Most beautiful places in the world to run a marathon (or half marathon) that aren't Boston
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is hard and I know a lot of fellow runners who have gotten frustrated by missing their qualifying times, sometimes by minutes or even seconds. It can be easy to forget that even finishing a marathon or half marathon at all is a major accomplishment.
So if you want to run a marathon without having to worry about the pressure of being able to finish within a strict time limit to even get in, here are some of the most beautiful courses in the world that you don't have to qualify for. (And the time limits during the races themselves are all very reasonable).
I'm including a mix of urban and rural settings and there are a few bonus ones because I couldn't narrow it down to jusy 10.
The Antarctica Marathon
The terrain is challenging and getting there is rough but it's well worth the trip. It'll be a once in a lifetime experience where you'll get to some amazing wildlife up close and personal and learn a lot about ecology and the effects of climate change from the guides that accompany you to the continent.
2. Lorne, Australia
The Great Ocean Road Marathon.
This is one of the only places in the world where the rainforest and the ocean meet in one location. The entire course has beaches on the left hand side and trees and lush vegetation full of wildlife on the right.
3. Aspen, Colorado
The Golden Leaf Half Marathon.
Between the altitude and terrain this is one of the toughest courses I've ever run but it's also one of the most beautiful and the time limits are totally reasonable given how challenging the course is.
The Chicago Marathon
I'm biased because it's my home city but Chicago is a beautiful place to run and I'm definitely not the only one who thinks that this is one of the best marathons in the world.
It has an amazing amount of crowd support and it's a nice flat course at sea level so you don't have to worry about hills or altitude. It also goes through 29 different neighborhoods that all have their own unique cultures and personalities.
It's also a World Marathon Major which puts it in the same category as Boston but without the pressure of needing a qualifying time to get in.
5. Moshi, Tanzania
The Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon.
It's almost impossible to visit this area and not see amazing wildlife. Depending on how much time you have, you can also climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and/or go on a Safari in the Sarengeti while you're there as well. The locals who live in Moshi are also super friendly.
6. Jackson, Wyoming
The Grand Teton Half Marathon
A beautiful course in one of the most beautiful National Parks in the US. Jackson Hole is a fun city to stay in too and if you have extra time you're also only about 10 miles away from Yellowstone.
7. Bangkok, Thailand
The Bangkok Marathon
This is a challenging course because of the heat and humidity (one of the reasons why the race is at night) but the scenery, local culture and history are amazing... not to mention that the food is delicious too.
8. Rio De Janiero, Brazil
The Rio Marathon
Rio has a reputation as a rough city but you shouldn't believe everything you hear. There are definitely areas where you need to be careful just like in any other big city but if you avoid it altogether you're missing out because it's also one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the course goes runs alongside some of the most beautiful beaches you'll ever see.
9. Zion Canyon National Park
The Zion Canyon Half Marathon
This course is stunning and you also get a bonus prize if you hike to the top of Angel's Landing after the race. Plus there are waterfalls, cool rock formations, wildlife and all kinds of other beautiful views inside the park.
10. New York City
The New York Marathon
Another World Marathon Major. The courses goes through all five boroughs and is one of the coolest big city races in the world.
You don't have to qualify for this one but the number of entries is limited so you'll have to either get in through a lottery, run for a charity or if you're local you can join the New York Road Runners and run in five of their other events to get in.
11. Bonus: Barcelona, Catalonia
Barcelona Marathon / Half Marathon
There's a marathon and a half marathon at different times of the year. They're both beautiful courses with lots of historic landmarks in an amazing international city. Plus the food is delicious.... And even though a lot of its infrastructure was built in the 1300s, Barcelona is one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world and it's considered to be the gold standard for Smart Cities.
12. Bonus: Cascade Locks, Oregon
The Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon
This course has some of the best views of the Columbia River Gorge. It's also close to Portland, Mt Hood and Multnomah Falls so there's a lot to see and do in the area.
13. Bonus: Sedona, Arizona
The Sedona Marathon
This is a slightly challenging course because of the elevation but it's a beautiful race in a fun town and the weather is usually pretty mild. It's also only a little over an hour away from the Grand Canyon.
14. Bonus: Hill City South Dakota
Crazy Horse Marathon.
I wasn't expecting this course to be as scenic as it was but I was pleasantly surprised. The elevation can be a little challenging but it's not as bad as some of the other races in this list and there are very few hills.... and as an added bonus the overall course is a net downhill. This might be one of the best kept secrets of the racing world.
15. Bonus: Anchorage, Alaska
Mayor's Midnight Sun Half Marathon.
The coolest thing about this race besides the wildlife is that it's held during Summer Solstice weekend and it's part of a bigger festival that includes closing down the streets in downtown Anchorage for food, music, dancing, etc, and the festivities last all night long since the sun never sets.