People are really brave, some may say crazy, to run 42.2 kilometres and actually finish the distance! Just the thought of it is too much to bear for some!

Your entering a marathon, is far more than simply paying an entry fee and collecting your number at Sportman’s Warehouse. This is more than just a first step towards the end of a race; it is in fact the start of a new journey towards a better outlook on life and massively improved health.

You will become mentally more resilient and physically stronger, as your body and mind adapt to covering increasingly longer distances.

You are working towards becoming a marathon runner, if you aren’t one already.

For many, lacing up for their first marathon marks a very important moment in their lives. Any marathon runner will tell you that it is a life-changing event, one which they look back on with a lot of pride and with a massive sense of achievement.

You’ve now made up your mind to start on this journey, so, where do you start?

You could, of course, start with the familiar and enter a local race, where you’ll be familiar with surroundings and where family and friends can come out to cheer you on. On the other hand, why not truly extend this journey of discovery by making a holiday of it?

Many a ‘weekend warrior’ will tell you that the first thing that they pack in when travelling anywhere, is their running gear. So, a great deal of these marathoners scout around to see if there is a marathon being run somewhere overseas and book their trip there to coincide with it (the marathon). They, then, have the opportunity to take in the culture of the place in the days leading up to the race and enjoy many of the sights as they cruise through their holiday destination, during their race.

If you love foreign cultures and you’re wondering where to run your next marathon, or want some more information of what a particular event has on offer, read on and discover more about marathons around the globe!

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Berlin Marathon, Germany

Previously an easy race to enter, due to its growing popularity from personal best (PB) seekers, entries are now also decided via a ballot system. This entry is free and you only pay once you win a spot via the ballot.

Many world records have been set and broken on this fast course. In fact, the 2018 World Record time of 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds (2:01:39) was set in Berlin by Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.

Yes, all the big names come to do the Berlin Marathon, but the race also has a very interesting history.

Before 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, runners only ran through the western half of Berlin. Two years later, the course covered ground it previously had not, with the Brandenburg Gate now being incorporated into the course.

Only a short flight away, Berlin has lots to offer marathoners
Why not run the Berlin marathon? ⎮Source: Pixabay - werner22brigitte

London Marathon, UK

With many South African ex-pats living in London, this should be a great first overseas run. Conditions on the course will generally be quite cool, since it’s run in April, perfect for achieving a good time.

It must be noted, however, that the race is so popular that your entry will be entered into a ballot. Entry is thus not automatic and, with a cap of 40 000 entrants, you will be in informed in due course whether your entry has been successful. You can, alternatively, decide to run for a charity and then even raise money for it while you train.

The London marathon route takes you past all of the major attractions in the city, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye – great for keeping your mind off the task at hand.

A personal trainer would be great resource to get you ready for the London Marathon, particularly considering the qualification criteria. Men must have completed a half-marathon in under 1:15 and a marathon in sub 2:45, and women in 1:30 and 3:15 respectively.

Paris, Marathon, France

If you’re visiting London, a two-hour trip, via the Eurostar, will have you in the ‘City of Love’ within about 2 hours, similar to a day-trip anywhere in the UK. The Paris Marathon is a very popular race among both spectators and participants.

This is a well-organised and fabulous run, taking you past numerous ‘must-see’ sights; starting at the Champs Elysées and ending at the Place de la Concorde, the race will take you past (camera or cell phone in hand) Place de la Bastille, Bois de Vincennes, Notre Dame Cathedral, Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and a few k’s along the Seine River.

Easier to enter than the London Marathon, it does not employ a ballot system. To qualify to run in a Red or Yellow Bib, you must have completed a marathon during the previous year, with a time of between 3:00 and 3:15. Thereafter, you vouch for your own time (3:15 – 4:30 and over) and you will be slotted into the purple, blue, green or pink zone.

Tokyo Marathon, Japan

More than 300 000 entries are received for this race annually, this is one of the most popular races which forms part of the six World Major Marathons (WMM).

Prepare for a wet run as it has only failed to rain during this race once, in 2011. Elite and amateur runners, from all around the world, are keen to have notched up this relatively young marathon- it's only 10 years old - as a race they have run.

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Midnight Sun Marathon, Norway

This race is known all over the world for its uniqueness. It is run in the Norwegian town of Tromsø, where, because of the town’s high latitude, the sun shines for 24 hours. It does not set at the height of summer. The race is run during the wee hours of the morning, hence the name, the Midnight Marathon.

The race is so unusual that people trek from all corners of the globe, some from as far afield as South America, to take part in it.

Prague Marathon, Czech Republic

Another beautiful city to run a marathon in is Prague.

Held when temperatures are starting to recover in Europe, conditions on race day may be in the low 20s - not everyone's cup of tea, but ideal for some.  With more than 70% of entrants hailing from foreign countries, the race has grown to be the most international marathon.

The flat course is ideal for the first-time marathon runner as well as anyone pursuing a PB (personal best) time. Enjoy the historic squares and the beautiful views alonf the route, but be careful as you traverse the cobblestones.

