The World’s Best Marathons

IMPACT Magazine's bucket-list worthy events from around the globe.

Whether you’re trying to get a personal best, want a tropical experience or love running in the mountains, there is a marathon out there for you. Now is a good time to make plans for the upcoming year and to start training! And if a marathon isn’t your thing, nearly all the races listed below offer shorter distance races too. So – start dreaming and get running!

Historic Sites

A difficult but once-in-a-lifetime race along the undulating Great Wall of China, this marathon winds its way on and off the wall and through local villages. Expect to climb up and down steps, enjoy scenic views and experience this historic monument in a totally unique way.

Great Wall Marathon
Huangya Pass, China

Tropical Paradise

Ocean views, tropical breezes and palm trees await you on this marathon route in Kauai. Beginning in Poipu, a resort area on the sunny south shore, the route takes you along the coastline and inland where you’ll have a backdrop of rugged mountains and tropical rainforests.

Kauai Marathon
Poipu, Kauai

*The Kauai Marathon was also recently mentioned as one of the 10 best half marathons to run in the U.S. by

Kaui Marathon


Run through the Entabeni Game Reserve accompanied by herds of antelope, grazing giraffes or trumpeting elephants! With a couple of big hills and surfaces ranging from deep sand to pavement, this race is not for the faint hearted. But the magnificent scenery and amazing wildlife are sure to take your run to another dimension. The 2019 race is sold out.

Big Five Marathon
Limpopo, South Africa

Wine Lovers

It may be the longest eating and drinking race in the world with over 20 places along the marathon route to stop for wine tasting and delicacies including, grapes and ice cream. The course takes you through more than 50 scenic vineyards around the Medoc region and participants are required to run in costume which just adds to the fun.

Marathon du Medoc
Bordeaux, France


Run the same course that Phiedippides took when he ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens with word of victory 2,500 years ago. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, maybe running in the footsteps of ancient gods and heros will! This is a difficult race with a long uphill section that flattens out for the finish at the Panathenaic Stadium, site of the original Olympic Games.

Athens Authentic Marathon

All Canadian

If you don’t feel like travelling too far, there are numerous marathons right here at home that will satisfy your need to complete the distance. In Vancouver you’ll run past beaches, parks and along the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront path. The Calgary Marathon route circles through downtown and scenic southwest neighbourhoods. And in Toronto, enjoy the maritime views of the inner harbour and Lake Ontario waterfront.

Vancouver BMO Marathon
Vancouver, BC

Scotiabank Calgary Marathon
Calgary, AB

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Toronto, ON

Flat & Fast

A flat course often leads to a fast time and if you’re trying for a personal best, find a course without a lot of elevation change! These two are great choices if you want to try a marathon in Europe.

The Rotterdam Marathon circles through the city and past some of its stunning, cutting edge architecture. Enthusiastic crowds add to the excitement along with bands, DJ’s and orchestras to encourage you.

In Edinburgh you’ll go from the grounds of one of the oldest universities in the world past Musselburgh Links, the oldest golf course in the world and through the heart of this most Scottish of cities. With the iconic Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop for part of the race, you’ll see some of the most historic sites in the city and perhaps make a bit of history yourself!

NN Rotterdam Marathon
Rotterdam, NL

Edinburgh Marathon
Edinburgh, Scotland

Cross Borders

Starting in Germany, this marathon route will take you into Austria and Switzerland before circling back to Austria at Bregenz. The route starts at the beautiful spa town of Lindau, Germany and takes you along the shoreline of Lake Constance. Enjoy enchanting villages and white-capped mountains along the way.

Skarkasse 3-Länder Marathon


With an elevation gain/loss of more than 7,430 ft. (2,264 m), this race is extremely challenging. Long climbs and descents will push your limits physically and mentally. The course begins in Roanoke then takes you out into the surrounding mountains along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. The marathon is limited to 750 runners so sign up fast if you think you have the legs for it.

Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon
Roanoke, Virginia


If you want to be part of a huge spectacle, the New York Marathon is for you! It holds the record as the marathon with the most finishers –52,811 in 2018. You’ll be cheered on by more than 2 million New Yorkers along the route and watched by an additional 300 million on the live broadcast. Beyond the numbers, you’ll get a great look at the city as you start on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on Staten Island and then run through all five boroughs before crossing the finish line in iconic Central Park.

