These marathons aren’t just about the race to the finish, you’ll be getting an eyeful of cultural, historical, and natural sights. From high-altitude conditions in Peru to below freezing temperatures in Antarctica, challenge yourself to a unique run in any of the best marathons in the world. Your marathon bucket-list just got longer!
Islandsbanki Reykjavik Marathon – Reykjavik, Iceland
Starting in 1984, the Islandsbanki Reykjavik Marathon has coincided every year with the city’s Culture Night Festival, making it an excellent time to visit the Icelandic capital. It’s a full day festival of live theater, music, art, and food that offers a unique insight into contemporary Icelandic culture.
The route of the marathon offers excellent views of the sea and mountains, as well as taking participants past some noteworthy landmarks, such as Höfði House where Gorbachev and Reagan met for a summit in 1986. So get training, and don’t miss your chance to take part in one of the northernmost marathons in the world!
Date: August 20, 2016
Vodafone Istanbul Marathon – Istanbul, Turkey
Since 1978, Istanbul has been organizing the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, uniting Europe and Asia through sweat and sporty fun. The race is launched across the Bosphorous Bridge, above the Bosphorous Sea, for a 6.2, 9.3, or 26 mile run through the city.
All runners finish their race with the greatest prizes of all: a view of the Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque, situated in the UNESCO Historic Areas of Istanbul.
If your legs can carry you, take a stroll through Fener district and get lost between the colorful steep streets. A well-deserved Turkish coffee break awaits at Café Fener. For those who prefer to relax and recuperate, the renovated Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami built in 1578 as a mosque and school complex is the perfect hammam experience for spoiling the body and enriching the mind.
Date: November 13, 2016
Jungfrau Marathon – Interlaken, Switzerland
Starting in Interlaken in central Switzerland and finishing half way up the Jungfrau mountain range at 6,800 feet above sea level, the Jungfrau Marathon has some of the most spectacular views around. Needless to say, it’s a particularly demanding route due to the incline, but if you’re a fan of mountain scenery, it will be more than worth it.
Coming to Switzerland in September is also a great time to experience the country without the bulk of the summer tourists, but still a high likelihood of excellent weather for other outdoor pursuits. Don’t miss the opportunity to take in some of the most scenic train rides in the world while in Switzerland: the Glacier Express is particularly worthwhile.
Date: September 10, 2016
BMW Berlin Marathon – Berlin, Germany
The course of the BMW Berlin Marathon is designed to really show off the German capital and its many and varied neighborhoods. Passing through some of the best-known areas including Mitte and Kreuzberg, you’ll see some great sights including the Reichstag and the TV Tower.
Don’t leave Berlin without visiting the Berlin Wall Memorial to understand the impact the wall had on Berliners, as well as the East Side Gallery to visit the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, now covered in messages of peace and unity.
Date: September 25, 2016
Sightseeing after the run? Download our free city guide app for Berlin, momondo places, directly to your iPhone
TCS Amsterdam Marathon – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Taking runners on a scenic route through the Dutch capital, the TCS Amsterdam Marathon begins and ends at the historical Olympic stadium (originally built for the 1928 Summer Olympic Games) while passing by the Rijksmuseum, Vondelpark and along the Amstel River. You’ll also get glimpses of stately manors, several Dutch windmills and some typical rural scenes on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
October may be the perfect time to visit Amsterdam, as peak season is over, and the orange leaves reflecting on the canals make for a postcard-perfect backdrop. It’s also a time of many cultural events including the Klik! Animation Festival and Afrovibes Festival to name a few.
Date: October 16, 2016
Sightseeing after the run? Download our free city guide app for Amsterdam, momondo places, directly to your iPhone
Venicemarathon – Venice, Italy
Beginning in the small town of Stra, the Venicemarathon first takes runners through a scenic riverside area full of picturesque 18th century mansions. The route continues east before crossing the bridge to Venice Island for the final few memorable miles taking in sights such as Piazza San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, and the Grand Canal.
October is also a great time to visit Venice for the food. It’s when restaurants start changing their menus to serve traditional Veneto autumn fare, with dishes including pumpkin, artichokes, and wild duck from the surrounding lagoon. It’s also the best time of the year to try some torbolino, a cloudy, fermenting, fresh wine that is best accompanied by a plate of roasted chestnuts.
Date: October 23, 2016
Athens Marathon – Athens, Greece
The Athens Marathon is one of the most popular city marathons in the world. According to legend, the messenger, Pheidippides of Ancient Greece ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory over the invading Persian army.
Nowadays, since so many runners take part, it has nine different starts, and takes participants past some of the most impressive ancient sights of the city, ending at the marble Panathenaic Stadium. A visit to Athens is also the perfect opportunity to delve into history and see some of the most noteworthy ancient Greek structures, such as the Acropolis, Parthenon, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
Date: November 13, 2016
Standard Chartered Bangkok Marathon – Bangkok, Thailand
The Bangkok Marathon takes place during the early hours of the morning to avoid the scorching midday sun in the Thai capital. Nonetheless, departure at 1am hardly avoids the heat, with typical temperatures around 77°F. One other nice advantage of the night-time run is that you’ll get to see many of Bangkok’s historical landmarks lit up to dramatic effect, including the royal residences of Dusit Palace, the Grand Palace, and Wat Pho.
After you’ve completed the run, don’t leave the city without visiting a few of the sights up close like the impressive 17th century temple at Wat Arun by the Chao Phraya River, intricately decorated with porcelain. Other worthwhile experiences are having a traditional Thai massage and trying some authentic Bangkok street food in Chinatown, locally known as Yaowarat Road.
