Top 10 Marathons Around the World That Every Runner Should Experience

Top 10 Marathons Around the World That Every Runner Should Experience

Running a marathon might seem like a strange activity to some people, but once you finish your first, it's hard to stop. The thrill of the start, the camaraderie born among runners, the challenge of pushing your limits - it's an experience that's hard to beat. Some marathons stand out for their stunning scenery, others for their challenging courses or thrilling atmosphere. In this article, we will take you on a journey around the globe, exploring the top 9 marathons that offer truly exceptional experiences.


Petra Desert Race

The  Petra Desert Marathon, held in the stunning desert region of Jordan, is a marathon experience unlike any other. As you lace up your running shoes and prepare to embark on this arduous journey, you're not just stepping into a race, but rather, an adventure that will etch itself into your memory for a lifetime.

Your run begins in the ancient city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its intricate tombs, mountainside carvings, and sandstone architecture that glows with an ethereal pink hue at dawn. The marathon offers unparalleled panoramas of this archaeological wonder, often referred to as the Rose City due to the color of the stone it is carved from. This is the backdrop against which your marathon story unfolds.

The course itself is a test of true grit and determination. The terrain is not the easiest, to say the least. There will be a lot of running through a landscape that oscillates between hills, sandy stretches and rocky paths. There's little to no shade, so the sun will be your constant companion, beginning to cast shadows further into the day. Yet, despite the physical demands of the race, runners invariably speak about the inspiring nature of the course and the camaraderie that develops among participants.

Scheduled for September 2, 2023, the marathon offers two courses. One is a half marathon that will have you run 13.1 miles, the other is a full-scale marathon of 26.2 miles. The number of runners is intimate, with an average of 187 participants in past years. This lends a unique, personal feel to the race, a far cry from the bustling crowds of city marathons. It is a perfect choice for anyone looking for a change to bustling marathons of many thousands.

Along the course, runners will pass incredible sights such as the Ad Deir, or the Monastery, and the famous Al Khazneh, known as the Treasury. Each stride takes you deeper into the heart of this ancient city, making the marathon not just a race, but a historical exploration.

As for the weather, prepare for a hot day with temperatures often reaching their peak during the last third of the race. Remember, you'll be running in a desert environment, so appropriate hydration and sun protection strategies are crucial.

The Petra Desert Marathon isn't just a race; it's a cultural adventure and a history lesson all rolled into one. It's a chance to push your limits, explore the remnants of an ancient civilization, and connect with fellow runners from around the world. So, come prepared, stay strong, and let the enchanting allure of Petra carry you to the finish line.

This race is a part of Albatros Adventure Marathons, an amazing marathon organizer that takes you across the world's most picturesque running destinations. There are ten races in nine countries, spread throughout the year, so make sure to check out the rest of them, should you be interested (we'll tell you about at least one more from the list).


Inca Trail Marathon

If you are looking for another jump back in time, then  Inca Trail Marathon is an absolute must. Traversing the same paths once trodden by the ancient Incas, you'll have your endurance tested while surrounded by Peru's breathtaking landscapes.

You'll start your race amidst the serene beauty of the Sacred Valley, encompassed by rugged mountains and lush greenery. As you progress, you'll find yourself in awe of the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas looming in the distance. The sights are nothing short of spectacular, with panoramic views of cloud forests, mountain peaks, and ancient ruins keeping you company throughout your run.

But don't let the captivating views fool you - this marathon is a true test of strength and endurance. The course is grueling, with an elevation gain of over 10,000 feet and peaking around 13,800 feet above sea level. The terrain is varied and challenging, including steep, uneven "stairs," rocky trails, and three high passes, the highest being the daunting Dead Woman's Pass at 13,779 feet.

Scheduled for April 2024, this marathon covers a classic 26.2-mile distance, but there is also a half-marathon option available. The race starts at an altitude of 8,000 feet and includes two high passes at 13,000 and 13,800 feet, respectively. This makes acclimatization a must for participants. The number of runners is limited due to the sensitive nature of the trail, adding to the exclusivity and charm of the event.

On their way, runners will pass incredible sights such as the archaeological sites of Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, and Wiñay Wayna. Those names probably tell you nothing, but take our word for it, you won't regret seeing any of these sights. Each step offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Inca Empire.

As for the weather, be prepared for a mix of conditions. You could encounter anything from sunny skies to rain showers. Given the high altitude, the air can get quite thin and chilly, especially in the early morning and late evenings.

The Inca Trail Marathon is a part of the bigger tour that also includes Cusco city tour, camping nights, rainforest exploration, Machu Picchu Tour and a whole bundle of other activities that will introduce you to the local culture and environment. It's a 9-day adventure you'll never forget.


