Like love and math, running is an international language understood by many, and the achievement of finishing a marathon is just as exhilarating as an incredible date or finally solving a complicated math equation. The world offers some of the most incredible marathons, from challenging hills and ocean vistas to historic landmarks and costumed supporters. If running is your thing, here are five of the top marathon races in the world to tick off your bucket list:
- Tokyo Marathon
This annual marathon takes place in February and is part of the World Marathon Majors. It began in 2007 and is breath-taking in its combination of old meets new as runners pass landmarks such as the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Station. Each year the unwavering support of Team Smile, a group of 10 000 volunteers, plus the enthusiasm of the 1.6 million spectators create an event that is warm, welcoming, and full of fun for the ± 36 000 runners who come from around the world. Whilst you’re there, you’ll also want to make a stop at the Tokyo Marathon Expo, Japan’s largest running trade show which boasts around 60 000 visitors every year.
- Boston Marathon
One of the oldest in the world, this marathon takes runners along a beautiful and historic course. The very first Boston Marathon took place in 1897 and now boasts half a million spectators and over 30 000 runners in April each year. The Boston Marathon starts in Hopkinton and offers a net downhill course with plenty of famous landmarks along the way and an exhilarating big-city finish in Boylston Street. Part of the glory of this race is the fact that all entrants need to meet rigorous qualifying standards before even tackling the course. This is a marathon that comes with pure bragging rights.
- Virgin Money London Marathon
The Virgin Money London Marathon takes place every April and has been running (no pun intended) for 35 years. It is also part of the World Marathon Majors and offers a flat and fast course starting at Greenwich Park, passing along the River Thames, across Tower Bridge and winding through to offer sights of Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Place, and the Tower of London until ending off at Buckingham Palace. Nearly 40 000 runners take part each year, making it one of the largest marathons in the world; and you won’t be disappointed by the crazy costumes and enthusiastic entertainment of the spectators along the way either!
- Big Sur International Marathon
This is one of the world’s largest rural marathons, taking place in Carmel, California every April. A must for any runners bucket list, the course offers incredible Pacific Ocean vistas as participants trace the coast on Highway One from Big Sur up to Carmel. This marathon is a test of strength as runners push through hills and headwinds, especially around mile 10 when the climb to Hurricane Point starts; but there are no regrets when surrounded by the sheer beauty of this course. Year after year the Big Sur International Marathon sells out like hot cakes and with space for only 4500 runners, it’s a good idea to book early to avoid disappointment
- Great Wall Marathon
The Great Wall Marathon is one of the most beautiful marathons and takes place in May each year. Starting in the village of Huangyaguan (a couple of hours northeast of Beijing) the course heads straight to the Great Wall of China and continues on to take you through the gruelling 5 164 steps of one of the world’s most famous landmarks, ending off on a beautiful meander (or crawl) through scenic villages and rice fields before looping back to the Wall again for the grand finale. The finish line is in the center of Yin and Yang Square and the entire marathon has a time limit of 8 hours. Although gruelling, the stunning 360 degree views from the wall, plus the spirited spectators, and of course ticking a historical landmark and marathon off your bucket list, make it all worthwhile!
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