For some people, the thought of running 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometres in one go is too big of a challenge for them to entertain it. For others, a marathon is the ultimate test of their running abilities.
If you’ve started running shorter distances like the Victoria Dock parkrun but fancy a bigger challenge, here are some of the best and most prestigious marathons around the world.
The London Marathon
London is a capital full of major sporting events, including Wimbledon, the FA Cup Final and the PokerStars London Series. But for one weekend a year, it gets taken over by runners from all over the world as they race past famous landmarks like Tower Bridge, Cutty Sark, and the Houses of Parliament. It’s a difficult marathon to enter though, and many runners spend years trying to get a place.
If you are one of the lucky people who manage to secure a place in the ballot, you’ll join the over 40,000-strong crowd of runners who start from three separate points in Greenwich before crossing over the Thames to the centre of the city. The crowds that line the route are a great encouragement too, cheering you own and giving you support through the toughest parts of the race.
Great Wall Marathon
The London Marathon offers an opportunity to see lots of famous landmarks while you run, but the Great Wall Marathon in China lets you race on top of a historic structure. It’s a gruelling race, forcing runners to climb up thousands of steps at high altitudes and searing heat.
Michael Olsen, a runner who completed the race in 2014, described it as “the most brutal race” that he has ever run but added that he loved it all the same.
The huge numbers of steps and mountainous terrain mean you get to enjoy some spectacular views from one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World. It’s incredibly unlikely you’ll get a personal best in the race though, most runners take twice as long to run it when compared to a typical marathon.
Big Five Marathon
In contrast to the Great Wall Marathon’s mountain views, the Big Five Marathon in South Africa sees runners race through sand trails of the South African Savannah. You’ll get to spot wild animals like elephants, leopards, and rhinos grazing and drinking as you weave your way through their natural habitat.
If you need motivation when you hit the wall, there are few things more effective than the sight of a lion waiting nearby.
Previous runners have described it as “the most difficult and enjoyable” races they’ve ever run and a “must-do adventure marathon” that was “beyond expectation”.
Polar Circle Marathon
If the extreme heats of the Big Five Marathon and Great Wall Marathon are a little too much for you, why not try the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland? This gruelling race in Kangerlussuaq in Greenland is a test of endurance and mental strength as you race through the Arctic tundra in sub-zero temperatures.
Slipping on ice is a real possibility in the Polar Circle Marathon, something that’s not usually a risk in other races. Most runners consider this a small price to pay for the views they get to enjoy while they take part, with many getting the opportunity to spot musk oxen and arctic foxes.
Back in Blighty, the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series: Pembrokeshire Marathon gives runners the opportunity to admire the spectacular views of the Pembrokeshire countryside. You’ll run along sandy beaches, climb up rugged cliffs and past quiet coves.
Pembrokeshire has the UK’s only coastal National park, so offers a unique backdrop in which to test your endurance. Running the full marathon, you’ll ascend more than 3,000 ft across grass, sand and hard-standing surfaces.
While many major cities offer up a marathon each year, these races offer up some of the best views, atmospheres, experiences and challenges that you can find.