The allure of beautiful marathon scenery is just one more reason to compete in these challenging yet awe-inspiring races. Marathon running offers an opportunity to explore diverse landscapes, cultures, and terrains, adding an extraordinary element to your running journey. In this article, we’ll venture into 20 of the most beautiful marathons that are waiting for you to indulge in their picturesque paths.
Most Beautiful Marathons Worldwide
Standing out on the world stage, these incredible marathons traverse some of the globe’s most stunning landscapes, making them unmissable experiences for passionate runners.
Marathon des Sables, Morocco
Known as the ‘toughest footrace on Earth’, the Marathon des Sables takes place in the Moroccan Sahara Desert. This extraordinary 251-kilometer race spans over six days, challenging runners both physically and mentally as they traverse vast sand dunes, endure scorching heat, and experience the transcendent beauty of the desert landscape.
Great Wall Marathon, China
Set amidst one of the world’s greatest architectural wonders, the Great Wall Marathon offers runners an awe-inspiring journey through history. The challenging course ascends the ancient steps of the Great Wall, revealing panoramic views of the Chinese countryside, and rewards those who conquer the formidable 5,164 steps with immense satisfaction.
Big Sur International Marathon, USA
California’s Big Sur International Marathon has been described as the ultimate merging of beauty and challenge. The undulating course runs along the Pacific coastline, showcasing towering redwoods, rugged cliffs, and crashing waves, creating a multisensory experience for its participants. The race’s demanding, yet captivating landscape solidifies its reputation as one of the most beautiful marathons in the world.
Most Beautiful Marathons in Europe
Europe offers a diverse range of truly iconic marathons set amidst breathtaking scenery. Here are some of the top picks for the most beautiful marathons in Europe.
Jungfrau Marathon, Switzerland
Soaring peaks, glaciers, and lush alpine meadows define the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland. This mountainous race ascends over 5,960 feet through the heart of the Swiss Alps, taking runners from the picturesque town of Interlaken to the stunning Eiger Glacier. Its challenging route and world-class views make it an unforgettable experience.
Connemara Marathon, Ireland
The Connemara Marathon takes place on the beautiful West Coast of Ireland, showcasing spectacular Atlantic seascapes, isolated beaches, rugged mountains, and serene lakes. This captivating race embraces the spirit of the Irish countryside, providing an unforgettable running journey through the wild and beautiful landscapes that define the Emerald Isle.
Midnight Sun Marathon, Norway
Run under the magical light of the midnight sun, the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromsø, Norway, offers a truly unique and beautiful experience for its participants. The race begins at midnight during the long Arctic summer days, allowing runners to explore the Arctic landscapes under the enchanting glow of the sun as it hovers just above the horizon.
Most Beautiful Marathons in North America
From iconic cityscapes to remote wilderness, North America offers a diverse range of beautiful marathon opportunities for all types of runners.
New York City Marathon, USA
As one of the world’s largest marathons, the New York City Marathon takes runners on a thrilling 26.2-mile journey through all five boroughs of the city that never sleeps. This race showcases the unique energy, culture, and urban beauty of the Big Apple while providing a challenging course suitable for both beginners and experienced runners alike.
Vancouver Marathon, Canada
The Vancouver Marathon offers participants the chance to experience the natural beauty of Canada’s west coast. The race follows a scenic course that includes breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, dense forests, and the Pacific shoreline. This stunning route has helped secure the Vancouver Marathon’s position as one of the most beautiful marathons in North America.
Grand Canyon Marathon, USA
The Grand Canyon Marathon weaves through the majestic red rock landscapes of the American Southwest, offering participants stunning vistas of the geological marvel. Runners will traverse a mix of dirt and paved trails while being immersed in the picturesque panoramas that define this unforgettable race.
Most Beautiful Marathons in South America
South America boasts a wealth of natural beauty, from soaring mountain peaks to lush rainforests, making it an excellent destination for marathon runners seeking spectacular scenery.
Inca Trail Marathon, Peru
The Inca Trail Marathon in Peru takes runners on a challenging course through the stunning Andean Mountains. Participants follow ancient pathways, navigating steep ascents, and descents while passing by the awe-inspiring ruins of a lost civilization. This once-in-a-lifetime race culminates at the iconic Machu Picchu, rewarding runners with a breathtaking view of the ancient Inca citadel.
Patagonian International Marathon, Chile
Held in the Torres del Paine National Park, the Patagonian International Marathon showcases the wild beauty of Chile’s Patagonia region. Runners will traverse through magnificent landscapes filled with rugged mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and vast expanses of untouched wilderness. This race offers a truly unforgettable and beautiful experience for adventure runners.
Most Beautiful Marathons in Asia
Asia is home to some of the world’s most diverse and captivating landscapes, making it a prime destination for beautiful marathon experiences.
Bhutan International Marathon
The Bhutan International Marathon takes place in the Land of the Thunder Dragon, a Buddhist kingdom nestled in the Eastern Himalayas. Unspoiled landscapes, vibrant culture, and a serene aura make this marathon truly unique. Runners traverse rustic villages, rice fields, and lush forests as they immerse themselves in Bhutan’s natural and cultural beauty.
