From London to Tokyo, Berlin to New York, and Rio de Janeiro to Moshi in Tanzania, there’s a marathon event you’ll most definitely want to run. Or maybe you have a bucket list to run all the best marathons in the world?
That’s quite a dream, but a very achievable one too. After all, in the words of Lori Culnane, a marathon runner, “Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself, you can learn in 26.2 miles.”
And there’s also the fact that “The marathon never ceases to be a race of joy, a race of wonder” (Hal Higdon).
So are you ready for the challenge of running all the greats? Before you put your running shoes on and pay your entry fee, here are the best marathons to run and why you should add them to your bucket list.
What is a Marathon?
A marathon is a long-distance running event or running race that is 26.385 miles or 42.192 kilometers (officially, 42.2 km) long. Athletes compete in a marathon, which can be a road race, cross-country race, or even over uneven roads, as well as looped, run over multiple laps, or out and back.
Marathons have a long history, dating back to 490 BCE. The 26-mile running event is named after the Greek Battle of Marathon, when Philippides, a Greek soldier, ran a marathon distance from the battle scene to Athens to announce that the invading Persians had been defeated.
Philippides died from exhaustion after he shared the victorious news, but allegedly, he didn’t stop for the whole 26-mile distance, and he also ran 150 miles from Sparta the previous day.
Jumping forward in time, in 1896, the first marathon race was run in the Olympic Games in Athens. In 1921, the distance for a marathon was standardized, with the first women’s Olympic marathon race taking place in 1984.
Besides the Olympic marathon, various 26-mile running races are organized and held each year in major cities globally.
Some of the most prestigious and famous of these running events include the London Marathon, Boston Marathon, New York Marathon, and Tokyo Marathon. International athletes attend these marathon events in the hope of being crowned the winner of the prize.
17 Best Marathons in the World to Run This Year
What makes a marathon the best in the world? I looked at the cost of entry, level of difficulty, scenery, weather, and a few other factors to compile this final list.
Here are 17 of the best marathons in the world you can fantasize about:
Marathons in North America
1. Boston Marathon
Date: Monday, April, 17, 2023
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Website Info: Learn more about the Boston Marathon
One of the most iconic marathons in the United States is the Boston Marathon, which takes place on Patriots’ Day. It’s one of the oldest marathon events (started in 1897!) and attracts roughly 30,000 runners from all over the globe and 50,000 spectators.
It is also USATF (USA Track & Field) certified, meaning that the road race features an accurately measured distance.
The event starts in the New England town of Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street in Boston. It’s a fairly downhill road race, which is great if uphill doesn’t do it for you.
But beware of the half-mile Heartbreak Hill in Newton at mile 20 that can break your heart if you aren’t aware you’re e in for a gnarly climb because it’s toward the end. So save some energy for the heartbreaker!
The weather is great at 51 °F to 61 °F, so you won’t die of heat or cold.
2. Chicago Marathon
Date: Sunday, October, 8, 2023
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Website Info: https://www.chicagomarathon.com/
Looking for another flat, fast marathon so you can just focus on the rhythm of your feet hitting the asphalt? Then the Chicago Marathon should be at the top of your list.
Plus, if you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon, this is one must-run event. And there’s the fact that it’s one of the six World Marathon Majors, making it a World Athletics Label Road Race.
The Chicago Marathon boasts about 45,000 runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators, so you’ll feel special as your race on the pancake-flat course as everyone cheers you on to the finish line.
The start and finish is at the lakeshore of Grant Park, and while you’ll focus on the road in front of you, you’ll pass through the historic Lincoln Park, the Magnificent Mile Number One, Union Station, and Chinatown.
Chicago weather may be unpredictable, so come prepared for wind, rain, and shine.
3. Niagara Falls International Marathon
Date: Sunday, October, 22, 2023
Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Website Info: https://niagarafallsmarathon.com/
The Niagara Falls International Marathon used to start in Buffalo, New York, and finish at Fort Erie, Ontario, but since 2022, the marathon starts and finishes at the Toronto Power Plant, just down from the Horseshoe Falls.
The out and back 26-mile race follows the Niagara River south and then you reverse course to run north along the river before the finish line at the rapids by the Falls.
Expect to hear the roar of the turbulent rapids and enjoy the majestic views of the Niagara Falls (it’s a must-run in my book).
The weather is also pleasant but it may be rainy; expect the daily temperatures to range from 50 °F to 59 °F.
4. Walt Disney World Marathon
Date: Sunday, January, 8, 2023
Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida, USA
Website Info: Walt Disney World Marathon
The Walt Disney World Marathon just had to make it to my world best marathons list. I mean, it’s bound to be magical, right?
The 26-mile course travels through the Walt Disney World Resort, so you’ll run through all four parks. Expect to see your beloved Disney characters out and about… and there’s plenty of entertainment too.
