Top 20: Destination Marathons

Running a marathon is considered one of the biggest endurance tests you can give your body. If you are going to take the time to put your body through the hours of training it takes to get into marathon shape, then you might as well make the light at the end of the tunnel a memorable one. Although there are marathons taking place throughout the world, a few stand out as especially memorable because of where they are located and what landmarks runners will be passing over, next to or through. Having thoughts of running your marathon in one of these places while on your training runs will cause those miles to fly by.

20. Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

This marathon has a little more somber feel to it as those running are doing so to remember those who died in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. However, running for a greater cause often helps drive runners during the long training months that precede the big race. This race was formed to commemorate the bombing and to help raise money for the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the sole beneficiary of the marathon’s proceeds. The race start, adjacent to the National Memorial, is about as breathtaking as it gets.

19. Honolulu Marathon

Many think of Hawaii when they are considering places to travel to for vacation, and the beautiful islands serve as the perfect imagery to have when going on those long 20-mile runs. This marathon is also perfect for those who may live in colder climates as it takes place every December. In fact, it is so warm on race day that its start time of 5 a.m. is purposefully made that early to allow the runners to beat as much of the daytime heat as possible. A little more than half of the event’s 30,000 runners are from Japan. The course includes some pretty spectacular ocean views.

18. Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon

Runners who want to take part of the spirit that is Mardi Gras head to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon every February. Although the event normally takes place a few weeks from the date that Mardi Gras falls on, the spirit of the event is all Mardi Gras, and many runners dress the part. As is normal for a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, there are bands that perform rock, jazz, blues and other types of music throughout the course. The race course takes runners by the French Quarter and other New Orleans sights.

17. Midnight Sun Marathon

The Midnight Sun Marathon is a destination race more for the uniqueness of running a major marathon in the bright midnight sun. It takes place in Tromso, Norway, 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This international race welcomes runners from more than 50 countries every year. The marathon starts at 10:30 p.m., ensuring that even the world’s fastest runners will still be on the course when midnight hits. The marathon is also the northernmost to be certified by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.

16. Los Angeles Marathon

Once the Los Angeles Marathon changed its course in 2010, this event became even more of a destination race. Runners on this “Stadium to the Sea” course start at Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and finish at the beautiful Santa Monica Pier. More than 26,000 runners ran the Los Angeles Marathon in 2010. The event was inspired by the 1984 Summer Olympics that took place in the city, and the race has been held on an annual basis since 1986. Some of the course’s highlights include Chinatown, Rodeo Drive and six miles of running on Historic Route 66.

15. Lake Tahoe Marathon

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful natural sights in the world, and many travel from near and far to run in the Lake Tahoe Marathon. In fact, the weekend is comprised of three marathons as the Emerald Bay Marathon takes place on Friday of that weekend, and the Cal-Neva Marathon is held on Saturday. The Lake Tahoe Marathon is held on Sunday and is one of the highest in the world. Its start and finish lines are both at about 6,200 feet above sea level. The race’s views are especially stunning about 20 miles into the race.

14. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Visitors travel to Sin City from throughout the world to gamble and party. However, the opportunity to run a marathon down the Strip only comes around once a year. This race is held in November or December every year and takes runners from near Mandalay Bay and the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign even further south for about a mile before the course heads north until it hits the 10-mile mark just past downtown. Miles 22-26 also take place on Las Vegas Boulevard from downtown to near Treasure Island Hotel and Casino.

13. Loch Ness Marathon

Do you want to keep an eye out for Nessie while running 26 miles? Do you think the idea of a monster in Loch Ness is ridiculous but you simply want to enjoy one of the most beautiful races in the world? Either way, the Loch Ness Marathon may be perfect for you. It starts southwest of Inverness, Scotland, between Foyers and Fort Augustus and takes runners to and along the eastern shore of Loch Ness. The finish line is at Bught Park in Inverness, a city that is the perfect place to stay when spending time exploring the beautiful Highlands.

12. Walt Disney World Marathon

There is always a piece of us that enjoys watching Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and their escapades, right? Every January, you can dash through Cinderella Castle and enjoy Goofy and Price Charming cheering you on. Many runners run in their own costumes to get into the spirit. Although the race starts at 5:30 a.m., that early start time becomes well worth it when you enjoy the pre-race fireworks shows. Competitors also run in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The race’s end at Epcot has a cool international feel to it.

11. San Francisco Marathon

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic places in the world, and the San Francisco Marathon allows runners to run across it to Marin County and back between miles 5-10 of the race. However, simply being able to run across San Francisco is reason enough for many runners to make this their destination marathon. The first 11 miles are run near water, and much of miles 12-20 are run through beautiful Golden Gate Park. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, is located along the marathon route just past mile 25.

