Bucket List Marathons: Top Picks for Unforgettable Races

Creating a list of bucket list marathons is a unique mix of personal desire and running aspirations. From the famous marathons in major cities to some of the world’s most breathtaking locations, these bucket list races are events many runners dream of participating in at least once. Get ready to be inspired as we explore a variety of unforgettable marathons.

Top Marathons in the World

These prestigious races are known for their record-breaking performances and vast numbers of runners who annually check marathon distance at these events.

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, attracting elite athletes and participants from around the globe. With a rich history and challenging course, this race is a must on any serious runner’s bucket list.

New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon

As one of the largest marathons globally, the New York City Marathon allows runners to pass through all five boroughs of the city while giving spectators an unmatched atmosphere. The route’s support and energy make this marathon an unparalleled experience.

London Marathon

London Marathon

The London Marathon showcases many iconic sites within the city. Participants soak in the historic landmarks and strong crowd support, making it a favorite among both amateur and professional runners.

Berlin Marathon

Berlin Marathon

Known for its flat and fast course, the Berlin Marathon attracts a diverse field of local and international participants. This race gives runners the chance to set personal records and compete in a world-class marathon.

Tokyo Marathon

Tokyo Marathon

Tokyo Marathon, one of the world’s top six marathons, boasts a phenomenally organized race with incredible crowd support. The course winds through the bustling city, providing a unique blend of cultural and historical landmarks.

Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon

Taking place in the fall, the Chicago Marathon’s flat course takes participants through 29 neighborhoods, exhibiting the city’s vast diversity while enjoying buoyant crowd support.

Marine Corps Marathon

Celebrating military service members, the Marine Corps Marathon, nicknamed “The People’s Marathon,” is the ideal event for amateur runners to honor and support U.S. troops.

Most Scenic Bucket List Marathons

These breathtaking scenic running routes provide unforgettable racing experiences.

Great Wall Marathon, China

A true test of endurance, the Great Wall Marathon challenges runners to tackle the ancient structure, navigating steep ascents, descents, and thousands of steps.

Big Sur International Marathon, USA

Running along California’s coastline, the Big Sur International Marathon offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, rocky cliffs, and vibrant wildflowers.

Jungfrau Marathon, Switzerland

Set against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps, the Jungfrau Marathon features picturesque mountain views and a challenging course with significant elevation gain.

Loch Ness Marathon, Scotland

Dotted with historic castles and offering the chance to spot the elusive Nessie, the Loch Ness Marathon takes runners through incredible landscapes along the shores of the famous lake.

Patagonian International Marathon, Chile

The Patagonian International Marathon offers a challenging course in the remote wilderness of Torres del Paine National Park, providing runners with breathtaking views of glaciers, forests, and lakes.

Most Challenging Bucket List Marathons

For runners seeking unique challenges and experiences, these top global marathons truly push the limits.

Badwater Ultramarathon, USA

The Badwater Ultramarathon, dubbed the “World’s Toughest Foot Race,” takes participants through 135 miles of harsh desert, starting at Death Valley and ending at Mount Whitney.

North Pole Marathon, Arctic

Running a marathon at the top of the world, the North Pole Marathon provides a once-in-a-lifetime adventure where athletes face freezing temperatures and challenging terrain on this remote ice course.

Antarctic Ice Marathon, Antarctica

Run in one of the most isolated and unforgiving environments, the Antarctic Ice Marathon challenges runners to conquer the continent’s icy and windy conditions.

Marathon des Sables, Morocco

Covering 250 kilometers across the Sahara Desert, the Marathon des Sables is considered one of the most grueling multiday ultramarathons globally.

Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, Nepal

Starting near the Everest Base Camp, the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon is a high-altitude race that tests endurance while providing runners with unforgettable Himalayan views.

Night Run Marathons

For a unique running experience under the cover of darkness or below the midnight sun, night run marathons offer a change of pace.

Midnight Sun Marathon, Norway

Taking place in the Arctic Circle, the Midnight Sun Marathon allows participants to run beneath the midnight sun in summertime, providing a stunning backdrop for a unique running experience.

Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, Australia

Featuring illuminated routes through Sydney’s iconic harbor, this event provides participants with an opportunity to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and nighttime city views.

Wings for Life World Run

This global event differs from traditional marathons, as participants begin running simultaneously worldwide, being chased by a moving finish line until they are caught.

Ragnar Relay Series

The Ragnar Relay series offers overnight and multi-day team relays, where teams of 12 take turns running through the night in diverse locations worldwide.

Unique Cultural Experience Marathons

These various marathons delight runners with unique cultural experiences during their race.

Medellín Flower Fair Marathon, Colombia

Winding through Colombia’s second-largest city, runners are treated to vibrant displays of colorful flowers and enchanting cultural experiences during this race.

Great Ethiopian Run, Ethiopia

Dive into the birthplace of long-distance running with the Great Ethiopian Run, where participants experience the energetic atmosphere and embrace the local running culture.

Rio de Janeiro Marathon, Brazil

Absorb the vibrant Brazilian culture while running along the stunning coastline of Rio de Janeiro. This race treats participants to a scenic and lively experience.

Big Five Marathon, South Africa

The Big Five Marathon offers runners the chance to race through the African savannah among wildlife, showcasing incredible landscapes and unique encounters.

Pyongyang Marathon, North Korea

A rare opportunity for foreign participants, the Pyongyang Marathon offers an insight into the isolated nation while running through the capital city’s streets.

Tips for Running Your Bucket List Marathons

Maximize your race experience by preparing, training, and embracing mental strategies.

Planning and preparation

Thoroughly research the race, including registration, travel arrangements, and accommodation. Gather race-specific information to ensure a smooth experience.

Training and conditioning

Craft a tailored training program to prepare for the specific race conditions, whether it involves unique terrain, elevation change, or climate.

Mental strategies for big races

Develop mental resilience and strategies to help you stay focused and overcome challenges during your bucket list marathon.

Running gear and equipment

Invest in quality running gear, including footwear, apparel, and accessories. Ensure your equipment is suited for the race’s specific conditions and climate.

Comparison of Top Marathons in the World

MarathonLocationTime of YearDescription
Boston MarathonBoston, Massachusetts, USAAprilThe world’s oldest annual marathon with a rich history and challenging course.
New York City MarathonNew York City, New York, USANovemberA large-scale marathon that brings runners through all five NYC boroughs, featuring unmatched support and energy.
London MarathonLondon, England, UKAprilA race that showcases iconic sites within London, and a favorite among amateurs and professionals for its strong crowd support.
Berlin MarathonBerlin, GermanySeptemberA flat and fast course, attracting a diverse field of local and international participants, and offering opportunities to set personal records.
Tokyo MarathonTokyo, JapanMarchOne of the top six marathons in the world, featuring a course winding through the city with a unique blend of cultural and historical landmarks.
Chicago MarathonChicago, Illinois, USAOctoberA fall marathon with a flat course running through 29 Chicago neighborhoods, showcasing the city’s diversity and energetic crowd support.
Marine Corps MarathonWashington D.C., USAOctoberA marathon celebrating military service members, also known as “The People’s Marathon,” perfect for amateur runners who wish to honor and support U.S. troops.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose the right marathon for my bucket list?

Consider personal preferences, such as terrain, scenery, climate, or cultural experiences. Assess your running capabilities and adjust your training plan accordingly.

What is the average cost of running a bucket list marathon?

The cost varies depending on the race, travel, and accommodation expenses. Some marathons are more expensive, while others offer more affordable options.

How should I train for a challenging, scenic, or international marathon?

Build a customized training plan accounting for factors such as terrain, elevation, and weather conditions specific to the event.

How can I improve my marathon performance?

Incorporate speed and interval workouts, increase weekly mileage, cross-train, and develop mental strategies to help overcome challenges during the race.


Bucket list marathons offer unforgettable racing experiences, enabling participants to achieve personal goals, explore new locales, and immerse themselves in unique cultures. With the right preparation and training, every runner can make the most of these incredible races and create memories that last a lifetime.