What makes a marathon worth running? Well, other than the chance to challenge both your physical and mental limits and to prove to yourself that with hard work and determination you can achieve just about anything?
For starters, a great course with scenic views certainly adds value to an event. And when that course is lined with hordes of enthusiastic fans cheering you on, well that’s definitely a big plus, too.
Oh, and don’t forget; a race that’s organized and well-planned will make a world of a difference. When you’re running a marathon you’ve already got enough to worry about, all of the extra details (starting line corrals, in-race fuel, etc.) should be taken care of by the race and its organizers. (Especially since you probably shelled out some big bucks for an entry fee, right?)
These factors played a big role in helping us rank our list of the world’s best marathons. We first began with some simple statistics from Running USA that identified which 2013 marathons were the largest in the United States and the world (largest meaning races with the most finishers.)
We also factored in the opinions of our readers. We asked you, the marathon runners of the world, which 26.2-mile races are your favorites of all time.
To tie it all together, we created a scoring system that awarded points for everything from course quality, event organization and fan ratings based off runner reviews on MarathonGuide.com to the number of 2013 finishers and of course, votes and comments from our reader survey.
Now, the results are in and these 25 races have been deemed the best marathons in the world.
World's Best Marathons 2014
20. ASICS City of Los Angeles Marathon
Coming up on its 30th anniversary, the LA Marathon has increasingly become one of the largest marathons in the country over the years. Since introducing their famous course entitled "Stadium to Sea," participants flock to get their chance to run past the major landmarks in the city. Though it can get quite hot, the crowd support and aid stations push everyone forward. lamarathon.com
19. Honolulu Marathon
Despite a climate that isn’t always ideal for running, marathoners continue to flock for a unique race experience in Honolulu. In 2013 this race was the fourth largest in the U.S. and the 11th largest in the world, according to Running USA. What makes this a marathon you won't want to miss? As one past racer puts it, "Scenery and the route cannot be beat" and as another explains, "This race clearly demonstrated the 'aloha spirit,' where everyone can just hang loose and enjoy." -- Katie Rosenbrock
18. Hamptons Marathon, East Hampton, N.Y.
One of the most scenic marathons in the world comes complete with a small-town feel, great organization and personal emails from the organizers leading up to race day. The race is regularly described as tranquil and quiet, certainly a contrast to the top spots on our list, but this is a must-run race for those looking to get away and enjoy a relaxing course. Past finishers recommend winding down post-race with a walk on the beach. -- Diana Gerstacker
17. Chevron Houston Marathon
This year the Houston Marathon changed its course for the first time and the racers rejoiced. One reviewer on MarathonGuide.com, who has run the race 13 times, was concerned for the change but claims she had nothing to worry about. "The new course is actually even better, more scenic and [has] nicer roads," she wrote. Reviewers had a difficult time finding negatives about the race and find it to be an excellent big-city race with a manageable field size. -- Catarina Cowden
16. ASICS Stockholm Marathon -- Sweden
As one of the world’s largest marathon races, the Stockholm Marathon saw nearly 20,000 finishers in 2013. Runners continue to tout this race as a favorite noting that it’s well-organized and raving about the unparalleled crowd support. One downside is that the course is fairly challenging, but as one MarthonGuide.com reviewer put it simply, "[It's] well worth doing if you are not aiming for PR."
-- Katie Rosenbrock
15. Disney World Marathon -- Orlando, Fla.
What could be more magical than running your way through all four of the Walt Disney World theme parks? Runners start in Epcot then continue into Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then return to Epcot for the finish. A two-time Disney World Marathon runner said it best on MarathonGuide.com, "Disney knows how to throw a party and the race shows it."
-- Diana Gerstacker
14. Marine Corps Marathon -- Washington D.C.
The Marine Corps Marathon is the third largest in the U.S. and has become known as "The People's Marathon." It attracts runners from all over the world and is open to everyone ages 14 and up. And as "The People's Marathon" it's pretty clear from MarathonGuide.com that the people really do love it. One reviewer states, "It is what I call the total experience you need to do at least once in your lifetime." -- Catarina Cowden
13. St. George Marathon -- Utah
"I have run 18 total marathons at 10 different locations. St. George is the one I keep coming back to," a MarathonGuide.com user raves of this race. "The course, the red rock scenery, the support, the awesome energy felt in the air at the starting line, the cool sandstone finisher's medal, and on and on -- what's there not to love?" With five star ratings for both the event’s course and organization, this race easily earned enough points to sneak onto our list. -- Katie Rosenbrock
12. GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon
The GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon has a particularly scenic course, which leads runners past historical markers like Benjamin Franklin's place of burial, the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center. Runners will also pass the beautiful waterfronts of both the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, and it's even easier to appreciate the natural beauty when you realize the marathon is an environmentally-friendly event. -- Cathrine Adamo
11. Paris International Marathon
Known for its gorgeous route through the city of love, this marathon is one of the most popular races in Europe. It offers unique food and drink stations that include beer, wine, cider and oysters. It is limited to 37,000 runners and requires a doctor’s note to compete. But the race gives participants the opportunity to run through the best areas of the city including past the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Bastille, and the Arc de Triomphe. -- Catarina Cowden
