Some people’s idea of a vacation is a weekend spent stagnant next to an infinity pool—and there is nothing wrong with that. For others, it means logging some serious miles in crowded city streets, on pink-sand beaches, and through Kentucky’s Bourbon Country. Here are our top ten destination marathons (whether full or half, and even less) from New York to Paris.
10. Wineglass Marathon in Bath, New York
If you’re done with overcrowded marathons and overwhelmed host cities, get to Upstate New York’s charming Wineglass Marathon, and soon. Just hours from the largest marathon in the United States, Wineglass made this top-ten list for its small-town hospitality and immense history, gentle downhill course (a favorite for Boston qualifiers), and natural scenic beauty, which really pops in the fall.
9. Bermuda Triangle Challenge in Bermuda
Winter presents a challenge to many runners; we don’t always love the cold and the dreary scenery. We need diversion and sun, long runs, and an absence of arctic blasts to the face. This is precisely why January’s Bermuda Triangle Challenge is nothing short of a gift from the running gods.
8. Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Virginia
The ninth-largest marathon in the world and the only sizeable one to not offer prize money, the Marine Corps Marathon draws 20,000 participants each year for one reason: heart-thumping patriotism (that, and the fact that it is one of the cheapest marathons in the U.S., costing only $92 to participate). It’s called “The Marathon of Moments,” and you’ll succumb to the inspired feeling sooner or later, whether it’s upon witnessing military units running in formation or U.S. monuments like the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.
7. Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in Las Vegas, Nevada
Only in Las Vegas can you find the world’s largest nighttime running event complete with a run-through wedding ceremony and the largest Elvis running group you’ll ever see.
6. Dipsea in Mill Valley, California
Just North of San Francisco and stretching from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach sits the coveted crown jewel of off-road footraces, the 7.5-mile Dipsea. In existence since 1906, it’s the oldest trail race in America and one of the most exclusive—and not just for want of its Pacific coast scenery.
5. Marathon de Paris in Paris, France
Tour the City of Light in springtime, take on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and find yourself choosing from wine and cheese at water stops. This is the Marathon de Paris, and you might temporarily forget the pain of 26.2 miles.
4. The Bourbon Chase in Lexington, Kentucky
Known for its bourbon and derby-winning thoroughbreds, Kentucky might just be the coolest and most unexpected place for you and your running BFFs to run a 200-mile overnight relay. Here’s what you can expect: historic cities, stunning horse country, and world-famous distilleries along the scenic Kentucky Bourbon Trail—basically, the very best of the Bluegrass State.
3. Bank of America Chicago Marathon in Chicago, Illinois
One of five elite World Marathon Majors, the Bank of American Chicago Marathon is a dream for big-city race enthusiasts. It’s a flat, fast, point-to-point course perfect for setting a Boston qualifying time. Marathoners start on the city’s front yard facing Lake Michigan before setting off through an urban maze of landmark metropolitan towers and architecture, iron bridges, and famous waterways.
2. Athens Classic Marathon in Athens, Greece
Born of myth and heroic tragedy, the Athens Classic Marathon has become the race of a lifetime. “For distance runners,” said author and 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot, “Marathon tugs at the soul as Jerusalem and Mecca do for religious pilgrims.” Sprung from the 409 B.C. Battle of Marathon, legend has it that a Greek messenger named Pheidippides ran 25 nonstop miles from Marathon to Athens to proclaim Greek victory over the invading Persians, only to die immediately after from exhaustion.
1. Big Sur International Marathon in Big Sur, California
It’s hard not to gush over the Big Sur International Marathon, consistently named one of the best destination marathons and one of the top marathons overall in America by the likes of Runner’s World and Forbes.
-Nina Kokotas Hahn
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