TCS New York City Marathon
New York, NY


What better way to see the iconic sights of London than by running through the city? Beginning at Blackheath and finishing on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, this mainly flat course will see you pass through Greenwich Park, run across Tower and London Bridges and head along the Embankment to Parliament Square. There’s literally a piece of history to see along every inch of the route.

Virgin Money London Marathon
London, England


With an elevation change of only 74 feet, the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon, offers runners a scenic route along the ocean with a few gentle hills. You’ll run through famous Beacon Hill Park, pass the B.C. parliament buildings and enjoy views across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains of Washington.

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon
Victoria, BC

For Fun

You can’t beat Disney parks for fun and entertainment and this race is no different. The course winds through several theme parks including the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios with Disney characters cheering you on throughout.

Walt Disney World Marathon
Orlando, FL

Experiencing a Top Six Race – The Abbot World Marathon Majors

(Tokyo, Chicago, London, Berlin, New York, Boston)

If you don’t have a qualifying time, getting into a top six marathon is by a lottery system. You can get a qualifying time at virtually any marathon as long as the course is certified by that country’s athletic federation. Here are a few choices:

Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope
Hamilton, ON

Prince Edward Island Marathon
Charlottetown, PEI

Missoula Marathon
Missoula, MT

Natural Scenery

Enjoy spectacular fall colours as you run along the Columbia River Gorge. The route passes by waterfalls, slips through the small town of Mosier and offers a fantastic view at the Rowena Viewpoint turnaround.

Columbia Gorge Marathon
Hood River, Oregon

Mountain Landscapes

To get your fill of fantastic mountain scenery, you can’t beat this marathon. Your race begins in the mountain village of Banff and takes you on an incredibly beautiful journey through amazing natural landscapes. You’ll pass Vermillion Lakes and travel along the scenic Bow River returning to cheering crowds in downtown Banff.

Banff Marathon
Banff, AB

Water Views

For one of the most scenic marathons in the world, try this point-to-point course along Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel. Spectacular scenery including crashing waves and towering redwoods will be a welcome distraction from the distance you have to cover! This race has a limited number of entries and the 2020 event is already on sale.

Big Sur Marathon
Big Sur, California

Trail Running

This primarily flat course features 70 per cent hard packed trails and 30 per cent paved surfaces. You’ll pass through the stunning Lake District surrounding Queenstown with a backdrop of majestic mountains and pastoral countryside.

Queenstown International Marathon
Queenstown, New Zealand

Night Running

Starting at 8:30 p.m., this race is for night owls! But don’t worry about bringing a headlamp – the sun will be up almost all night at this northern latitude. Located above the Arctic Circle, Tromso is a popular place to view the Northern Lights. Expect a scenic route through the city with rolling hills.

Midnight Sun Marathon
Tromso, Norway

Extreme Adventure

Cap off a week-long high arctic adventure with a spectacular marathon that follows the rugged coastline then turns inland over the tundra. Wildlife, including arctic foxes, musk ox and polar bears may be seen from the route. To get here, you’ll fly-in from Yellowknife to the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, 800 km north of the Arctic Circle on Somerset Island. *Despite a hefty price tag of nearly $16,000, this race is popular and is already sold-out for 2019.

Northwest Passage Marathon

Highest Altitude

Plan to arrive at least a week ahead to acclimatize before running this marathon at 3,500m above sea level. Known as one of the world’s toughest marathons due to the altitude, this race is not for beginners. The route begins in the historic town of Leh, then heads out along the Indus River and past several monasteries, churches and even a palace. With the Stok mountain range as a backdrop, this race is as scenic as it is challenging.

Ladahk Marathon
Leh, India

Pasta Party

Good vibes, reggae music and an unbeatable pre-race pasta party make this marathon a standout. A gigantic spread of every kind of pasta plus other carbs will fuel your muscles through the marathon and beyond.

Jamaica Reggae Marathon
Negril, Jamaica

Giving Back

Before arriving, runners in this marathon raise money for specific local charities and then meet the people they are helping upon arrival in Masaka. The race fee also enables 15 local youth runners to participate in the race. In addition, you’ll take daily language lessons, help organize a kids sports day and have the opportunity to see Uganda’s wildlife including mountain gorillas, elephants and rhinos.

Uganda Marathon
Masaka, Uganda

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