Honolulu Marathon

There's something uniquely magical about the  Honolulu Marathon, but maybe it's just the irresistible allure of Hawaii playing its tricks. One thing's for sure: lacing up your running shoes as the sun rises over the Pacific Ocean is a spectacle bound to be never forgotten. As you start your marathon journey, the tranquil sounds of waves crashing against the shoreline and the sweet scent of tropical flowers permeate the air.

The course unfolds along the scenic oceanfront, offering runners breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Then it turns inland, presenting a contrasting landscape of Honolulu's bustling city life and lush green parks. The highlight for many is the long out-and-back stretch that is flat and fast but can be mentally challenging due to its length. However, the stunning ocean vistas on this stretch can provide a much-needed distraction.

But don't be fooled by the paradise-like surroundings; the Honolulu Marathon is not a walk in the park. The course itself can be more difficult than anticipated. Despite being relatively flat, it does include a notable hill up Diamond Head Rd within the first few miles, adding an element of challenge.

The marathon traditionally takes place in December, which means you can expect warm, tropical weather. Although it might be a bit humid, the trade winds often provide a refreshing breeze. It's important to prepare for these conditions and stay hydrated throughout the race.

Covering the classic marathon distance of 26.2 miles, the race attracts over 30,000 runners from all over the world, making it one of the top ten marathons globally. Along the way, runners will pass iconic Hawaiian landmarks like Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and Kapiolani Park. Many participants carry cameras to capture these unforgettable sights. The marathon is very novice-friendly, as everyone over seven years old can enlist. You don't need any qualifications to enter and there is no cut-off time.

Despite some reviews stating the course is not particularly scenic, most runners seem to disagree. The consensus is that running in this tropical paradise is an exhilarating experience that makes the course go by quickly. Even if there are parts of the race that may seem less engaging, the overall atmosphere, combined with the natural beauty of Hawaii, outweighs any negatives.

The Honolulu Marathon offers a unique blend of a moderate course and captivating scenery. It's more than just a race; it's a chance to experience the Aloha spirit in every stride. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a first-timer, the Honolulu Marathon promises to be a memorable run.


Great Wall Marathon

Imagine standing at the starting line of one of the world's most challenging marathons, staring at a seemingly endless path of ancient stone steps that twist and turn into the horizon. This is the  Great Wall Marathon, a race that combines awe-inspiring scenery with an intense physical challenge.

The start of the race itself is nothing short of impressive, taking place on the iconic Great Wall of China. The course unravels amidst this historic monument, offering runners a unique opportunity to experience a symbol of Chinese ingenuity and resilience up close.

The grandeur of the surroundings is matched only by the onerous nature of the course. The terrain is a mix of rough stone steps, uneven paths, and challenging ascents and descents. The most daunting part? 5,164 steps that will test your physical strength and mental grit.

This race, always taking place on the third Saturday in May, covers the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles. However, there are also options for a half marathon and an 8.5K fun run, making it accessible to a wide range of fitness levels. Regardless of the distance you choose, be prepared for a challenging course, as even experienced marathoners have acknowledged its difficulty.

As for the number of participants, the race is smaller compared to other international marathons, adding to its intimate and exclusive feel. As you run, you'll pass through local villages and lush farmlands, providing a fascinating glimpse into the rural life of China.

In terms of weather, expect the uncertainty. The weather proved to be pretty unpredictable over the last years, varying from 61°F to 95°F. You can take the average temperature of 77°F and take clothes for it, but being prepared for high humidity levels will be a prudent decision.

Despite the physical challenges, the Great Wall Marathon is an unforgettable experience. It's a chance to push your limits, explore a historical wonder, and connect with fellow runners from around the globe. Besides, China doesn't often make it on the tourist destination lists, so it might be a great reason to broaden your horizons.


Australian Outback Marathon

To leaving out Australia would have been a crime, as there are just as many places worth running by. If you like unpathed roads and contrasting skies and earth, you'll definitely enjoy your time here. Racing across the expansive red earth under the vast blue sky, with the iconic silhouette of Ayers Rock in the background is a one-of-a-kind experience. The scenery is raw, unspoiled, and utterly breathtaking.

Despite the scenery, this race is no walk in the park. The terrain ranges from hard-packed earth to the red sand of the Australian Outback, offering a unique challenge that varies with every step. Despite its beauty, the course is demanding and will test your endurance and adaptability.

The marathon typically takes place in July, during Australia's winter season. However, don't let the term 'winter' deceive you. The desert climate can still be quite hot and sunny, so it's crucial to prepare for high temperatures and intense sunlight.