The first Disney marathon took place in 1994, and since there’s a half-marathon, 10K, and a 5K, the whole family can join the fun and make their Disney dreams come true!
5. Big Sur International Marathon
Date: Sunday, April, 30, 2023
Location: Big Sur to Carmel, California, USA
Website Info: Big Sur International Marathon
One of the most beautiful marathons in the United States has got to be the Big Sur International Marathon. Honestly, the race is simply jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
What’s there not to like? You race on Highway 1, from Big Sur to Carmel, while enjoying the majestic Redwood trees, the coastal mountains, and the blue crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
I’d even look forward to crossing Bixby Creek Bridge, which is at the halfway mark. And don’t forget the tuxedo-wearing pianist to keep you inspired on the bridge too!
Marathons in Europe
6. London Marathon
Date: Sunday, April, 23, 2023
Location: London, United Kingdom
Website Info: London Marathon
The London Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the world with more than 40,000 runners participating. Since the inaugural race in 1981, the route has remained relatively unchanged and you’ll run a relatively flat course around the River Thames.
Famous landmarks you’ll pass are Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, The Mall, St. James’s Palace, The Cutty Sark, Canary Wharf, and Tower Bridge – making this a must-see marathon.
It’s quite cool in London in late April with day temperatures reaching the mid-fifties.
7. Midnight Sun Marathon
Date: Saturday, June, 17, 2023
Location: Tromsø, Norway
Website Info: Midnight Sun Marathon
The Midnight Sun Marathon is unique for one reason and one reason only: the never-ending sunlight. You’ll start running at 20:30 (yes, at night!) but it won’t be dark because the sun doesn’t set in the Arctic capital of Tromsø (located 69 degrees north of the Arctic).
You’ll start in the city center in Tromsø, which is on a small island, run to Langes on the other side of the island before returning to Tromsø.
Next, you’ll cross the bridge to Tromsdalen, where you can feast your eyes on the daring architecture of the Arctic Cathedral, which is quite a sight against the tall mountains. You’ll run a mostly coastal route past Solligârden, before turning around and crossing the finish line around midnight.
Despite the late hour, you’ll be greeted with a festival!
8. Maratona di Roma
Date: Sunday, March, 19, 2023
Location: Rome, Italy
Website Info: Rome Marathon
The Rome Marathon, or more correctly, the Maratona di Roma, should be on your marathon bucket list, simply because of all the famous sights. Join 10,000 athletes as you cross the start and finish lines at the same location: Via dei Fori Imperiali (close to Via San Pietro in Carcere) in the city center.
Famous landmarks you’ll pass include the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Castel Sant’Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica, the famous Spanish Steps, Piramide Cestia and Via del Corso.
You should also be prepared to run about 3.7 miles (or 6 kilometers) on cobblestones – it’s Rome, baby!
9. Paris Marathon
Date: Sunday, April, 2, 2023
Location: Paris, France
Website Info: Paris Marathon
What could be better than running through the most romantic city on this planet? Nothing, really. The Paris Marathon features a flat and fast race course, starting on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and ending on Avenue Foch where you’ll see the Arc de Triomphe.
While the start and finish are stunning in their own rights, you’ll also run past various other Parisian landmarks, such as the Place de la Concorde, Palais Garnier, Carrousel, Place de la Bastille, Notre-Dame de Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and the Grand Palace.
Join nearly 60,000 runners in one of the biggest marathons with the prettiest sights.
10. Berlin Marathon
Date: Saturday, September, 24, 2023
Location: Berlin, Germany
Website Info: Berlin Marathon
The Berlin Marathon is another one of the World Major Marathons, and this race course is speedy, having seen 10 marathon world records. In fact, the fastest run time was in 2022 when Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge won the race with a time of 2 hours 1 minute and 9 seconds. Think you can beat Eliud’s time at this year’s race?
The marathon starts and finishes near the city center at the Brandenburg Gate, and scenic sites you’ll run past include the Reichstag, the Potsdamer Platz, the Siegessäule, and the Berliner Dom. You’ll feel like you’ve seen most of Berlin, with 25,000 other runners, in this 26-mile course!
Marathons in South America
11. Rio de Janeiro Marathon
Date: Sunday, June, 11, 2023
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Website Info: Rio de Janeiro Marathon
Another beautiful marathon you should consider participating in is the Rio de Janeiro Marathon in Brazil. Start with 10,000 athletes on Flamengo, and run the scenic, urban, coastline course that takes you past the neighborhoods of Ipanema, Botafogo, Leblon, and Copacabana.
You’ll also see Christ the Redeemer standing tall in the background on top of Corcovado Mountain as you approach the finish line.
