10 ‘Bucket List’ Marathons You Need to Run Once In Your Life

The first mile of the New York City Marathon over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. (Photo by MTA/flickr)

The first mile of the New York City Marathon over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. (Photo by MTA/flickr)

1) Boston Marathon

It needs no introduction in the running community. Heralded as the longest continuously held marathon, this iconic race is the crème de la crème. Entrants must qualify with a fast enough time to race and many runners seek to add a BQ (Boston qualifier) to their resume.

2) New York City Marathon

With over 50,000 runners and a million spectators or more, the New York City Marathon attracts people from all over the world to race 26.2 miles. Racers cover the distance over the five boroughs and past many of New York City’s most popular landmarks.

Many runners choose this as their first or one and only marathon, but there are time qualifications for those seeking a guaranteed entry.

3) Chicago Marathon

Fast and flat, Chicago is a perfect first marathon, but attracts a world class pool of runners with a $560,000 total purse. Four World Records have been set on the course since 1984. The loop course takes runners on a journey through 29 Chicago neighborhoods and starts and finishes in Grant Park.

4) London Marathon

Held for the first time in 1981, the London Marathon has become one of the most well-known races of the World Marathon Majors. The course is point-to-point style with loops that circle downtown London.

It is a relatively flat course featuring a few small rollers after a nice downhill at mile 3. This race attracts a generous lot of participants and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest fundraising event.

5) Marine Corps Marathon

Known as “the people’s marathon”, the Marine Corps Marathon has been held since 1976. It has grown from 1,175 participants to 30,000 runners and those looking to participate must enter a lottery.

The loop style course starts and finishes in Arlington, Virginia and offers runners a chance to see many of D.C.’s historic landmarks throughout the 26.2 mile journey. Finisher medals are handed out by the men and women of the United States Marine Corps and make finishing this race extra special for United States citizens.

6) Walt Disney World Marathon

Disney is known for both a magical experience and extreme organization. The Disney Marathon certainly offers its share of each. Runners will have plenty of opportunity for photo ops with characters along the course as they cover 26.2 miles across Walt Disney World.

The well-executed race leaves nothing behind in terms of organization and those willing to shell the hefty registration fees will not be disappointed.

7) Berlin Marathon

The last decade of marathoning for elite men has showcased the Berlin Marathon as the destination for setting world records. Since 2003, the record has dropped a total of 6 times and each time has been at the Berlin Marathon.

The marathon is just one event offered over the weekend and attracts thousands of participants from all over the world. First run in 1974, the race course was altered in 1990 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and now features a loop style course.

8) Athens Marathon

Featuring the course that Philippides was said to have run 2,500 years ago when he brought news of the victory from the city of Marathon, the Athens Marathon follows the path that has inspired millions.

The point-to-point course starts relatively level and begins a gentle uphill until reaching the apex with 11 kilometers left. The last 6+ miles are all downhill and make for a fast finish. First held in 1972, the race attracts elite runners despite its notoriety for being a tough course.

9) Tokyo Marathon

Established in 2007, this relative newcomer is fast gaining a reputation for a must-do marathon. As part of the World Marathon Majors, the marathon attracts elite runners as well as 30,000 amateurs.

More than 300,000 people applied for one of the spots in 2015. The point-to-point course has two long out-and-back sections in the middle. Aside from downhill start and a few rolling hills towards the end, the course is considered to be fast and flat.

10) Honolulu Marathon

Established in 1973, the Honolulu Marathon is one of the largest in the world despite being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Over 20,000 participants toe the line on the island of Oahu for a course that features both loops and out-and-back sections.

Many runners hail from Japan who often make up the majority of the field. Despite a hilly course and warm temperatures, runners continue to flock to this course for scenery unlike any other marathon.

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