10. Wineglass Marathon -- Corning, N.Y.
Although much smaller than some of the world’s more popular races, our readers wrote in to vote for the Wineglass Marathon mentioning that the race is “so well organized” and pointing out that the course’s scenery is incomparable to almost any other race (both reasons why this event also landed a spot in our recent round-up of noteworthy destination races). -- Katie Rosenbrock
9. BMW Berlin Marathon -- Germany
Started in 1976, the Berlin Marathon has become so popular that the event now spans over two days. The first day features a 500 meter and a 1,000 meter Bambini Run, a mini marathon and an inline-skating marathon, and the second day is when the main marathon takes place. The festivities are a sight to see; exciting enough to easily land Berlin on any runner's marathon bucket list.
-- Cathrine Adamo
8. Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon
Pittsburgh gets rowdy for its annual marathon. Participants boast of the incredible crowd support. One MarathonGuide.com runner commented, “The spectators were enthusiastic and the neighborhood cheering groups- bands, cheerleaders, step dancers, percussion groups, choirs, etc. gave it a lot of personality.” Though Pittsburgh has a particularly hilly landscape, the course winds through, and most of the race is flat. -- Catarina Cowden
7. Tokyo Marathon
The Tokyo Marathon is the fifth largest in the world (the 2013 race logged 34,832 finishers, according to Running USA) and it happens to be one of the highest rated races, too. "I have run Tokyo three times and it is more than a world class race. It is a life changing cultural event," one runner commented on MarathonGuide.com. -- Katie Rosenbrock
6. Virgin Money London Marathon
A flat course, enthusiastic spectators and "superb" race organization make the London Marathon a favorite among seasoned runners. Though it’s tough to get a spot on the starting line of this major race, it’s one of the best in the world and the scenic finish gives runners a one-of-a-kind view of the city. -- Diana Gerstacker
5. Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon -- St. Paul, Minn.
Set during the most scenic time of fall, this race has been unofficially dubbed, "The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America" by many racers and supporters. And the beauty goes far beyond the lake views throughout the flat course. Festivities are in full-swing the entire marathon weekend, attracting over 300,000 spectators, 5,000 volunteers, over 25 entertainers and Cheer Zones, and post-race activities. -- Catarina Cowden
4. Marathon Du Medoc -- France
This race in France landed a spot on our list thanks to input from our readers. “It’s a perfect setting for an amateur runner who is out to enjoy his time on course and soak the atmosphere,” one survey respondent commented. It also scored extra points for above average ratings on MarathonGuide.com with a five-star fan and course rating and 4.5 stars for excellent race organization. -- Katie Rosenbrock
3. Boston Marathon
Easily among the best, the Boston Marathon is a pillar of athletic achievement and perseverance. The course that starts in Hopkinton and ends in the heart of Boston is a scenic challenge well worth the tough entry process and qualifying races. Runners on MarathonGuide.com have said it's well worth trying for years and one commenter said, "If you're looking for a festive atmosphere and a moment to celebrate your running achievement, Boston can't be beat." -- Diana Gerstacker
2. Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Runners agree, this is one of the best races of all. The course is fast and flat, which attracts the pursuit of personal records and world record performances, and the Chicago Marathon is always exceptionally organized. A noisy crowd of cheering fans flock at the start, throughout the course and near the end with a fun post-race scene. 2013 saw 40,801 finishers with many return marathoners who praise the race as a rewarding and memorable experience. -- Catarina Cowden
1. TCS New York City Marathon
"Mother of all the races, best course best support,” one runner wrote about the New York City Marathon on MarathonGuide.com. Year after year runners from around the world vie for a spot in this iconic race that tours the five boroughs. Last year it had 50,266 finishers (most in the world, according to Running USA) and time and time again participants praise the race for its extraordinary course lined with the most rowdy and cheerful fans of any race in the world. -- Katie Rosenbrock
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