Runners’ World: 10 Amazing Races

Whether you still have on a runner’s high from last week’s Standard Chartered Marathon or you’re interested in booking a sporty holiday, here’s a list of beautiful marathons worth traveling for. Not a runner? A glimpse at these gorgeous routes might be enough to have you sprinting towards a treadmill.

March 1: Kilimanjaro Premium Lager Marathon

The tallest mountain in Africa at 5,895 meters tall, Kilimanjaro makes quite the backdrop for a marathon. Lucky for you, this race doesn’t trek all the way to the top—it starts in Moshi, Tanzania, and continues along a relatively flat stretch of coffee and banana plantations, villages and farms before turning uphill and peaking at 1,150 meters. All while Kili cheers you on in the distance.
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Photo: Kilimanjaro Marathon

April 26: Virgin Money London

Hit the ground running with the London’s marathon’s popular route, which winds along the Thames, passes the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and ends next to Buckingham Palace. Talk about a whirlwind tour!
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Photo: Virgin Money London Marathon

May 12: Great Wall Marathon

For a race to remember, consider the Great Wall Marathon in Tianjin, China. It’s long been hailed as one of the world’s most arduous courses, but you can’t argue with the surrounds: runners make their way through local villages and countryside before finally running along the Great Wall for an epic finish.
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Photo: Great Wall Marathon

May 16: Great Ocean Road Marathon

Following along Australia’s most glorious stretch of cement, the Great Ocean Road Marathon offers runners first-class views of the southern coast. The race starts in the seaside town of Lorne and crawls along the coastline towards Apollo Bay, with distractingly beautiful scenery every step of the way.
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Photo: Great Ocean Road Marathon

June 20: Big Five Marathon

You’ll literally be running into the wild at the Big Five Marathon in Limpopo, South Africa, which takes place in one of Africa’s “Big Five” game reserves. As you cross the incredible terrain and red-sand roads, you’ll have a chance to spot elephant, rhino, buffalo, lions and leopards (hopefully) in the distance.
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Photo: Big Five Marathon

July 9: Inca Trail Marathon

One of the most difficult marathons in the world, the Inca Trail Marathon typically takes about 3.5 days to complete, because there are multiple mountain ascents as well as tricky terrain throughout. But the hard work is rewarded with views of the Inca ruins and an unforgettable finish at Machu Picchu.
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August 9: Angkor Empire Marathon

Only in its second year, the Angkor Empire Marathon sees runners wind through the ancient city of Angkor Wat—darting around ancient temples and bounding over rice fields.
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November 9: Athens Classic Marathon

The Athens Classic Marathon is one for history buffs: according to folklore, the first ever marathon ended in Athens in 490BC, when a messenger named Pheidippides ran 26.2 miles to announce that the Greeks had conquered the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Some 2,500 years in the making, the hilly course starts at the white marble Panathenaic Stadium, built for the first Olympic games in 1896, up to Mount Pentelicus and into central Athens.
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November 15: Vodafone Istanbul Marathon

Get the best of both worlds at the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, where runners will take to the streets on Istanbul’s Asian side, cross three bridges and pass the likes of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It all culminates at the Inönü Stadium in Europe. Where else can you run across continents?
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Photo:  Fuzzy Gerdes/Flickr

December 13: Honolulu Marathon

Need a noble excuse to visit Hawaii? The Honolulu Marathon shouldn’t be too painful: the run attracts over 30,000 runners every year thanks to the beautiful scenery—think Oahu’s coastline, Waikiki Beach, Koko Head Crater and a photo finish at verdant Kapiolani Park.
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This article originally appeared in my “Escape Routes” travel column in HK Magazine, in print and online.