There are an incredible number of marathons held worldwide each year. Finding the best marathons in the world can take some time.
Even if you’ve run marathons in the past, finding the 26.2-mile races that are the most intriguing will help you on your quest to complete at least one of the best marathons in the world.
I’ve run 12 US-based marathons, but number 15 on this list is at the top of my marathon bucket list. Let’s go on a journey of marathons around the world, 26.2 miles at a time!
15 Best Marathons In The World In 2023
Each race listed has a unique claim to fame amongst the marathon community.
Whether you want a big race with the bells and whistles or the remarkable but often-overlooked marathons with a small field of runners, a race on this list is calling your name.
This list provides you with 15 ideas of marathons you can run worldwide that are top prospects for being the very best!
Date: October 1, 2023 Location: Inverness, Scotland
Weather: 47°F-55°F Average
The Loch Ness Marathon is a point-to-point race with breathtaking scenery. Runners enjoy the sights of mountains, forests, pastures, and views of the Loch Ness. In recent years the marathon has seen upwards of 3,000 participants!
This race is also extra special thanks to the friendly residents. Although the course tends to be on the quiet side until the runners arrive in Inverness, the warm welcome extended by the locals is superior.
Put the Loch Ness Marathon on your to-do list so you can compete in one of the best marathons in the world – and maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of Nessie!
Date: March 17, 2024 Location: Rome, Italy
Weather: 44°F-60°F Average
Are you looking for a wildly memorable marathon?
Picture this – you’re running along cobblestone streets with sights of the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Square, and the Spanish Steps.
The Rome Marathon is one of the most architecturally scenic marathons in the world. With nearly 10,000 marathoners running through the Eternal City, you’ll have plenty of time to take in your surroundings for this incredible race.
Runners mention that cobblestone running can be pretty tricky. The race features about 6 kilometers of cobblestone, so preparing for this will help you enjoy your time at Run Rome the Marathon.
Date: September 7, 2024 Location: Pauillac, France
Weather: 44°F-58°F Average
Runners rave about this race.
If you want to run one of the best-rated marathons in the world to have an enjoyable time, you’ll want to run Marathon du Médoc.
Marathon Du Médoc, often called just ‘Médoc,’ has a yearly theme, allowing runners to get a little more invested in what they wear for marathon day. If you’re a lover of wine, move this marathon to the top of your list as you’ll run through over 50 chateaux with over 20 wine stops.
With a challenging course on paved and unpaved terrain, you’ll work hard for good libations. This marathon is so popular that you’ll likely run with nearly 8,500 runners. This is the cap the race has placed on the number of registrants.
Date: August 24, 2024 Location: Reykjavik, Iceland
Weather: 48°F-54°F Average
An excellent choice for your next marathon with ideal weather, excellent ambiance, and a smaller participation field size is the Reykjavik Marathon.
There’s also not a better time to be in Iceland as the Icelandic Culture Night event, Menningarnott, brings much of the country to Reykjavik just in time to celebrate your marathon finish.
Around 1,000 runners make their way to the start line of the Reykjavik Marathon, making this highly-rated race less crowded than other popular marathons. The course is paved and flat; generally, the weather is incredibly favorable.
The marathon is scenic, and runners run much of the course along the water. Experience the excitement of Iceland during one of the country’s biggest holidays and earn a medal while you’re at it.
Date: September 24, 2023 Location: Berlin, Germany
Weather: 51°F-63°F Average
Are you looking to complete one of the 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors?
The BMW Berlin marathon is one for the books! You’ll enjoy this marathon with generally fair weather and a large spectator turnout.
In this incredibly well-organized race, runners praise everything from the massive expo to race day logistics. A bonus is that the course is significantly fast – with several former world records happening on this course.
This big race brings more than 25,000 runners to the start line.
The roads are vast in some areas, and runners can spread out. However, it’s important to remember that as a World Major, more runners desire to run this race than many others.
You’ll need to be a bit lucky and enter the registration lottery, but if luck is on your side, you’ll have the chance to run a fantastic international race. After all, there’s nothing quite like the finish line of the Brandenburg Gate.
Date: October 29, 2023 Location: Dublin, Ireland
The best way to see the city of Dublin AND the Irish countryside is to run around it.
Add ideal weather conditions, gently rolling hills, and the support and friendliness of the locals, and you’ve got yourself one of the best marathons in the world.
At this marathon, 20,000 participants run through more than just the city. Enjoy the Irish sights and enjoy the serenity of Phoenix Park. Given the time of year and the climate, runners can admire the changing autumn leaves.
If you thrive off crowd support, many runners claim they’ve never seen spectators turn out to a race, even at the World Majors, the way they do in Dublin. Great weather, relatively flat, and a picturesque course? Take the chance to make Dublin your next marathon!
Date: September 7, 2024 Location: Petra, Jordan
Weather: 65°F-86°F Average
Are you up for a challenge and a smaller marathon?
Although many marathoners prefer to stick to the paved road races, sometimes you need to make an exception. Make that exception for the Petra Desert Marathon.