Covering the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles, the race also offers a half marathon, 11K, and 6K options, attracting runners of all levels. The event is intimate compared to other international marathons, with 383 runners.

Throughout the race, runners will pass stunning views of Ayers Rock and the Olgas, immersing themselves in the serene beauty of the Outback. But what truly sets this marathon apart are the stories of the land's Traditional Owners that runners will encounter along the way. It's these stories that will stick with you long after the race is over, adding a rich cultural dimension to the event.

Despite the challenging course and hot conditions, the atmosphere of the marathon is incredibly uplifting. The friendly volunteers manning the aid stations provide much-needed support and encouragement, ensuring your experience is as enjoyable as possible.

The organization of the event is top-notch, with well-supported drink stations and a variety of pre- and post-race dinners that go beyond your typical pasta feeds. Plus, the opportunity to unwind at the luxurious Ayers Rock Resort after the race adds a touch of comfort to the rugged adventure.

As you can see, the  Australian Outback Marathon is a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and physical challenge. It's a chance to push your limits, explore Australia's stunning Outback, and connect with a supportive running community. So lace up your running shoes, brace yourself for an unforgettable adventure, and let the spirit of the Outback propel you to the finish line.


New York City Marathon

The Big Apple is always teeming with life, and running along its bustling streets it's one of the ways to feel the city's restless spirit. Picture yourself pounding the pavement with skyscrapers towering above, crossing five bridges, and running through five distinct boroughs, each with its own unique character. The energy of New York becomes tangible as the cheers from the crowd echo off the buildings, creating an electrifying atmosphere.

The course itself is as diverse as the city it traverses. The terrain varies from the flat stretches of Manhattan to the rolling hills of Central Park. The challenge comes not so much from the elevation but rather the sheer distance and the thrill of navigating the city streets. This marathon is a true test of endurance, but the energy of the city and the support from the crowds make the miles more manageable.

The race typically takes place on the first Sunday in November. The marathon covers the classic distance of 26.2 miles and attracts over 50,000 runners from around the globe. No other course can boast such popularity, which brings the New York City Marathon the laurels of the most popular marathon in the world.

From the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge starting point to the finish line in Central Park, runners will pass landmarks like Times Square, the Brooklyn Museum, and the United Nations Headquarters. Each step brings a new sight, a new neighborhood, and a new crowd of supporters, keeping the experience fresh and exciting from start to finish.

As for the weather, expect a cool, crisp fall day. The temperatures are typically ideal for running, although the wind on the bridges can be a challenge. It’s important to dress appropriately and be prepared for possible changes in weather throughout the race.

Despite the early start and the long wait times before the race, the overall organization of the event is commendable. Aid stations are well-stocked and frequent, ensuring runners stay hydrated and energized. And though the post-race walk can feel long and tiring, the sense of accomplishment upon receiving your medal makes it all worthwhile.

If you are in for a Big-City experience, the  New York City Marathon is just what you need. It offers a unique blend of urban energy and community spirit. Even if you are a New York resident, the marathon gives you a chance to experience the city in a whole new way. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a first-timer, this race promises a memorable run that truly encapsulates the spirit of New York City.


Reykjavik Marathon

Iceland enjoys the peaceful solitude of an island resting between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The  Reykjavik Marathon offers you a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the everyday life of reserved Icelanders while running through one of the most picturesque cities in the world. With every step, you're surrounded by a panorama of urban landscapes, serene seashores, lush parks, and residential areas, all set against the backdrop of Iceland's dramatic mountainous beauty.

When it comes to the terrain, the course offers a nice blend of flat stretches and mild undulations, adding a slight challenge without being overly strenuous. You'll experience everything from city streets to rural roads, keeping the route diverse and interesting. The highest ascent reaches up to 174 meters (570 feet), presenting a manageable yet exciting challenge for runners of all levels.

Typically held in August, the Reykjavik Marathon covers the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles, with options for a half marathon and other shorter races. In terms of participants, this event attracts a smaller crowd compared to larger city marathons. You'll get to share this experience with maybe a thousand other runners.

Throughout the race, runners will pass numerous sights that showcase the charm and beauty of Reykjavik. From the bustling harbor to tranquil national parks, and even a waterfall, this marathon offers a unique way to explore the city and its surroundings.

As for the weather, expect the unexpected. Iceland is known for its changeable climate, so you could potentially experience sun, wind, and rain all in the same race. That being said, August usually brings milder temperatures, making it a pleasant time to run.

