake Victoria and see some of the beautiful sights. This is a great run which is also a big fundraising event. 

While it is a very hard physical challenge, the money that is raised helps with local community projects which also take place during the week of the run.

The money also goes towards KidsRunWild which is a sports event that is organized for disadvantaged children.

The event took place for the first time in 2015 and 1000 people participated in this.

  •  Difficulty: This is a difficult run due to the heat during the run. It's also very hilly and mostly on hard-baked, red African roads.
  • Route: The course starts and finishes at Liberation Square in Masaka, Uganda. Two trips around will complete the full marathon. The stunning views and opportunity to run with local children as you travel through villages and enjoy the stunning beauty of the area.
  • Size: This marathon has 5,000 participants, so it is a smaller marathon, but the experience makes it one you'll never forget.

Watch the  Video

Berlin Marathon

The Berlin Marathon is a world-class run and the crowds are very enthusiastic and encouraging.

The crowds are large and you run past all of the historical parts of the city.

The course will take you past all of the modern shops, the historical architecture. The Berlin marathon often holds world records all over the world.

  • Difficulty: Although there are a few hills and one decent climb, this is a relatively easy and flat course.
  • Route: The course is relatively flat with a few inclines giving a little bit of a challenge at the 17 mile and the 21 mile mark. There are plenty of beautiful sights to see along the way.
  • Size: This is a large marathon with roughly 48,000 participants.

Watch the Video

Pembrokeshire Marathon

The Pembrokeshire Marathon is a beautiful countryside run. If you’re looking for a change from the city running, then this could be perfect for you!

This coastal run will take you along the coastal paths and you will run along the sandy beaches and past hidden coves.

The sights that you will see on this marathon will take your thoughts away from all of the achy legs. This run takes place in April so the weather is very warm. 

  • Difficulty: This marathon is quite difficult in comparison to the city ones. It is hilly and on coastal trail paths rather than roads. You'll encounter slip and trip hazards, as well as high cliffs with possible strong winds. The organizers of this race require runners to carry a kit of safety gear such as a foil blanket, first aid kit, and a whistle among other items. Participants may be asked to show their safety kit at some point during the race.
  • Route: This looped route which starts and finishes at Little Haven Village
  • Size: It is a very small run with only around 200 participants. The smaller scale allows participants to work together with the other runners and build community and support.

Watch the Video

Amsterdam Marathon

The Amsterdam Marathon is a great run that is one of the oldest marathons. This race has been happening since the late 1970’s, but it has changed a lot over the last few years.

This run is very small in comparison to some of the other city marathons, with only 2000 people participating in the race.

Most of the runners are foreign and the beautiful charm that you experience in the city will make the run go by very quickly.

The run is very low key and there are not many supporters who come out to watch but it is a beautiful route. 

  • Difficulty: With the exception of a few hills, the Amsterdam Marathon is a very easy course.
  • Route: The course is very flat and it is a two-loop course. It starts in the Olympic Stadium and it finishes at the same spot. The route will take you through the entire city, running past the residential suburbs and the Vondelpark. 
  • Size: There are typically about 20,000 participants.

Watch the Video

How to Train for a Marathon

Running a marathon is very difficult and it is a very intense personal challenge. Running a marathon is an achievement of a lifetime and you should be very proud of yourself if you manage to achieve it!

Whatever your reason for running the marathon, you will definitely need to train. Perhaps you’re running it to become more healthy or to lose weight.

It could be to raise money or to support a friend. Whatever the reason, you will need a training plan. 

There are a few important things to remember when you are running a marathon. You should follow these steps: 

  • Be conscious of your limits. You must be very careful when it comes to running a marathon as you want to avoid injuries or any damage to your health.
  • Start training early. You must start your training early because you don’t want to have to push yourself by doing too much in one go close to the marathon. You should build up your mileage very slowly so that you don’t shock your body.
  • Start small. You should make sure that you start with the smaller races. 5 kilometers is a good place to start.
Marathon runners running at sunrise

How to Choose Your Marathon

As you can see from the list of the best marathons in the world, there are many different types of runs in terms of size, difficulty levels, locations and terrain.

All of these things should be considered when you are choosing your marathon.

Whether you want to have a small number of people running with you, or you want to race with crowds of people, there is a race that will suit you.

While it may seem exciting to choose a race that is further away from home, you may find that there are lots of advantages to be had from choosing a marathon closer to home.

This is because you will know the road and you will be able to prepare properly in the days and hours leading up to the race rather than having to get on a plane and travel!

Things to Consider


The conditions that you like to run in is a good way to choose your marathon. Think about when you will be running the race, and so when you will be training for the race.

If you are choosing a run in April, then bear in mind that you will be training in the Winter months.

If you are choosing to run in October, then you will be training through the height of Summer.

This is if you’re running a race in the US or in Europe. There are also races taking place in the snow or the height of summer.

Consider the weather that you would like to run in. You should also consider the time of day that you would prefer to run.


A marathon could be a very good way to travel the world. It is part of the reason that people decide to do marathons in certain places.

However, there are certain things that mean that traveling for a marathon may not be for you.

Traveling for marathons takes a lot of extra organization, flights, gas, accommodations and meals. It also takes a lot of extra money. 


When you’re considering choosing your marathon, the size is a big factor that will play a part.

The energy that you will get from the amount of people running the race will really motivate you.

The people watching on the side lines are also very motivating and it may really encourage you to achieve.

However, you may not enjoy the bigger races as they sometimes are difficult to get started and they are hard to meet your personal goals because you will be slowed down by the amount of people. 

You should always choose one race and then have a couple of backups in case you don’t get a place on your first choice.

At smaller marathons, you will find it a lot easier to get into a rhythm early on, where you will be influenced by the other runners in the bigger races.


The course really does matter. Whether you like running a straight run where you don’t have to double back on yourself at all, or you enjoy running in loops then certain marathons will be a better choice for you.

The weather, hills and other factors throughout the course will also determine which you would enjoy more. 

Marathon runners

Why is a Marathon 26.2 Miles?

A marathon is 26.2 miles long. This is 42.19km. This is because, in 790 BC, a messenger in Greece ran for this length of time to tell the rest of the citizens the good news of Greece winning a battle.

This battle was against the Persians. When the run was over, the man died after delivering the message.

To honor this man, they created a race which ran from Marathon to Athens to mark the distance that he had run that day. This is the original story, however, there are many different developments over the years.

In 1896, the first marathon took place in the Olympic ceremony. The distance has evolved slightly over the years as it started off a little less than it is now.

The original marathon was around 24 miles, and the first one in the Olympics was 25 miles.

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