Mount Everest Marathon, Nepal
Deemed the world’s highest marathon, the Mount Everest Marathon in Nepal is both an astounding athletic challenge and a visual spectacle. Starting near Everest Base Camp, the course descends through the Sagarmatha National Park, offering breathtaking views of snow-capped Himalayan peaks, vibrant Sherpa settlements, and the rugged beauty of the landscape.
Most Beautiful Marathons in Africa
Africa’s diverse and wild landscapes provide runners with an extraordinary backdrop for a memorable and beautiful marathon experience.
Kilimanjaro Marathon, Tanzania
The Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania lets runners experience the majesty of Africa’s highest peak as they circle Mount Kilimanjaro’s base. The course follows paved roads and dirt tracks, offering stunning views of the mountain and surrounding Tanzanian landscapes, including acacia forests and local villages.
Victoria Falls Marathon, Zimbabwe
Situated at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls Marathon takes its runners past one of the world’s most iconic spectacles: the thundering Victoria Falls. The race meanders through national parks and charming local villages, offering a unique African running adventure with the chance to spot wildlife along the route.
Most Beautiful Marathons in Oceania
Oceania’s exceptional landscapes, from sunburnt deserts to lush rainforests, provide a striking setting for some truly beautiful marathons.
Australian Outback Marathon
The Australian Outback Marathon takes place in the heart of the vast, arid continent. With stunning views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, this race provides participants with an unforgettable experience amid the vibrant red sands, iconic spinifex grass, and ancient rock formations of Australia’s outback.
Queenstown Marathon, New Zealand
New Zealand’s Queenstown Marathon celebrates the stunning beauty of the South Island. The course winds through remarkable landscapes, such as Lake Wakatipu, the Shotover River, and the Crown Range Mountains. Runners feel embraced by New Zealand’s pristine wilderness as they experience one of the most beautiful marathons in the world.
Tips on Participating in Beautiful Marathons
When preparing to participate in a beautiful marathon, consider these essential tips to ensure a spectacular and memorable experience.
Training for a scenic marathon
Keep in mind that many scenic and beautiful marathons involve challenging terrains, such as elevation changes or uneven surfaces. Tailor your training plan to include hill work, trail runs, and core strength exercises to ensure you are well-prepared for race day.
Registering and planning your trip
Many of the world’s most beautiful marathons are held in remote locations or attract large crowds, which makes advanced planning crucial. Ensure you secure your entry, flight tickets, and accommodations as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Capturing the best moments of the race
Remember to bring a small, lightweight camera or phone to capture unforgettable moments and breathtaking vistas along the route. However, balance the desire to document your experience with remaining focused on the race and respecting fellow runners.
Comparison of Most Beautiful Marathons in the World
|Marathon des Sables
|A 251-kilometer race in the Sahara Desert over six days.
|Great Wall Marathon
|A journey through history on the Great Wall of China.
|Big Sur International Marathon
|A coastal race along the Pacific coastline in California.
|A race through the Swiss Alps, ascending over 5,960 feet.
|A run through the beautiful West Coast of Ireland.
|Midnight Sun Marathon
|A unique experience of running under the midnight sun.
|New York City Marathon
|A thrilling 26.2-mile journey through all five boroughs of NYC.
|A scenic course offering views of mountains, forests, and the Pacific shoreline.
|Grand Canyon Marathon
|A race through the majestic red rock landscapes of the American Southwest.
|Inca Trail Marathon
|A challenging course through the Andean Mountains, ending at Machu Picchu.
|Patagonian International Marathon
|A marathon through the wild beauty of Chile’s Patagonia region.
|Bhutan International Marathon
|A race through rustic villages, rice fields, and forests in the Eastern Himalayas.
|Mount Everest Marathon
|The world’s highest marathon, starting near Everest Base Camp.
|A race around Mount Kilimanjaro’s base.
|Victoria Falls Marathon
|A race past the Victoria Falls and through national parks and local villages.
|Australian Outback Marathon
|A race through the iconic Australian outback.
|A race in the stunning landscape of New Zealand’s South Island.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a marathon beautiful?
A marathon is considered beautiful when its course features exceptionally scenic landscapes, unique cultural experiences, or awe-inspiring natural wonders. Beautiful marathons often include picturesque surroundings, such as ocean views, mountain ranges, or historic landmarks.
How can I prepare for a marathon with challenging terrain?
Tailor your training plan to include specific workouts that target your event’s unique terrain. For instance, incorporate hill work, interval training, and strength exercises to prepare for races involving elevation changes or uneven surfaces.
Are there any popular half marathons in scenic locations?
Yes, many beautiful marathons also offer half marathon events that allow participants to experience the same stunning scenery in shorter distances. Be sure to research each event to see if a half marathon option is available.
How can I find local scenic marathons to participate in?
Use online race directories, running blogs, or social media groups to search for beautiful marathons in your region. Pay attention to runner reviews and testimonials to find the most breathtaking courses close to home.
Embracing the beauty of marathons around the world is an incredible way to enhance your running journey. As you explore these picturesque paths, from deserts to mountains and coastlines, you’ll discover new facets of the sport that will enrich your experiences and create unforgettable memories.
Whether you’re aiming to complete a bucket list Marathon des Sables or seeking the unique experience of running under Norway’s Midnight Sun, each race represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conquer both the course and the breathtaking landscapes that surround it. With determination, preparation, and a sense of adventure, these beautiful marathons invite you to explore the extraordinary union of athleticism and the natural world.