Travel inspiration and insider tips

6 years, 20 days ago

The World’s Most Inspirational Marathons

For many running a marathon is the challenge of a lifetime. It’s not just because of the physical challenge on the day, but it’s the months and months of training and preparation needed to go the distance. When you look at it like this, you begin to understand why many people choose to run a marathon in a foreign and far-flung place they’ve always wanted to visit, because not only do they get to achieve a remarkable physical feat, they also get to see and experience a new travel destination in the process.

1. Virgin Money London Marathon, UK

London marathon

The world’s largest marathon in 2012, the Virgin Money London Marathon is loved by runners around the world for a course that waxes historical, a route that is good for both beginners and experienced runners and for having some of the best (and loudest) spectators. A great place to stay while running the London Marathon is in leafy Blackheath where the course begins. From here you can enjoy views across East London and you’ll find many typical British pubs to stock up on carbs before and after your run. The course itself acts like a sight-seeing tour of London taking you past the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and through the heart of the City of London to Westminster. Special highlights on the course include running across TowerBridge, through CanaryWharf and past the Tower of London. It also has one of the most famous finishing miles as you run – or stumble – your way to Buckingham Palace. There’s a reason you have to wait years for a place in the Virgin Money London Marathon.

13th April 2014

2. Big Sur International Marathon, California

Big Sur International Marathoncredit: David Royal / AP

Considered the largest rural marathon in the world, Big Sur International Marathon follows a 26.2 mile section of the famous Pacific Highway from Big Sur to Carmel. Expect the sun to shine and the sea breeze to keep you cool as you enjoy one of the world’s most scenic marathons, taking in the iconic Brixby Creek Bridge and a section of Big Sur’s redwood forest. For accommodation, you could stay close to the finish line in Carmel, whose full name Carmel-by-the-Sea alludes to its white sand beaches. Alternatively, make it a city break by staying just a few hours up the coast of California in one of America’s favourite cities San Francisco. Golden Gate Brigde, Alcatraz prison and cosmopolitan suburbs like Little Italy, China Town and The Castro, San Fran also has vibrant coffee and foodie scenes which will help replace lost calories after the marathon.

27th April 2014

3. Marathon du Medoc, Bordeaux

Marathon du Medoc, Bordeauxcredit: Leite’s Culinaria

If coastal views aren’t really your thing, maybe running passed vineyards will be a good enough reason to pump those pistons. This chateaux-hopping tour of one of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions is a marathon with a difference, because runners are encouraged to take frequent breaks along the twenty-six mile course which snakes through vineyards and chateaux. Energy drinks and orange slices are replaced with oysters, cheese and wine as you sample some of the fine foods and award-winning wines the Médoc region is famous for. If you stay in nearby Bordeaux you can visit the Bordeaux Wine and TradeMuseum which will tell you why this part of France is so sacred to wine lovers. There is, of course, much more to do in this historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a large and lively student population, you’ll find a lively atmosphere in the city’s pedestrian centre and a gentle walk along the banks of the River Garonnne or in Bordeaux’s public gardens on a sunny day should stretch any marathon-sore legs.

13th September 2014

4. Midnight Sun Marathon, Tromsø

Midnight Sun Marathon, Tromsøcredit: Outreach Moldova

The only marathon on this list that begins in the middle of the night and still offers ideal running conditions, the Midnight Sun Marathon is a unique race that takes you around the island of Tromsø, the second largest city in the Arctic Circle. With beautiful dusk light and a scenic course from beginning to end, this race is worth messing up your body clock for. Take in the impressive sight of the Arctic Cathedral watching over the city and be sure to go inside to see the midnight sun shine through the stained glass windows. Warm up your legs with a wander around the city’s oldest streets which are lined with colourful wooden houses and enjoy famous Norwegian delicacies like lutefisk or sweet cinnamon buns. If you’ve got the energy after your marathon – and the budget, because alcohol is heavily taxed in Norway – Tromsø is very famous in Norway for its nightlife playing host to many of the world’s most popular musicians and DJs thanks to a student population who really do make the most of the city’s short but spectacular summers.

21st June 2014

5. Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town, South Africa

Two Oceans Marathoncredit: streamlightphotography

Confidently called the world’s most beautiful marathon, I wonder if this name tricks people into thinking the Two Oceans Marathon is a ‘normal’ marathon, because it’s actually fourteen kilometres longer than the traditional marathon distance. One of the world’s most popular ultra marathons, runners follow a spectacular circuit of the Cape Peninsula, beginning and finishing at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Although an extreme reason, the marathon is the perfect excuse to visit South Africa’s second largest city and arguably its most beautiful. Must-see sights include the view from the top of Table Mountain, the colourful houses of Bo-Kap, and there is of course the option to visit the thought-provoking Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. For a post-marathon feast try some Cape Malay food, which centres around spice infused meat dishes like denningvleis, slow-cooked lamb, and bobotie, an Indian inspired mince meat and egg dish that could fuel many marathons.

19th April 2014

6. Vodafone Istanbul Marathon

Istanbul Marathon

Perhaps the only marathon in the world that crosses continents, the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon began in 1978 when 34 visiting German tourists wanted to run a marathon in the Turkish capital. These days, you’d be one of thousands who lace up their trainers and run across the Bhosphorus Bridge and through the city’s European and Asian streets. While the marathon will show you a real mix of Istanbul’s old and new architecture and culture, you can choose to immerse yourself in one or the other depending on where you stay. Be just walking distance from all the historic buildings around Sultanahmet Square in the Old City or find yourself a slick apartment with a view in one of New Istanbul’s high-rises. Either way, be sure to over-indulge in meze before and after your cross-continental run and book yourself in for a hammam spa, a traditional Turkish spa treatment that washes away dead skin and will also relaxingly soak those tired muscles.

16th November 2014


Do you run? Which was the most beautiful marathon course you’ve ever enjoyed?

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  • I’ve run Istanbul. 2 continents in 1 race? Definitely memorable. 2 Oceans is high on the list. 2015, maybe…

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