World’s Most Iconic Marathon Races for 2024

The Marathon Majors consist of six of the most prestigious marathon races globally, attracting thousands of runners each year who seek to test their limits against the backdrop of the world’s most iconic cities. These events challenge the physical and mental fortitude of participants and offer a unique way to experience the culture, history, and spirit of each location. From the historic streets of Boston to the bustling avenues of Tokyo, this guide explores the Marathon Majors, providing insights into what makes each race a bucket-list experience for runners around the world.

1. Boston Marathon, USA

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Marcio Jose Bastos Silva

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the most sought-after races for distance runners. Held on Patriots’ Day every April, this prestigious event takes runners on a historic 26.2-mile journey from Hopkinton to Copley Square in downtown Boston. The course is renowned for its challenging hills, including the infamous Heartbreak Hill, and the incredible crowd support that lines the entire route.

Insider’s Tip: Qualifying for Boston is a badge of honor due to its strict time standards. If you aim to qualify, focus on a flat, fast course for your qualifying race to give yourself the best chance.

When to Travel: April in Boston can be unpredictable weather-wise, with warm to near-freezing conditions. Plan to arrive a few days early to acclimate and partake in the pre-race festivities.

How to Get There: Boston is easily accessible by air from major cities worldwide, with Logan International Airport as a primary hub. Public transportation and taxis can take you to the city center from the airport.

2. London Marathon, United Kingdom

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ms Jane Campbell

The London Marathon is a celebration of both elite and amateur running, winding through the heart of historic London. Participants pass by iconic landmarks such as the Tower of London, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace, finishing before the majestic Buckingham Palace. The race, held in April, is famous for its flat and fast course, making it ideal for personal bests and world record attempts.

Insider’s Tip: The ballot entry system makes securing a spot challenging. Consider running for a charity to guarantee entry, but be prepared to meet the fundraising minimum.

When to Travel: April in London offers mild and sometimes rainy running conditions. Extend your stay to explore London’s rich history and vibrant culture post-race.

How to Get There: London is served by several airports, with Heathrow being the largest and most internationally connected. The city’s extensive public transport system makes getting to the race start from any part of London straightforward.

3. Berlin Marathon, Germany

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / photocosmos1

The Berlin Marathon, held every September, is renowned for its flat, fast course that meanders through one of Europe’s most dynamic capitals. The race starts and finishes near the Brandenburg Gate, with runners passing through historic and modern sections of Berlin. Thanks to its smooth roads and minimal elevation changes, this marathon is a favorite for those looking to set personal records or even world records.

Insider’s Tip: Focus on speed work in your training, as Berlin’s course is one of the best for achieving a fast time. Also, book accommodations early, as the city fills up quickly for race weekend.

When to Travel: September in Berlin is typically mild, offering ideal marathon running conditions. Arrive a week early to adjust to the time zone and explore Berlin’s rich history.

How to Get There: Berlin’s Tegel and Schönefeld airports offer numerous international flights. The city’s public transportation network provides easy access to the marathon expo and start line.

4. Chicago Marathon, USA

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / Max Herman

The Chicago Marathon takes runners through 29 vibrant neighborhoods, showcasing the diversity and architectural beauty of the Windy City. Held in October, the race features a flat and fast course that starts and finishes in Grant Park, with spectacular views of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline. The event is known for its excellent organization, enthusiastic crowd support, and the post-race celebration in Grant Park.

Insider’s Tip: The lottery system can make entry uncertain, so consider joining a charity team for guaranteed entry. Chicago’s weather in October can be variable, so prepare for anything from warm to chilly conditions.

When to Travel: Early October in Chicago is usually cool and comfortable for running. Stay a few extra days to enjoy the city’s world-class museums, restaurants, and jazz clubs.

How to Get There: Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports are well-connected domestically and internationally. The city’s public transit system, including the “L” trains and buses, offers convenient access to downtown and the race start.

5. New York City Marathon, USA

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / rblfmr

The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world, with over 50,000 runners crossing the finish line in Central Park. The race takes participants through all five boroughs, starting on Staten Island and finishing in Manhattan. The course offers a challenging mix of bridges, rolling hills, and long stretches of city streets, all accompanied by unrivaled crowd support and a palpable sense of camaraderie among runners.

Insider’s Tip: The race’s popularity means entry via the lottery is competitive. Secure your spot by running for one of the official charity partners or by qualifying through a fast enough time in another race.

When to Travel: The marathon is held on the first Sunday in November, a time when New York City begins to embrace the crisp air and colorful foliage of fall. Extend your trip to experience the city’s autumnal charm.

How to Get There: New York City is served by three major airports: JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, making it accessible from just about anywhere. The city’s subway system, buses, and taxis provide easy transportation to the race expo and start area.

6. Tokyo Marathon, Japan

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / StreetVJ

The Tokyo Marathon, the newest member of the Marathon Majors, offers runners a unique blend of modernity and tradition. The course takes participants past ancient temples, through bustling commercial districts, and alongside the beautiful Tokyo Bay. Held in early March, the race is celebrated for its organization, high-tech amenities for runners, and the warm hospitality of the volunteers and spectators.

Insider’s Tip: The lottery for international runners is highly competitive. Look into tour packages that include guaranteed race entry, accommodations, and guided tours of Tokyo.

When to Travel: March in Tokyo is on the cusp of spring, with cool temperatures ideal for marathon running. Stay after the race to enjoy the cherry blossom season, which begins in late March.

How to Get There: Two major airports serve Tokyo: Narita for international flights and Haneda for domestic and international flights. The city’s extensive public transportation network makes navigating to the race expo and start line convenient.

The Bottom Line

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Image Credit: Shutterstock / – Yuri A

Running a Marathon Major is an opportunity to push your limits, experience new cultures, and see some of the world’s most iconic cities from a unique perspective. Each marathon offers its own set of challenges and rewards, making them bucket-list events for runners worldwide.

As you lace up your running shoes and set your sights on these legendary races, remember that the journey to the start line is as significant as the race itself. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a first-timer, the Marathon Majors promise an adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

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The post World’s Most Iconic Marathon Races for 2024 republished on Passing Thru with permission from The Green Voyage.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels / RUN 4 FFWPU.

For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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