Home » Travel Inspiration » 10 Best marathons in the world (that travellers will love!)

10 Best marathons in the world (that travellers will love!)

Female athletes running in a group over Tower Bridge in the London Marathon
Photo credit: Marco Verch

10 Best marathons in the world (that travellers will love!)

A few weeks after finishing my last half marathon, I was still buzzing about running 13.1 miles (after a full pandemic sat on my backside!), when I started to think about what was next.

Naturally the answer was a full marathon and that got me thinking, where would be cool to do a marathon? I love travel, I love running…*interlocks fingers with a sly grin* why not look into the best marathons in the world?

So, prepare to get inspired and put on those running shoes because we’re going global running travel junkies!

Here are the 10 best marathons in the world that travellers will love.


1) Berlin Marathon

For anyone that knows me or has followed Footsteps on the Globe for a while, you’ll know that I have a real soft spot for Berlin. So when I found out there was a world-famous marathon that took place here every year (that somehow I didn’t know about!) I had to add it to this list.

There are so many marathons that take place in fabulous cities around the world but sometimes you don’t really get to see anything as you’re running. But is certainly not the case with the Berlin Marathon!

The race starts and ends at the iconic Brandenburg Gate and takes you on a course past some of the cities most famous landmarks. These include: the Reichstag (the seat of German parliament), the Siegessäule (the Victory Column), Tiergarten and the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz.

The legend that is Eliud Kipchoge (and one of my personal running heroes!) smashed the marathon world record in Berlin by finishing in two hours, one minute and 39 seconds!! The guy is a machine.

If you want to find out more about Eliud Kipchoge, check out the documentary, “Breaking 2” by the National Geographic. They test if it’s physically possible to run a marathon in under 2 hours and it’s such a good watch.

I also couldn’t recommend Berlin enough for a cheeky city break, it is the most incredible city!

Check out my 12 awesome things to do in Berlin post or video to help you plan your itinerary.

Runners passing through the Brandenburg gate in Berlin Marathon
Photo credit: Nicki Dugan Pogue

2) Walt Disney World Marathon

Ever wondered what it’s like to run in the happiest place on Earth? Well friends, you can actually run a marathon in Walt Disney World in Florida with all your favourite characters in tow!

No matter what your skill level, you’ll be a part of a community of Disney-lovers that will make the run really special.

Through the 26.2 mile course you’ll run through all four of the Walt Disney World theme parks and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with Disney’s most beloved characters cheering you on. What could be better?

If you want to take it up a notch, you can join many other runners by completing the marathon in costume. Check out Russell and Kevin the bird from Disney’s ‘Up’ below, so cute!

Two runners as Kevin and Russell from Disney-Pixar "Up" during the Disney Marathon
Photo credit: Steven Miller

3) New York City Marathon

One of the world’s most famous marathons, the New York City Marathon, tops most lists for best marathons in the world.

Starting at Staten Island and finishing in Central Park you will have the privilege of running your way through New York’s five historic boroughs, Staten Island, Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The New York City Marathon is a favourite amongst runners and for good reason, it’s one of the greatest cities in the world!

The marathon has also got a long standing history, celebrating its 60th year in 2018.

If you’re looking for inspiration on what to see and do whilst you’re visiting, here is a weekend itinerary to get you started.

Scenes from Staten Island side of TCS NYC Marathon
Photo credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

4) London Marathon

Iconic marathon. Iconic city. Top marathon goals right there. Founded in 1981 by a former Olympic champion and inspired by the New York Marathon, London has become the Mecca for runners around the world not just in the UK.

Runners have the joy of passing by some of London’s most famous landmarks including, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament before finishing at Buckingham Palace.

I think London is an extra special place for female runners too because it’s where our own running champion, Paula Radcliffe smashed the fastest female marathon time by finishing in 2 hours 15 minutes back in 2003.

Paula Radcliffe is a personal running hero of mine and even though no one has even been close to beating her time, she has given the London Marathon some major kudos!

If you’re sticking around London afterwards (and I highly recommend it as it’s one of the best cities on Earth!), here are 30 free things to do in London to get you started.

Photo credit: Marco Verch

5) Antarctica Ice Marathon

The Antarctica Ice Marathon is not one for the faint-hearted. It takes place 80 degrees South, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole with an average windchill temperature of -20C.

This is extreme marathoning at its best. Not even penguins live this far south!