Date: November 20, 2016
Sightseeing after the run? Download our free city guide app for Bangkok, momondo places, directly to your iPhone
Antarctic Ice Marathon – Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica
In the foothills of the Ellsworth Mountain range, at an altitude of around 2200 feet above sea level, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole, the world’s southernmost Antarctic Ice Marathon takes place every November. It is not to be taken lightly, even though it happens during the Antarctic summer, temperatures average -4°F, including wind-chill (consider training in freezer if you can)!
To take part, you have to commit to the four-day itinerary, beginning by flying in from Punta Arenas, Chile on a private jet the day before the race. Runners should not expect to perform their best time as the wind this far south can be formidable.
Date: November 24, 2016
Antelope Canyon Ultra-Marathon – Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Being an ultra-marathon, this course is actually 52.8 miles long rather than the standard 26. It takes runners through two of the most photographed natural landmarks in the state: Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River. It finishes up in Page, a small town in northern Arizona originally built to house workers in the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.
About a 4-hour drive from Phoenix, this region is particularly interesting to visit to see remnants of Native American culture in the pueblo ruins of Wupatki and the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the USA. You can also visit another one of the most famous natural landmarks in the country: Monument Valley.
Date: February 25, 2017
Dead Sea Ultra Marathon – Amman, Jordan
The Dead Sea Marathon is unusual in that it is one of the only ultra-marathons in the world that is entirely downhill. With a route that starts on a road just to the east of the Dead Sea, and working its way down to the water’s edge, and the lowest point on earth, it offers some stunning and ever-changing views of the surrounding landscape.
Once you’ve completed the race, don’t forget to take a dip in the Dead Sea itself, where you can’t help but float due to its high salt concentration.
Date: April 8, 2017
Virgin Money London Marathon – London, United Kingdom
Starting in historical Greenwich in South East London and ending in Hyde Park in Central London, the Virgin Money London Marathon route takes runners past many of the most famous sights of the British capital. You’ll get up close to the Cutty Sark ship, the Tower of London, and Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
For some quintessential London experiences, try soaking up some culture in the many world-class museums, take a river cruise down the Thames, see a show in the West End, and have a curry dinner.
Date: April 23, 2017
Sightseeing after the run? Download our free city guide app for London, momondo places, directly to your iPhone
Rock n’ Roll Marathon – Madrid, Spain
Typically taking runners through many different districts of the Spanish capital, the course is redrawn each year, making it an interesting experience for new and returning participants, alike. On the way, you’ll pass some of Madrid’s most famous sights such as Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and finishing in the lush, green Buen Retiro Park.
At the same time as the marathon is taking place, there are live music events going on throughout the city along the course of the run to help motivate runners and also entertain spectators. The Rock n’ Roll Marathon is a worldwide series, so if you’re up to it you can buy a pass to run in the other 29 cities like Montréal, Dublin, or Las Vegas.
Date: April 23, 2017
Great Wall Marathon – Tianjin Province, China
Find your center and embark on the epic Great Wall Marathon. Along the renovated Huanyaguan section of the Great Wall, you can expect dramatic uphill and downhill peaks as you run through rolling green hillside. The race kicks off at the Yin and Yang square in Huangyaguan fortress.
The challenge of following the fortress walls, up and down 5,164 steps, is rewarded by the cheers of the inhabitants in the villages you’ll cross.
Combine your run with a day trip to Beijing, 3 hours away. Check out the Forbidden City and be faced with a whole new challenge: the city’s thick smog. Plow through the thick air and a few (more) steps if you’re keen on visiting the Temple of Heaven Park, with its Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.
Date: May 20, 2017
Marathon de la Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel – Cancale, France
One of the best spring marathons starts at Cancale and takes runners along the coast of Brittany towards the abbey atop Mont-Saint-Michel. Because of the shape of the coastline and wide open landscape, it is one of the only marathons in the world where you can see the finish line before even starting.
After the race, make sure to take advantage of the culinary offerings of the region, specifically the oysters. The 6th century town of Cancale is known as the oyster capital of France, and it is the perfect place to relax while watching the fishing boats bob up and down at high tide.
Date: May 2017 (date TBC)
Inca Trail Marathon & Inca Trail Classic 30k – Machu Picchu, Peru
Actually consisting of two runs that both finish at Machu Picchu, choose from two equally challenging opportunities to see one of the world’s Seven Wonders. The Inca Trail Marathon is one of the highest altitude marathons in the world. Running at almost 8,200 feet above sea level will likely take its toll on your body, so be sure to allow a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude before starting the marathon – a great excuse to discover the Inca city of Cuzco.
Date: June 8, 2017 or August 10, 2017
Read more: soak in the most beautiful sunrises in the world including Machu Picchu
Midnight Sun Marathon – Tromsø, Norway
The very northernmost marathon in the world, the Midnight Sun Marathon, takes place every year in the Norwegian Arctic city of Tromsø. On this picturesque route, the marathon will lead you over the Tromsø Bridge and past the angular Arctic Cathedral. The event starts at 8.30pm, but don’t be fooled, although you’re running at night you’ll be bathed in never-setting sun.
Date: June 17, 2017
Big Five Marathon – Entabeni Game Reserve, South Africa
Ever imagined running on red sand paths through the South African savannah, alongside some of Africa’s most sought for animals? You can during the Big Five Marathon.
The Big Five animals, known as lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo, are only some of the great things you might see all the while speeding through the Entabeni Reserve near Johannesburg. Among the safety of park rangers, catch your breath and enjoy the backdrop of endless plains and the Entabeni monolith.
Date: June 24, 2017