If the best way to see a new city is with your feet, then it’s even better when the route is planned for you and you’re not dodging traffic. These incredible race destinations around the world will satisfy your wanderlust and give you the ultimate runner’s high.
Could a marathon be described as “romantic”? If so, then the Paris Marathon would be it. As you run along the Seine River, you’ll pass historic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral and Musée d’Orsay. Before the race, carbo-load like a Parisian with crêpes and baguettes. Then after you pass the finish line, toast yourself with a hydrating glass of champagne.
You’ll want to button up for this one. The Midnight Sun Marathon is in the Arctic Circle! Runners go through the picturesque town of Tromsø, running by the triangular Arctic Cathedral and crossing over the Tromsø Bridge (peaking at an exhausting 141 feet high) twice! The race takes advantage of the midnight sun by starting at 8:30 p.m. Don’t worry if that’s close to your bedtime — your adrenaline will push you past the finish line.
Cape Town, South Africa
The Two Oceans Marathon (a 56K ultra marathon) touts itself as being “the world’s most beautiful marathon” and sends runners on a path from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. Don’t let the course’s beauty distract you from this hard truth: it’s a tough run. The elevation at the start of the race is 65 feet, and it caps out at 705 feet at Constantia Nek, about 47km into the race. Train hard for this one and you’ll be rewarded with incredible scenery and massive amounts of euphoria.
For runners who also love history, the Great Wall Marathon is a bucket list must. You’ll spend part of the race running up and down the Great Wall of China (5,164 steps!), and the rest of the time you’ll cross through villages in the surrounding area. It’s your opportunity to conquer the Great Wall — devoid of tourists!
If you need an excuse to finally visit Myanmar, then the Bagan Temple Marathon is a pretty good one. The race takes runners through the ancient city of Bagan on (mostly) dirt roads, passing temples that are centuries old. Since Bagan in itself is a bucket list-worthy city, running while sightseeing allows you to maximize your time there.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Do you consider yourself a hardcore, physically and mentally strong runner? If you’re confident that the answer is “yes,” then Atacama Crossing is just the challenge you’ve been waiting for. It’s a six-stage, 155-mile race through the driest desert on earth. Participants experience breathtaking panoramas of the desert and salt flats as well as an unobstructed view of the Milky Way each night as they sleep under the stars.
For Disney fans, running doesn’t get more fun than at the Walt Disney World® Marathon. The full marathon takes runners through all four Walt Disney World® theme parks, as well as the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. You’ll find serious runners mixed in with costumed runners, plus plenty of Disney characters and entertainment to make it an unforgettable race.
New York City, New York
On the first Sunday in November, streets around the Big Apple are closed off for the world’s largest marathon, with more than 50,000 runners. What better way to see New York City’s five boroughs in a single day than to run 26.2 miles through them? The New York City Marathon starts on Staten Island, then passes through Brooklyn and Queens, then into Manhattan, and up to the Bronx, and finally back south through Central Park to the finish line.
Although many of these races promise picturesque locations, the Kaua’i Marathon offers quite the range: pristine coastlines, tropical rainforest and views of volcanic peaks. Hawaiian-style entertainment, like drummers and dancers, help keep racers’ excitement high throughout the course. When the race is over, the Garden Island is an excellent destination for a long, well-deserved break.
There are many great races around Sydney, but the annual Sydney Marathon and City2Surf courses are top-notch. For the Sydney Marathon, racers will run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, through the city’s streets and parks, and then end at the iconic Sydney Opera House. Not up for a full marathon? The 14K City2Surf is more of a fun run. The course starts in Sydney’s Hyde Park, then goes through the suburbs until you hit scenic Bondi Beach.