Due to the nature of this marathon, preparation takes place across three days. Runners are flown by private jet from Punta Arenas in Chile to the marathon destination at Union Glacier the day before and flown back the day after.

It’s not a cheap endeavour costing a whopping €15,000 to take part. But what an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience and a chance to cross the seventh continent off your bucket list!

Just a heads up, there is also a half marathon you can do instead if you’d rather have the experience but without so much of the distance!

Two people standing on snow field in Antarctica with snow capped mountains in the background

6) The Great Wall Marathon

The Great Wall Marathon is a true feat of endurance. As well as the challenge of running 26.2 miles, you’ll be climbing 5,163 steps along the way. Yikes!

But, and this is a BIG but (and I cannot lie – heh), no other marathon offers a backdrop as stunning as the Great Wall Marathon.

The route leads runners through the lower valley and into the villages where people are cheering and the festive atmosphere gives you a real energy boost.

This is also a great opportunity to knock the Great Wall of China off your bucket list as well!

People walking on the Great Wall of China with mountains in the background

7) Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon

You wouldn’t have thought that a place so well-known for partying, drinking and gambling would also be home to one of the oldest marathons in the US, let alone of the best marathons in the world, but it is!

To be fair, if anywhere is going to make a gruelling 26.2 mile run fun, it’s Vegas baby!

The race starts on Las Vegas Boulevard at 4.30pm and you make your way down the strip amongst running Elvis’s and showgirls into downtown Vegas.

At mile 10 you’ll pass through the world-famous Fremont Street before heading back towards the strip to finish at The Mirage.

As it is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, you’ll also get to enjoy stands dotted around the course blasting party tunes to keep your spirits up along with the cheering crowds.

Plus, there is nowhere better to be post-marathon than Las Vegas. Sit by the pool, order some cocktails, do a bit of gambling, see a show…it’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy yourself afterwards!

Las Vegas runners next to the strip
Photo credit: Travis Wise

8) The Big 5 Marathon

Dubbed ‘the wildest of the them all’. The Big 5 Marathon in South Africa offers runners the unique experience of running alongside Africa’s ‘Big 5’: elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. But it’s not just the ‘Big 5’ that you’ll see along the way, it’s also, zebras, giraffes, antelopes and tonnes of other animals!

Held at the Entabeni Game Reserve, you’ll run alongside the African wildlife with no fences or rivers separating you from the animals.

It’s a truly unique marathon experience and a chance to have the Lion King running party you thought you’d never have!

Giraffe in the South African desert

9) Tokyo Marathon

Another one of the world’s greatest cities to grace this list, Tokyo!

What’s so special about Tokyo Marathon is how much you get a feel for the city and Japanese culture whilst running. This is why unfortunately only 1 in 10 people out of the average 300,000 who apply are picked to take part!

Starting at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in the heart of Tokyo you’ll pass by the famous Shinjuku Station (the busiest in the world), Akihabara (the anime and manga capital of the world) and Asakusa where you’ll swap skyscrapers for traditional Japanese temples.

After passing by Asakusa, you will get the chance to see the Tokyo Skytree (the tallest building in Japan) as well as Tokyo Tower before heading towards the finishing line at the incredible Imperial Palace.

The Tokyo Marathon boasts some of the best cheering crowds in the marathon world. There is also traditional performances organised to keep you entertained throughout.

10) Athens Marathon

And of course, how could I leave off where marathoning began, Athens!

What’s especially cool about the Athens Marathon is that it follows the same route as the famous messenger, Pheidippides who first ran 26.2 miles to deliver news of the Greeks’ victory over the Persians in 490 BC.

Despite being known as one of Athens’ greatest runners, Pheidippides unfortunately collapsed and died of exhaustion at the end of his marathon (sorry bit morbid!).

However his achievement didn’t go unrecognised as his determination inspired one of the most popular sporting events of the modern age!

The course starts at Marathon (geddit?) and follows the coastline down to Sparta and through the beautiful Pendeli mountains before finishing in Athens. A cheering crowd greets runners in the Panathinaiko stadium for a hero’s finish.

Athens Marathon finish line in the Panathinaiko stadium
Photo credit: Kostas Limitsios

Which of course would you pick from this list of best marathons in the world? Are there any other awesome marathons from around the world that you think are missing? Let me know in the comments! 😃

About the author

Hi, I’m Mel! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!