The Prague marathon is almost completely flat; perfect for beginners
Get to know the quirks of this fascinating city.⎮Source: Pixabay - 1552036

Boston Marathon

The world’s first annual marathon, instituted in 1897, the Boston Marathon is regarded as one of the most prestigious road races in the world. It is the sporting event which attracts 500 000 spectators, the largest viewership anywhere, who come out to support the more than 30 000 participants every year. The marathon is one of the best-known road races and has been organised by the Boston Athletics Association since its inception. The race, which takes the marathon runner through some hilly terrain in Massachusetts, is on record as being the world’s largest marathon with 38 708 runners having entered in 1996. It is normally held on the third Monday of April, Patriot’s Day in the USA.

There are, of course, quite a number of other iconic marathons around the world, each with its own allure and scores of hangers-on. Amongst these are the Honolulu Marathon, The Great Wall of China Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon.

Besides the six World Major Marathons (WMM), some of which are reflected above, there are also a bunch of other interesting marathons which you could consider ... one day.

Great Ocean Road Running Festival (Melbourne, Australia)

This festival incorporates a 60 km ultra marathon, a half-marathon, and several shorter distance races.

Icefjord Midnight Marathon (Greenland)

Ilulissat (formerly Jacobshaven) forms the backdrop to this trail run which passes impressive glaciers, with ice as far as the eye can see.

Big Five Marathon (South Africa)

“No fences, no rivers, nothing at all separates the runners from the African wildlife!” – sportstourismnews.com

Iceland Volcano Marathon

Set amongst active volcanoes you will pass hot springs, geysers and lava rock.

Petra Desert Marathon (Jordan)

The race starts in Petra, an ancient cave city. Runners pass amazing tombs, caves and mountainside carvings before heading across the arid Jordanian desert.

Médoc Marathon (France)

Run through the vineyards of Médoc every September.

Australian Outback Marathon

Run past Ayers Rock (Uluru) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) on unsealed roads and Australia’s famous “Red Earth” and enjoy this mainly flat run with a few sand dunes, bush tracks and soft-sand trails thrown in for good measure.

Marathons in South Africa

For many people, locals as well as overseas visitors, a visit to Cape Town is on their bucket list .... given its natural beauty, numerous tourist attractions, good weather and all-round great lifestyle! In addition, the city offers any marathon runner numerous opportunities to practise their art, for lack of a better phrase.

Camps Bay beach and twelve apostles mountain range
Take in the breathtaking scenery whilst running a marathon in Cape Town.⎮Source: Unsplash

The selection includes the Cape Town Marathon, a circular route which loops its way through various suburbs and takes in the scenic Sea Point Promenade; The Peninsula Marathon which starts in Sea Point and ends in Simon’s Town (you’ll need a lift back from the finish); the Winelands Marathon winds its way through the picturesque town of Stellenbosch and past the Spier Wine Estate, a nice run taking in some undulating hills.

The Two Oceans Marathon

In essence, this is an ultra marathon. Its 56-kilometre route takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery that Cape Town has to offer. It starts in leafy Rondebosch/ Newlands Main Road and heads south towards Muizenberg, on the False Bay coast. The course then hugs the coastline for close on 10 kilometres until you head towards Chapman’s Peak, overlooking the long expanse of pure white beach at Noordhoek. The route then takes you through Hout Bay and up the tree-line climb of Constantia Nek, past Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and before you climb a short stretch of the M3 to finish at the iconic University of Cape Town (UCT). By this time, you would have realised why its marketed as ‘the most beautiful marathon in the world’.

Comrades Marathon

One of the longest marathons in the world, the Comrades Marathon is also the world’s oldest and largest ultra marathon. Also called The Ultimate Human Race, this serious test of endurance takes you through 87 kilometres of undulating hills of Kwazulu Natal (KZN) from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. The direction of the race alternates between these two places every year, with the “down-run” in the opposite direction constituting 90 kilometres.

So popular is this event that entries were capped at 25 000 in 2019, a number reached within a week. ‘Comrades’ attracts people from across the globe and South Africans have found themselves rubbing shoulders with marathon runners from places as far apart as India, Australia, the USA, Brazil and Russia.

The race has five cut-off points that a runner has to pass within specified times. This great test of endurance has over many years seen the best of humanity spring forth, as runners reach out to help others get across the finish line, selflessly sacrificing their own goals and the chance of finishing before the dreaded 12-hour cut-off gun. Wikipedia describes the race thus: “The spirit of the Comrades Marathon is said to be embodied by attributes of camaraderie, selflessness, dedication, perseverance, and ubuntu.” We couldn’t agree more!

The Longest Marathons in the World

The foot-race, that is officially the longest, is the Self-Transcendence 3 100-mile Race. Runners negotiate normal traffic along an extended block in Queens, New York City about 5 600 times over several weeks. This has to be completed within 52 days between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight and the prize is either a DVD, a T-shirt or a small trophy.

The longest time taken to complete a marathon was ‘achieved’ by the Japanese runner, Shisho Kanakuri, when he completed the marathon he had started 54 years 246 days 5 hours 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds earlier. He had fallen ill during the original run and failed to finish the race in 1912. For many years, he remained in Sweden as a missing person, too ashamed to return to his beloved home country, Japan. In March 1967, a Swedish television channel offered him the opportunity to finish the race he had started so many years before. He gladly seized the chance and so, finished the marathon in a record-beating time at the young age of 75!

Now, surely, that’s a time even you can beat!

So, get out there and go live your best life! You know you’ve got a marathon locked away inside of you!

Go run it!

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Trevor

Career teacher turned writer. Passionate about family, running, and the great outdoors.