Marathon running has become a worldwide phenomenon; there are dozens of races around the world that now feature tens of thousands of runners every year, and many of them travel around the globe to participate.
If you’re thinking of joining that group that travels abroad to run road races, you’re in luck. Here is a Baker’s Dozen of the best marathons in the world – one for each month, plus a bonus. Do NOT think you can run all of these; unless you are in world-class ultramarathoner shape, running marathons in back-to-back months is just plain crazy.
JANUARY – The Bermuda Triangle Challenge
Start the year on the pink-sand beaches of Bermuda. The temperature will be in the mid-60s and the race is not crowded – less than 1,000 runners are expected for the race this coming January 20th. Also, this is a bit of a cheat – it’s only a half-marathon, but some people run the loop twice. Warning – it’s a hilly course.
FEBRUARY – The Tokyo Marathon
The Tokyo Marathon is, in a word, zany. Tens of thousands runners participate, and many of them wear outrageous costumes as they make their way through the streets of downtown Tokyo. This year’s race is February 24th, and doubles as the time trials for the Japanese national team.
MARCH – The Rome Marathon Yes, this year’s race is on St. Patrick’s Day and that’s a bit incongruous, but it’ also a terrific time to visit Rome – the temperatures haven’t spiked too high just yet and the tourists haven’t invaded yet. Plus, the scenery! You start in front of the Colosseum and run past Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps and through the historic streets of the ancient city.
APRIL – The Paris Marathon
An estimated 31,000 people are expected to race through the City of Lights this April 7th. The marathon takes along the banks of the Seine and past sites like the Eiffel Tower (they hand out red wine and cheese to the runners here – really), the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Bastille. Plus, it’s an excuse to visit Paris.
MAY – The Great Wall Marathon This race is a chance to get a spectacular panoramic view of the Chinese countryside, while running along the top of one of the Seven Wonders of the World . What could be cooler than that? However, this is a grueling up-and-down race that has you scaling 5,164 steps; runners should expect to take as much as 50 percent longer to cover the course.
JUNE – The Big Five Marathon Run with the lions and antelopes through the African savannah on June 22nd. Runners are right in the midst of wildlife in one of South Africa’s “Big 5” game reserves – with no fences or rivers separating you from the animals. That’ll put a little spring in your step.
JULY – Gold Coast Marathon
This race along the east coast of Australia has a reputation as one of the fastest races in the world. It’s very scenic, as you’re running along the coastline most of the way. More than 23,000 runner s are expected for the race on July 7th.
AUGUST – The Reykjavik Marathon
The Reykjavik Marathon in Iceland is never going to be a world class event; there simply isn’t enough population. That means your odds of finishing in the top 1000 are pretty good. But it’s one of the few races in August, so we’re including it here. Also, it’s in Reykjavik, and exceedingly cool city. The post-race festivities are worth the trip; if you’re up for it you can take part in a “runtur” – an infamous Icelandic pub crawl. This year’s race is on the 24th.
SEPTEMBER – The Berlin Marathon
More than 35,000 runners will be in Berlin September 29th for the Berlin Marathon. This is a race rich in tradition, considered one of the “World Marathon Majors.” For recent history buffs, this is a chance to run through the famous Brandenburg Gate. It’s also a chance to set your PR – the course is very flat.
OCTOBER – The Polar Circle Marathon
We’re headed back to the North Country, to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Some people consider this the coolest marathon on Earth; it’s about 15 degrees Fahrenheit on race day, October 19th, so dress appropriately for your run past glaciers, snow and ice and arctic desert.
NOVEMBER — The New York City Marathon & The Athens Marathon
Two granddaddies. The New York City Marathon takes you through the five boroughs of the City that Never Sleeps. More than 40,000 runners will participate in the 2013 race on November 3rd. The 2012 race was canceled amidst much controversy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The Athens Marathon has an even richer history; after all, this is where it all started about 2,500 years ago, when Phillipides ran from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians. He then collapsed and died. You can retrace Phillipides’ steps on November 10 th, and hopefully, have a better finish.
DECEMBER — The Reggae Marathon
This race in Negril, Jamaica starts with a pre-dawn torch-lit ritual of Rastafarian drummers blessing the runners on the white sand beaches. It’s a flat course, but it will be warm, with a projected temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit at the start on December 7th.