The Globetrotting Marathoner: 12 Marathons to Travel For
Most people probably don’t use marathon and vacation in the same sentence, rightfully so. I don’t, until I’ve had a glass of wine. After a friend’s tweet about the Dallas Marathon weeks back, I decided to check out options for international marathons out of curiousity. I’ve been meaning to run my first marathon next year, and why not combine it with a new passport stamp?
Me, Choosing an International marathon
Once you start looking at marathon lists, you’ll realize how many marathons there actually are in the world. It’s astounding. And, it got me considering running my first marathon abroad. In my search, here are my requirements:
- Not a Silver, or Gold IAAF Label race. I don’t plan on having a spectacular qualifying time to be eligible for the Tokyo Marathon, a gold labeled IAAF race. If you can get into a Gold level race, by all means, do it. I’m just not that serious at this point, and see an international marathon more as a novelty at this point.
- Big: The race should be at least 5,000 people at an absolute minimum. 10,000 is a decent sized race. Big races draw bigger crowds, better sponsors, and just improve the quality of the suffering you’re enduring.
- Scenic: If I’m going to drop a thousand dollars to travel and run in a marathon, it better be scenic. I’m biased toward a city-center type race, rather than a beautiful, natural, dirt road race.
- Clean Air: I’m all for partying in soot infested cities, but I’m not going to run 26 miles breathing dirt in Dehli. This unfortunately eliminates the big city runs in Asia when looking at Chinese Cities, KL (not that bad, to be fair), etc.
- Budget Friendly: Not looking to break the bank here. Entry, travel, and accommodation costs need to be reasonable. All in cost, including flights, accommodation, and booze should be around $1,000.
- Summer: I’m looking for a May-July timing. Unfortunately, many of the bigger marathons take place when it cools down later in September-November. For my schedule, I’d rather not wait on this. June would be ideal.
My Top International Marathons to Travel For
1. Stockholm International Marathon - Stockholm, Sweden.
- June 1, 2013
- 109 Euro Entry fee = $141 USD
- 21,500 Runners
- Temperature: 60 Degrees F
Stockholm marathon takes you through the archipelago city. Perfect weather, beautiful city landscape. This one’s coming in hot, but a bit expensive when it comes to the entry fee and cost of living assumptions.
2. Copenhagen Marathon – Copenhagen, Denmark
- May 19, 2013
- 600 DKK = ~$105 USD Entry fee
I’m leaning towards a Scandinavian marathon. Copenhagen’s appears to be a bit smaller than Stockholm’s at first look. But, I imagine both to offer the same thing – A run around a beautiful and historic city center. One bonus for travelers is that Denmark’s offers a 50% Student Discount (you might be able to get this as a US Student with a nice email) and ’Deferment of Entry to 2014′, in case you have something come up that you cannot make the trip.
3. Oslo Marathon – Oslo, Norway
- September 21, 2013
- 515 NOK, ~$90 USD Signup fee
Appears to be big and rounds out the core Scandinavia marathon offerings. Date isn’t ideal for me.
4. Reykjavik Marathon – Reykjavik, Iceland
- August 24, 2013
- 68 Euro entry fee
- Temperature: ~50-55 Degrees F
This Icelandic marathon had me at “Free admittance to the geothermal baths and pools in Reykjavik.” I’ve always been very keen on Iceland and dying to visit. My slight obsession with Sigur Ros and their film Heima makes this marathon seem money. There are few things about Iceland that don’t intrigue me, and this would be a great excuse to visit.
5. Cork City Marathon – Cork City, Ireland
- June 3, 2013
- 70 Euro entry fee
Frankly, I’ve never had much interest in Ireland until reading about them in Micheal Lewis’ book on the financial crisis, Boomerang. Cork City’s the 2nd largest city in Ireland and would offer a novel race environment for those looking to avoid language barriers. Accommodation and boarding costs should be reasonable as well compared to the Scandinavian races.
- Jerusalem Marathon, March 1, 2013 – $72
- Tel Aviv Marathon, March 15, 2013 – $72
Both Israeli marathons appear to be taking advantage of a pleasant March climate for a marathon. A 3rd degree connection of mine ran the Jerusalem Marathon and appeared to have enjoyed it. I imagine running through such a historic city would be more than surreal, and if not for its bad timing, I’d strongly consider.
8. Marathon de Santiago - Santiago, Chile
- April 13 ,2013
- Costs = ? = didn’t sift through the Spanish
I’m somewhat weary of running a marathon in a non-english speaking country in case of injury, given my rusty Spanish, but this one in Chile looks legit. It comes at an early date and is an extremely popular event. Chile is at the top of my to-visit countries in South America for a variety of reasons, so this is enticing. Plus, costs should be favorable for the budget traveler.
Novel Honorable Mentions
9. Gobi Marathon - Gobi Desert, Mongolia
- September ???, 2013
- Cost: ?
This race would most resemble my hell. Running through the desolated Gobi Desert in Mongolia seems to be a bad scene from a spy movie. I found this one novel, so included it, but you’ll never find me anywhere near the Gobi running 26 miles.
10. The Great Wall Marathon - Great Wall, China.
Alright. The Great Wall Marathon takes the take when it comes to novel marathons. I can’t imagine running a full marathon on that though. A half would even bother me. However, this is easily the most unique marathon, even above those in Antarctica.
I wouldn’t do it though. Not because of the rigor, but because you have to ‘book’ the Marathon along with a full travel package and tour to participate. Garbage. And likely expensive. Such antics rub me the wrong way. Didn’t bother to read on wards after seeing that tidbit.
11. Phu QuoC Half Marathon - Phu Quoq, Vietnam
- May 11, 2013
Situated in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoq (PQ) offers a pretty unique area for a half marathon. PQ is a small island of Vietnam that has a flat course suited for the casual half marathoner. The race seems like a pretty good ploy to get travelers to the island, and from my own experiences in the Gulf of Thailand, it probably should not be overlooked.
Here’s the wikitravel info on PQ. You can get to the island via Vietnam Airliens or Air Mekong from Ho Chi Minh City, or via Air Mekong from Hanoi.
12. Belgrade Marathon - Belgrade, Serbia
- April 21, 2013
- Cost: ?
- Number of runners?
Belgrade is slated to have its 26th Belgrade Marathon in 2013. It was held in April in 2012, but no date, cost, or event details are up for 2013. Somewhat concerning the race could be in a mere 4 months. I’d normally shy away from information-sparse races, but I want to go to Belgrade.
Further Research and Marathon Sources
If international marathons, half marathons, or 10ks are of any interest to you, I encourage you to continue with your own research. My research was heavily biased given my location and time constraints. Further, the shear volume of marathons in the world makes any ‘Top recreational marathon list’ skewed, biased, and not that great.