The desert has rugged running terrain, including massive hills and sandy, rocky ground. Nevertheless, runners say the views are fantastic and often include camels and goats. You’ll also see many unique sights, walk through the Siq, and see the Petra Treasury.
In previous years, the Petra Desert Marathon has seen around 100 marathon participants.
If you’re traveling internationally, this race is part of the Albatros Adventure Marathons. Instead of showing up to Jordan, running the race, and heading back home, this race requires you to purchase a multi-day tour package.
If you’re traveling to an international Lost City, why wouldn’t you want to stick around and see the sights anyway?
Although quite the challenge, runners far and wide say the Petra Desert Marathon is worth the trek.
Date: October 14, 2023 Location: Pradollano, Spain
Weather: 51°F-74°F Average
For those who desire a great race that has the benefit of being known as the fastest marathon in the world, head to Spain.
The course begins at Pradollano, a ski resort town. Runners then continue on a descent to the finish line in Granada.
This race is 100% downhill and includes an enchanting view of the Sierra Nevada.
This smaller race brings about 100 marathon runners. You’ll have all the room to try and earn your marathon personal best as you fly down the course.
Like the Petra Desert Marathon, this race is organized with the Albatros Adventure Marathons. A tour package must be purchased for your race entry. With all the sights in Spain, you’ll be happy to have a tour company.
Date: July 27, 2024 Location: Alice Springs, Australia
Weather: 42°F-69°F Average
For a unique, adventurous marathon, head to the Australian Outback.
This unpaved marathon is well worth the exertion. Like the Petra Desert Marathon, runners must choose a complete package, including accommodations and food options.
The runner-specific travel agency Traveling Fit, organizes this race to include everything a runner should need to enjoy traveling and racing. With a core mission to “always put the runner first,” you can count on this marathon becoming one of your favorites.
Remember that you’ll be running over the infamous red sand in the Australian Outback, so don’t expect this race to be a walk in the park. The Australian Outback Marathon has seen over 200 marathon runners in recent years.
Date: April 21, 2024 Location: London, United Kingdom
Weather: 54°F-62°F Average
The organization and love poured into each of the 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors help to land these races on the best marathon lists each year.
Of course, it also means that so many runners wish to run this marathon, so entry via lottery (the ballot in London) is required.
The London Marathon is unique because there are three separate start areas. Each start area is denoted by color and helps to lessen the start line load of the 40,000 runners at the event.
Runners will cross the River Thames with the backdrop of Tower Bridge. It doesn’t get more iconic than that!
11. Tokyo Marathon
Date: March 3, 2024 Location: Tokyo, Japan
Weather: 41°F-51°F Average
The Tokyo Marathon is another significant race partly due to its inclusion in the World Marathon Majors.
This marathon has been very popular since the inaugural race, and each year, more than 300,000 runners apply to the lottery for registration.
With 35,000 participants each year, this is the largest marathon held in Japan.
The event is a big deal to the locals, who turn up in droves to support those marathoners brave enough to tackle the sprawling city. Several out-and-back stretches offer plenty of opportunities to celebrate face-to-face with other runners.
For an undeniably well-produced marathon, cross your fingers and enter the Tokyo Marathon Lottery. Better yet, guarantee your spot by running for charity to experience the magic of the world’s most populous metropolis.
Date: October 22, 2023 Location: Niagara Falls, Canada
Weather: 44°F-54°F Average
The distinctive trait of the Niagara Falls International Marathon is that it typically takes runners across country borders from New York, USA, into Canada (as seen in the above course map).
For the 2022 race and due to continued COVID-19 regulations, the race will start and finish in Canada this year.
In a typical year, the race is electric with the excitement of crossing the border – having an active passport is a must for this race! If you like the smaller, quieter races, the Niagara Falls Marathon is for you.
This quiet but lovely marathon is an ideal option, with the race capped at 800 runners and few spectators along the course.
Runners will enjoy the finish at Horseshoe Falls, perhaps the most scenic place to snap a post-race marathon photo!
13. Boston Marathon
Date: April 15, 2024 Location: Hopkinton, MA, USA
Weather: 40°F-56°F Average
If you want to run the best marathon in the world, look no further than the world’s oldest annual marathon – the Boston Marathon.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Boston Marathon, you must know that this is not a race everyone can run. This race requires runners to show a pre-determined qualifying time from another certified Boston qualifying marathon.
Once the deadline for initial registration hits, the Boston Athletic Association narrows down the field, and a new qualifying time is announced.
If you aren’t a quick runner but dream of completing the Boston Marathon, you can look into running through various charity organizations.
Date: March 11, 2024 Location: King George Island, Antarctica
Weather: 15°F-34°F Average
Are you looking for a world-class challenge for your next marathon? You can move the Antarctica Marathon to the top of your bucket list.
This marathon is conducted by the tour operator Marathon Tours & Travel, so you’re in for a fantastic event organized by folks who know running.
The marathon includes about 100 runners who meet in Buenos Aires for pre-race runs and briefings. The group then flies to Ushuaia before traveling by ship to King George Island.
Unlike other marathons, traveling with fellow runners to arrive at the race destination is an added adventure.
