If you're planning on going the distance this year, you need to make it a marathon to remember – whether that's racing across the sweltering African desert, or over the iconic Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in NYC. Here's a rundown of some of the most spectacular marathons taking place around the world next year.
1. Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris
Date: 17 October 2021
Level of difficulty: Relatively flat, save for a short climb at 32km (1/5)
Run it for: The buzzing atmosphere
One of the biggest races on the international circuit, the well-established Paris Marathon sees around 55,000 runners taking part each year. Starting at Champs Elysées, the course takes in some of the city's most iconic landmarks, including the Louvre, the Bastille and the Eiffel Tower, and finishes along Avenue Foch, with the Arc de Triomphe in sight. Gathering over 80,000 visitors to the city, spectator support is second to none, and the atmosphere is truly thrilling. A packed course does make it difficult to pick up speed early on, but don't panic – it opens up around the six-mile mark, giving plenty of opportunity to pass through the pack.
2. Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series: Pembrokeshire Marathon
Date: 1 May 2021
Level of difficulty: Hilly and technical terrain (3/5)
Run it for: Experiencing the beauty of Britain
Pounding the pavements not your thing? Swap city marathons for Britain’s wildest corners on Endurancelife’s epic Coastal Trail marathon series, taking place along coastal paths in Wales and the east and west coasts of England. Our favourite is the Pembrokeshire Marathon, where the route heads up rugged cliffs, alongside epic sandy beaches and past hidden coves. There are some scary climbs on this undulating run, but some epic descents too, and the glorious views of the ocean are guaranteed to take your mind off those jelly legs.
3. Uganda International Marathon
Date: May 30 to June 6 2021
Level of difficulty: Hot and hilly (3/5)
Run it for: The community spirit
The Uganda International is definitely not your average marathon. For starters, it takes place over an entire week, and participants run on dusty tracks past rural villages and along the heights of Pine Ridge, looking down on Lake Victoria – a sight so epic you’ll forget the heat. Participants don’t just take on the physical challenge, though – they also raise funds to help local, sustainable community projects, which they can visit and actively help out with during the week, getting to know the local community. Participants also help to organise KidsRunWild – a sports day for disadvantaged children, hosted by the Uganda Marathon. The ultimate do-good, feel-good week in the heart of Africa.
4. Virgin Money London Marathon
Date: 3 October 2021
Level of difficulty: A very flat route, but a busy course can hamper PB potential (2/5)
Run it for: The crowds
There’s nowhere as buzzy as London town on marathon day. Joining the lycra-clad crowds, from all walks of life, is a great way to show your love for this diverse city, plus you’ll get to spot landmarks, celebs and many hilarious costumes. No matter how tired your legs are, there’s nothing quite like turning the corner at Buckingham Palace and making it the last few metres to the finish line along The Mall. A must-run marathon.
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5. Baxters Loch Ness Marathon
Date: 3 October 2021
Level of difficulty: A couple of short but manageable undulations in the first half, with a challenging uphill section from miles 17 to 20 (2/5)
Run it for: The friendly and informal vibes
Starting between Fort Augustus and Foyers, spectacular Highland views set the tone of this spectacularly scenic race. The course then drops down to the banks of Loch Ness, following the stunning loch shore, before heading into Inverness. A far cry from the hustle and bustle of many city marathons, much of this route is quiet and remote, giving lots of opportunity to take in the views and get chatting to other runners. Although a well-established event, it has a really friendly and informal feel, with lots of local support – particularly as you arrive in Inverness, where there's even a hot meal waiting for you.
6. Patagonian International Marathon
Date: 25 September 2021
Level of difficulty: Very hilly with hostile weather conditions (4/5)
Run it for: Epic mountain views
If you like your running backdrops on a grand scale, look no further than the PIM. The route meanders below enormous ice-clad peaks and past glassy lakes on its way to the very southern tip of Chile, in the surroundings of the incredible Torres del Paine National Park. It ends at the base of the tempting, 3,000m high Monte Almirante Nieto – though you might want to give your legs a few days to recover before you think about a hike. Prepare for hostile and unpredictable weather conditions – average temperatures usually sit between 2 and 10°C with a chance of high winds, rain and snow.