10. Paris Marathon

Speaking of iconic structures, not many top the Eiffel Tower. Those running the Paris Marathon pass by this structure as well as the Place de la Bastille and the Champs-Elysees. Runners from more than 100 countries regularly run this event. The first Paris Marathon was held in 1896 and consisted of 191 runners. Nowadays, a total of 37,000 runners traverse the streets of Paris every April. Although the city welcomes 28 million tourists every year, only a small percentage of those can say they enjoyed the city’s sights while running a marathon.

9. North Pole Marathon

The North Pole Marathon is unique in so many ways. Obviously, it is the northernmost marathon in the world. It is also the only race to be run entirely on water as the race takes place on ice atop the Arctic Ocean. The weather is also pretty extreme. The average temperature is about -17 degrees. However, it has gotten much colder than this. The conditions are so brutal that runners take a break every 2.9-mile lap to thaw out. You are also constantly on the move even when you think you are still. You are on a floating ice cap, after all.

8. Antarctic Ice Marathon

Maybe you want to do the pole double, the North Pole Marathon and the Antarctic Ice Marathon. The latter race was formed in 2006, and it allows runners a chance to run on the continent that contains the fewest marathons. It takes place at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, about 700 miles north of the South Pole. It is the only race to take place this close to the South Pole. If you run this, however, be prepared to do so with nobody lining the course cheering you on, people, penguins or otherwise.

7. Death Valley Marathon

Maybe heat is more your thing. However, you may be disappointed in the Death Valley Marathon if you are looking for heat. Unlike the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon held in Death Valley in July, this race takes place in February. During that time of year, temperatures can actually get into the 30s. However, the beauty of Death Valley and its incredible fauna and flora can be better appreciated in these more comfortable temperatures. A little more than 100 people take advantage of this cool race every year.

6. Big Sur Marathon

The scenery of the Big Sur Marathon keeps marathoners coming back year after year. The course is practically hugging the sea for the vast majority of its 26 miles. Breathtaking is a word that cannot be used too many times when describing this course. This marathon starts at beautiful Pfeiffer State Park about 26 miles south of Carmel, Calif., and ends in that city. The 2013 edition of this race sold out in 26 hours. If you are going to run just one marathon in your life, many recommend running this one.

5. Great Wall Marathon

The Great Wall of China is one of the most famous structures in the world. It was built about 2,000 years ago to protect China from intruders. Although its entire distance, including branches, has been measured at 13,000 miles, those taking part in the Great Wall Marathon have to run just 26 of those. Note that it is more challenging than most marathons as 5,000 stone steps make up part of the course. Running a course that has to be one of the world’s most historic is an unforgettable experience, however.

4. Everest Marathon

The Everest Marathon is another one for people who want extremes with their marathons. It is the world’s highest marathon as the start line is at an elevation of 17,000 feet, and the finish line is at 11,000 feet. The start line is located in Nepal near Everest Base Camp, the place many mountaineers utilize en route to the top of Mount Everest. This incredible race was first held in 1987. Runners spend 26 days acclimatizing to the altitude. Fifteen of those are spent traveling to the start line.

3. Athens Classic Marathon

Anybody with an appreciation for the history of the marathon will want to consider running the Athens Classic Marathon. This marathon course is based on the one that Pheidippides ran on his journey from the Battle of Marathon to Athens with news of a Greek victory. The course does in fact begin in Marathon, Greece, and it finishes at the Panathinaiko Stadium, a facility that dates more than 2,500 years and that played host to events at the 1896 and 2004 Summer Olympics.

2. New York City Marathon

Those running the New York City Marathon receive the cool opportunity to run in all five of the city’s boroughs. It is also one of the world’s largest as 45,000 regularly take part. However, many more would take part if they could as most runners have to be chosen by a lottery system in order to enter this race. The New York City Marathon starts in Staten Island where the runners immediately cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and head into Brooklyn. It ends in Central Park. The race was first held in 1970 when 127 runners ran loops in Central Park totaling 26 miles.

1. Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is considered by many as the most prestigious marathon in the world. In fact, the only way to enter this race is to qualify with an impressive time relative to your age or to enter as a charity runner. It was first held in 1897 as it was inspired by the marathon at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Greece. It is the world’s oldest marathon to take place on an annual basis. The race is held on Patriot’s Day, a holiday in New England, and 500,000 come out to cheer on the runners every year.