The tropical weather reaches highs of 78 °F so be prepared to sweat.
12. Patagonian International Marathon
Date: Saturday, September, 9, 2023
Location: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Website Info: Patagonian International Marathon
The Torres del Paine National Park is something truly special with valleys, mountains, the three granite towers, grasslands (or golden pampas), lakes, glaciers, and rivers.
The Patagonian International Marathon takes place in the Chilean Torres del Paine National Park. The first marathon was run in 2012, and today, brings together athletes from more than 65 countries.
With the start in Puente Weber in Western Patagonia, runners pass the shores of Lago Pehoe and continue until the finish line at the base of Reserva Las Torres.
The race is quite extreme with lots of ups and downs; it’s simply an adventure not to be missed.
Marathons in Asia
13. Tokyo Marathon
Date: Saturday, March, 5, 2023
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Website Info: Tokyo Marathon
The Tokyo Marathon is one prestigious event with Japanese precision. The event is a World Athletics Platinum Label marathon, and it’s one of the World Major Marathons. Bucket list, right?
Runners from all over the world take part in the Tokyo marathon, and you could be one of the 38,000 at the start line. The event starts in Shinjuku, and after going downhill for about 4 miles, the course evens out for a relatively flat race.
You’ll finish at Tokyo Station, which is near the spectacular Imperial Palace. All I can say, participating in the Tokyo Marathon is quite a memorable experience.
14. The Great Wall Marathon
Date: Monday, May, 1, 2023
Location: Tianjin, China
Website Info: Great Wall Marathon
Register for the Great Wall Marathon for a marathon like no other. The Great Wall in China is, after all, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and can be seen from space.
The race starts and finishes in Yin and Yang Square near the Huangyaguan fortress section of the Great Wall in Tianjin province. Expect a 2.48-mile climb to the entrance of the Great Wall, and on the route, you’ll be challenged by more than 5,000 stone steps and lots of steep descents and ascents as you make your way along the 26-mile course. At the end, you’ll have “climbed the Great Wall four times!”
Plus, there’s the adventure of running on much of the original Great Wall, which is at times, no more than rubble. There’s also loose stones, missing steps, gravel, and crumbling walls to contend with. It’s an extreme marathon with the best challenges.
Marathons in Africa
15. Kilimanjaro Marathon
Date: Wednesday, January, 25, 2023
Location: Moshi, Tanzania
Website Info: Kilimanjaro Marathon,
The Kilimanjaro Marathon, or Kili Marathon, is rightfully dubbed “The People’s Race” as it aims to attract tourists to Tanzania. You’ll race with the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest mountain and the world’s highest freestanding mountain) looming in the distance.
The start is at Moshi Stadium, and you’ll run a flat course for the first few miles until it gradually starts inclining as you run toward Mweka. You’ll continue through a forest area before racing back downhill toward the stadium.
16. The Big Five Marathon
Date: Monday, June, 17, 2023
Location: Lakeside Lodge, Polokwane, Limpopo, South Africa
Website Info: The Big Five Marathon
Want to experience the wild side of South Africa? Then run The Big Five Marathon! The marathon is named after the Big Five animals – elephants, buffalos, rhinos, leopards, and lions – you can spot en route.
Don’t expect this race to be easy; it’s quite challenging on the rugged terrain but you can look forward to the wildlife and natural beauty you’ll see along the way.
The start and finish is at the Lakeside Lodge, outside Polokwane. You’ll run past the Entabeni Monolith, Hanglip View Point, and Yellow Wood Valley, where you’ll run down a steep quad-burning slope followed by an uphill run again.
Marathons in Australia
17. Great Ocean Road Marathon
Date: Sunday, May, 21, 2023
Location: Lorne, Australia
Website Info: Great Ocean Road Marathon
Want to run past breathtaking views of the ocean? The Great Ocean Road Marathon has you covered. The marathon is actually just a bit longer than a standardized race at 27.34 miles (44 kilometers).
Only 1,500 runners are lucky enough to start this race, so register early if you want this chance of a lifetime. You’ll start in the Lorne SLSC Car Park in Lorne and finish at the Apollo Bay Hotel in Apollo Bay.
You’ll pass Wye River, Kennett River, and Skenes Creek, so do try to spot some koalas while you run.
Final Thoughts on the Best Marathons in the World for 2023
Its one thing to train for and run a marathon in the U.S., but it’s quite another to add amazing experiences and run marathons all over the world. And there are some truly spectacular marathons in the world!
I definitely have the Kilimanjaro Marathon, Big Sur International Marathon, Patagonian International Marathon, and the Midnight Sun Marathon on my bucket list.
What about you? Perhaps you are more interested in running half-marathons? If so, why don’t you check out our guide to the best half-marathons in the U.S. and book your annual road-fix?