7. Maratona di Roma
Date: 21 March 2021
Level of difficulty: Largely flat, but around half the course takes place over cobbled streets (2/5)
Run it for: An awesome city break
Rome’s treasures and architectural wonders are best explored on foot – but that doesn’t have to mean a gentle stroll. From the Vatican to the Colosseum, sign up for the Maratona and you’ll bag all the biggies on your way around the centre. There’s no time to get tired or bored when there’s another incredible ancient ruin around the corner. The course is fairy flat, though around half of it takes place over cobbled streets – and can be quite crowded in places – so it's important to manage your PB expectations. One thing you can guarantee, though, is some top-notch post-race pasta.
8. Antarctic Ice Marathon
Date: 14 December 2021
Terrain: Ice and snow
Level of difficulty: Underfoot conditions consist of snow and ice throughout, average windchill temperature is -20C, and the race takes place at an altitude of 700 metres (5/5)
Run it for: Sheer extremism
Tend to get rather sweaty on your training runs? The gruelling Antarctic Ice Marathon will soon put a stop to that. The route begins at the Union Glacier exploration camp, 600 miles from the South Pole, and participants wear balaclavas and ski goggles to compete in temperatures which can hit -20C. There's also strong Katabatic winds to contend with, reaching 300km/hour, making it a punishing challenge for even the hardiest of athletes. An incredible (and testing) way to tick off the seventh continent, and if you’re feeling totally nuts, there’s also a 100km route.
9. Midnight Sun Marathon
Date: 19 June 2021
Level of difficulty: Gentle rolling hills, including the 500m Tromsø Bridge, which you run over twice (2/5)
Run it for: Scandi sunshine
Run in the land where the sun never sets. Tromsø in Norway basks in never-ending Scandinavian sunlight during the month of June, so naturally there’s a marathon to celebrate the not-so-twilight hours. The race begins at 8.30pm, hugging the city’s beautiful waterfront, and most runners arrive back around 12am in golden sunshine. With views of snow-capped mountains and glistening waters, you'd struggle to find a more picturesque backdrop for a marathon, and while it doesn't attract the same crowds as you'll find at the big city races, you'll be geed up by plenty of friendly locals. A weird and wonderful experience, and you’ll want to party into the (sunny) small hours to celebrate.
10. TCS New York City Marathon
Date: 7 November 2021
Level of difficulty: Plenty of hills and bridges, so must be paced well (2/5)
Run it for: The feeling of team spirit
The city that never sleeps – well, unless it’s just to run an epic 26.2 around its magical, melting-pot streets. Like in London, the cheering, happy crowds that line the streets of the NYC marathon will make you forget your aches and pains. So revel in the buoyant spirit, that carries runners from all corners of the globe across the finish line, via the varied neighbourhoods of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. The steepest climb comes in the first two miles over Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, with Queensboro Bridge and Madison Avenue Bridge later to come, but they're all manageable if you pace yourself well (and take your headphones out to hear the uplifting crowds). A unique and memorable way to experience this awesome city.
11. Great Wall Marathon
Date: 15 May 2021
Level of difficulty: A very hilly route, encompassing steep staircases and technical terrain (4/5)
Run it for: An incredible challenge
The Great Wall Marathon runs, you guessed it, along the Great Wall of China, to the east of Beijing. Don’t hold out hopes for a personal best at this incredible race though – the gruelling route takes the average runner twice as long to complete than usual, due to the sheer amount of climbing involved – expect undulating trails, steep ascents and giant staircases comprising a whopping 5,164 steps. Luckily the crowds and amazing scenery make up for the hard slog.
12. Kauai Marathon
Date: 5 September 2021
Level of difficulty: Hot and hilly (4/5)
Run it for: The tropical scenery (and post-race holiday!)
If you've always fancied holidaying in Hawaii, this is your perfect excuse. Starting on Poipu Beach on the South shore of Kauai, runners make their way along the coastline, through the ‘Tunnel of Trees', onto Omao and out to Lawai, before climbing to the top of Kalaheo. Climbing 662m of elevation in relentless sunshine, it's not for the faint-hearted – but it's hard to complain when you're surrounded by green tropical rain forests, volcanic peaks and white beaches. With hula dancers and Taiko drum troupes to keep you entertained en route, and a beach party at the finish, it's hard to imagine a better way to experience Hawaii.