If your goal is to one day run on all seven continents, you won’t be able to do it without Antarctica. This is undoubtedly one of the best marathons in the world, with the unique scenery of icebergs and penguins.
Date: May 18, 2024 Location: Huangyaguan, China
Weather: 61°F-80°F Average
The list of best marathons in the world can’t be complete without the race that includes the longest structure in the world – the Great Wall.
If you like a challenge, consider the 5,164 steps you’ll cover at this marathon.
The marathon generally sees less than 700 runners and has become quite popular within the running community. Unlike a traditional paved road race, runners should anticipate climbing this marathon. This is especially true at steep parts of the Great Wall marathon course.
Remember: Using the run-walk method when completing a marathon is always more than okay.
Like several other races on this list, the Great Wall Marathon is also a part of the Albatros Adventure Marathons.
Runners will need to purchase a package for partaking in the race. Purchasing one of the various tour packages will ensure that a memorable trip to China backs your race.
💡 Looking for a marathon adventure in the United States? Consider running one of the top US marathons.
Tips For Tackling A Marathon
So, you’re feeling motivated and just signed up for one of these awesome marathons somewhere in the world. What’s next?
To have the best time at your race, implement the following tips.
✅ Train Properly
Committing to a 16-week training plan can be challenging but necessary.
Sure, you could trudge your way through the 26.2 miles of a marathon with inadequate training, but you’re not likely to have a good experience.
Commit to your training plan and hold yourself accountable. Tell everyone in your life about your big upcoming race. Hire a running coach if you must. Cross off each day on your training calendar as you complete your workouts.
Whatever you do, ensure running can be your priority for about four months. If you can manage this, you’ll be able to enjoy the marathon.
If you’ve never run a marathon, you may not realize how important hydration is, but it’s essential!
Water is essential, but it’s also necessary to have hydration that replenishes your electrolytes. There are many brands on the market now for hydration for marathon runners.
👉🏼 I highly recommend Nuun as the best sports drink.
✔️ Loaded with electrolytes
✔️ Low in sugar
✔️ Fizzy, delicious flavors
✅ Nothing New on Race Day
Is there anything new you might want to try on race day? Don’t.
If it’s not something you tried during the training cycle, don’t try it for the first time on race day. This means you need to be strategic about your training.
Try the different foods pre-run and during your runs while training. Have you found a pair of shoes that rock your world? Be sure to have a pair ready to use on race day.
From the fluid you take in pre-race to the shirt choice on race morning, always test every element you’ll use during the race.
✅ Consider Compression
Remember to implement practical techniques into your training. You can use different compression items, such as socks and sleeves, during training.
There are several reasons why compression helps during a marathon, but one big win for the use of compression is post-marathon recovery. If compression helps during training, it’s safe to say it’ll help you on race day.
What is the most prestigious marathon in the world?
The most respected and admired worldwide marathon, earning the title “the most prestigious marathon,” is undoubtedly the Boston Marathon.
Every year, runners worldwide work around the clock to become the best runners they can be. Eating, sleeping, and training to qualify for the world’s longest annual marathon.
If you need to be inspired on your running journey and the month of April is coming up, I highly suggest watching the race live. It’s truly a race surrounded by emotion, passion, and prestige.
Most Beautiful Marathons In The World
Choosing the most beautiful marathon in the world will differ from one runner to the next. While some runners feel the cityscapes inspiring and stunning, others prefer a winding seaside course.
You’ll enjoy the Maui Marathon if you’re in the latter of those two groups. Runners enjoy the sunrise view as they careen along the West Maui coastline.
As mentioned earlier in this post, the Loch Ness Marathon is a top choice for scenic marathons. With views of the charming Scottish Highlands and sights of the Loch, you’re in for a lovely 26.2 miles.
Register for the Loch Ness Marathon if you want a race that will take your breath away before you even begin running.
Looking for a significant challenge while completing “The Most Beautiful Marathon in the World?” The Jungfrau Marathon in Interlaken, Switzerland, is the trail marathon you’ve been looking for.
Runners take in the surroundings of Lake Brienz, traditional mountain villages, and truly astonishing mountain scenes.
These beautiful marathons are genuinely some of the top marathons in the world.
There are 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors. The races include Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, and Tokyo. You’ll receive your Six Star Medal to celebrate an incredible accomplishment if you complete all six marathons.
To be eligible to run the Tokyo Marathon, you must be older than 19 years old on race day. You must complete the race distance in under six hours and thirty minutes. Additionally, a lottery determines who will qualify to run the marathon. However, you may opt to run for charity to secure your spot.
Depending on which runner you ask, you may hear a different answer. Some of the most challenging marathons include the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent Manitou Springs, Colorado, USA, and the Barkley Marathons in Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, USA. Of course, challenging courses like The Great Wall Marathon in China are considered the most difficult marathons for others.
Final Thoughts: 15 Of The Best Marathons In The World In 2023
There are so many beautiful races to choose from around the world. If you’re telling yourself you want to complete just one marathon in your lifetime, consider one of these fantastic races. If you want to continue your run journey beyond that, add all these best marathons to your to-do list.