We’re continuing our list of the world’s top 50 marathons. You’ll find even more exciting and challenging courses to add to your list in part IX!
10. Polar Circle Marathon
Located in one of the world’s most remote corners, the Polar Circle marathon boasts itself as the “coolest marathon on Earth.” That’s because runners will be surrounded by layers upon layers of ice and snow, crisp cool air, and the arctic desert. In fact, they’ll even pass over the Greenland Ice Sheet and glacier tongues on their race.
The marathon takes place in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where runners can take in the vast, unique, and beautiful backdrop of the arctic tundra and moraine landscapes while journeying through their run.
Runners can choose to register for the classic marathon or the half-marathon. Additionally, runners can choose to run both by joining the Polar Bear Challenge. If a runner finishes both races within the time limits, they’ll receive the Polar Bear Challenge medal and the marathon and half-marathon medals!
More information can be found here.
9. First Light Marathon
Premiering in 2023, the First Light Marathon will take place in the city known to see the sun come up each day. The marathon will take place in Tairāwhiti Gisborne, Aotearoa, New Zealand, where runners can view the incredible coastline and journey among steep, green hills during sunrise. The race also goes along the white sand beach!
The Marathon and Half-Marathon courses will begin on the boardwalk next to Midway Beach, where runners will follow the path out of Tairāwhiti Gisborne to the first hills. Participants will encounter short, steep hills once they’re out of the city, along with single-track trails, roads, and off-road surfaces.
The route will be marked with small flags, arrows, and kilometer signs for runners to easily follow while on their race. Additionally, water stations will be placed every 4 km along the route.
8. Napa Valley Trail Marathon
Located in Calistoga, U.S., this course is guaranteed to challenge participants with its hills. Streams and rocks surround the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Runners will be able to hear the sound of lush streams trickling by and explore some of Napa Valley’s best-kept secrets and hidden gems. Runners can register to participate in a marathon, half-marathon, and 10k. The event is open to adults 18 and older and youth 17 and younger.
Registration is currently open to reserve a spot for next year’s races which are slated to take place on March 18, 2023. The event has limited slots open (around 300 participants or so) and sells out very quickly every year. Don’t wait too long to register!
7. Great Wall of China Marathon
The Great Wall of China Marathon takes place every May along one of the 7th wonders of the world. Known for its impeccable design, the Great Wall of China stretches over 21,000 km with sections that go through the mountains and into the country of China.
Participants will experience one of the most challenging marathons of their life! The Great Wall of China Marathon will test participants’ physical and mental strength.
Runners can choose to participate in three different races: a marathon, a half-marathon, and an 8.5 km Fun Run. All the routes feature steep ascents and descents in addition to the thousands of steps on the Great Wall of China!
6. Big Sur International Marathon
The Big Sur International Marathon takes participants on a scenic route along the popular California Highway 1. Beginning from Big Sur, runners journey through the towering redwoods, crashing waves, and lush pastures down to Carmel. The iconic part of this race is arriving at the Bixby Bridge, located at the halfway mark.
This marathon features a rather challenging course with numerous steep and rolling hills and frequent headwinds but offers a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean!
Participants can choose between the traditional 26.2-mile marathon or the 21-miler. This event enforces a strict 6-hour time limit; therefore, runners must make sure they register for the right event that will match their pace.