In terms of organization, the Reykjavik Marathon is highly praised. Aid stations are plentiful and well-stocked, ensuring runners stay hydrated and fueled throughout the race. August also happens to be the season for the country's biggest holiday so there will be a lot of other activities once you finish running. There is no better time to get exposed to Icelandic culture, so should you have an opportunity, give this marathon a try.


Dublin Marathon

The Dublin Marathon takes you on a captivating exploration of Ireland's bustling capital city. As you thread your way through the course, you'll be greeted by a mix of modern cityscapes and historic landmarks, all set against the backdrop of Emerald Isle's unique charm and vibrant atmosphere.

The terrain of the  Dublin Marathon is largely flat, making it suitable for runners aiming for a personal best or those taking on their first marathon. However, don't underestimate this course - while it may not have the steep inclines of other marathons, the length of the race can still pose a considerable challenge even to seasoned runners.

Scheduled for October 29, 2023, the race covers the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. It has grown significantly over the years and now attracts around 25,000 participants from 60 countries, making it Ireland's largest marathon and one of the biggest in Europe.

As you cover the course, which is a single lap around the city, you'll pass some of Dublin's most iconic sights. These include the River Liffey, Christ Church Cathedral, and the leafy Phoenix Park – Europe's largest enclosed park. Each turn brings a new piece of Dublin's rich history and culture, adding an extra layer of excitement to the race. But the city isn't the only spectacle you'll get to behold. Irish countryside might be even more worthy of your attention, for the vistas here are nonesuch.

In terms of weather, Dublin in late October can be quite changeable. You might experience a crisp fall day with clear skies or a grey day with light showers. The Irish climate is generally mild, so extreme temperatures are unlikely, but be prepared for any weather conditions on the day.

The organization of the Dublin Marathon is highly commendable. Aid stations are frequent and well-stocked, and the volunteers provide crucial support and motivation along the route. Post-race, the sense of accomplishment is heightened by the warm reception from the crowd, making the finish line experience truly unforgettable.

Long story short, should life give you the chance to visit Ireland, take it without thinking. The views you'll find here are incomparable, to say the least.


Loch Ness Marathon

All of us heard the stories of a mysterious monster lurking in the waters of Loch Ness. The next biggest search for it is planned for August 26, but the elusive creature isn't the reason why you should come to Scotland. The  Loch Ness Marathon is a very much tangible and real activity that will take you on a breathtaking journey through one of the world's most scenic landscapes. As you traverse the course, you'll be treated to epic views of rolling hills, lush greenery and serene lochs (most likely deprived of any magical beasts, unless...)

The terrain of the Loch Ness Marathon is a blend of downhill stretches and undulating landscapes. You can expect a stimulating challenge for runners of all levels. Contrary to common misconceptions, the route is predominantly downhill, making it a favorite among runners aiming for a personal best. However, the course does have its fair share of uphill sections, adding a layer of complexity that keeps runners on their toes.

The race usually takes place in late September, covering the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Despite being a relatively quiet event compared to big city marathons, it attracts thousands (three thousand, to be precise) of participants from around the world, drawn by the promise of running in one of the most beautiful marathons in the world.

Throughout the race, runners will pass by some stunning sights that truly encapsulate the charm of the Scottish Highlands. The highest point of the course offers the most breathtaking views, where the vast expanse of the landscape unfolds before your eyes. The course also winds its way along the shores of the famous Loch Ness, so that you could join the search for the Loch Ness Monster, should you feel like it.

When it comes to weather, expect a typical Scottish climate - cool temperatures and the possibility of rain. Some will say that the unpredictable weather only adds to the charm and challenge of the race. One thing's certain: the crisp air definitely adds to the Scottish atmosphere.

The organization of the Loch Ness Marathon is exceptional, with well-stocked aid stations and supportive volunteers who help runners stay motivated throughout the race. The atmosphere is friendly and low-key, offering a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of larger city marathons.

While mysteries are known to add a certain charm to places, at the end of the day, it's practical things that make us want to return there again and again. Loch Ness Marathon can become such a place for you.


What criteria were used to choose the top 9 marathons in the world?

The marathons were chosen based on a variety of factors including the uniqueness of the course, the scenery, the level of organization, the crowd support, and the overall experience they were known to offer to runners.

Are these marathons suitable for beginners or are they only for experienced runners?

The list includes marathons that cater to a range of abilities, from beginners to seasoned runners. Each marathon has its unique challenges. Some can be finished even by children, while others require commendable training to finish.

What time of the year do these marathons take place?

The marathons listed occur at different times throughout the year. Specific dates can change from year to year, so it's best to check the official sites for the most up-to-date information.

Aug 10th 2023 Run United


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