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It’s no secret runners are highly motivated athletes with ambitious goals. One increasingly popular goal is to complete a {insert your favorite race distance} on all seven continents, but where to start? Here on RaceRaves, of course! Whether you’re looking for fresh inspiration to ward off complacency, a compelling goal to jump-start your training, or a new challenge to stoke your wanderlust, here are a few marathon options to consider on each of the seven continents, sans North America:

Races that offer non-marathon distances are designated by a *. And due to their overwhelming popularity, the Abbott World Marathon Majors (Tokyo, London, Berlin) are excluded from this list. Keep in mind, many of these locations fall within the Southern Hemisphere, with seasonal calendars opposite that of North America.

(Need further motivation? Consider joining the Seven Continents Club from Marathon Tours & Travel — SCC membership includes a number of benefits and is a great way to meet like-minded traveling runners from around the world.)

Marathons in Africa

Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon course photo
(photo: Two Oceans Marathon website)

Two Oceans Marathon logoTwo Oceans Marathon*
Cape Town beauty from coast to coast
Cape Town, South Africa (Apr)
Its ultra marathon distance (56 km = 35 miles) notwithstanding, Africa’s largest annual running event may well earn its billing as the “World’s Most Beautiful Marathon.” The almost-loop course, comprising a relatively flat first half and hillier second half, starts appropriately alongside the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. From there it heads south toward and along the Indian Ocean before climbing on a northwest trajectory to Chapman’s Peak, where runners enjoy spectacular 180° views of the Atlantic coastline. Turning inland once again, the course borders Table Mountain National Park en route to a triumphant finish at the University of Cape Town. For veteran ultrarunners and first-timers alike, Two Oceans is an inspired choice.

Econet Victoria Falls Marathon logoVictoria Falls Marathon*
Behold the Smoke That Thunders
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Jul)
Victoria Falls (known to the indigenous people as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders”) is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and the breathtaking centerpiece of its namesake marathon. Like the Falls themselves, the marathon course is international in that it spans both Zimbabwe and (briefly) Zambia. With fewer than 500 finishers, this is a far more intimate marathon than Cape Town or Two Oceans, with the potential for wildlife sightings including baboons, wart hogs, and even elephants. And speaking of wildlife, relax after the race with a safari day tour to Chobe National Park in neighboring Botswana. Of note, because July is winter in Africa, your risk of contracting a mosquito-borne illness (e.g. malaria) is minimal.
Read RaceRaves Co-founder Mike’s own Vic Falls Marathon experience (elephant included) here.

Sanlam Cape Town Marathon logoSanlam Cape Town Marathon*
South Africa’s solid gold sensation
Cape Town, South Africa (Sep)
Cape Town is widely considered the cultural crown jewel of sub-Saharan Africa, so it’s no surprise its increasingly popular marathon is the only African marathon to earn coveted IAAF Gold Label status. It’s also the continent’s best bet to join the globally expanding Abbott World Marathon Majors series. The rolling course starts and finishes a stone’s throw from the bustling V&A Waterfront alongside Cape Town Stadium, with much of the first 10 km running along the Atlantic Seaboard before venturing out into diverse suburban neighborhoods. On a clear day, runners are rewarded with majestic views of Table Mountain, the city’s iconic backdrop. And more leisurely participants will appreciate the event’s generous 6.5-hour time limit.

Marathons in Antarctica

Antarctica Marathon course photo
(photo Anita Allen, Marathon Tours & Travel)

Antarctica Marathon logoAntarctica Marathon*
The ultimate bucket-list marathon
King George Island, Antarctica (Mar)
Yes, you can run a marathon (or half) on the coldest, highest, darkest, driest and windiest continent on Earth. The original Antarctica Marathon from Marathon Tours & Travel celebrated its 20th year in 2019 and continues to sell out several years in advance. Participants sail from Ushuaia, Argentina (the southernmost city in the world) to King George Island, Antarctica, where runners follow gravel roads on a figure-eight course past four scientific research bases. As much of a singular thrill as race day is, the real fun begins once the race ends, with three days spent exploring the Last Continent and coming face to fin with seals, penguins and humpback whales. Plus, proceeds support Antarctica conservation programs from Oceanites.

Antarctic Ice Marathon logoAntarctic Ice Marathon*
Run on a glacier at the World’s Southernmost Marathon
Union Glacier, Antarctica (Dec)
For runners who prefer a more “Get in, get out” approach to their Antarctica race experience, Global Running Adventures offers the World’s Southernmost Marathon. The Antarctic Ice Marathon is the only marathon run on the continent’s mainland, specifically on Union Glacier located ten degrees (690 miles) north of the South Pole, where strong katabatic winds and an average windchill temperature of –20°C await. The compact three-day itinerary, which includes flights from Punta Arenas, Chile to Union Glacier and back via private jet, costs roughly twice as much as other Antarctica options. It’s all the snow and ice with none of the wildlife, given that even penguins don’t venture as far south as Union Glacier.

White Continent Marathon logoWhite Continent Marathon*
Two races and a fleeting glimpse of Antarctica
King George Island, Antarctica (Jan)
The White Continent Marathon from Kathy Loper Events combines elements of the other existing Antarctica options, while offering runners the opportunity to race on two continents (Antarctica and South America). The nine-day itinerary starts and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile. From there runners fly to King George Island, Antarctica for race day and an overnight stay in polar tents, before the return flight to Chile for the affiliated Punta Arenas Marathon. If 26.2 miles on Antarctica isn’t enough, a 50K distance is also available. And the race takes place in the middle of the Antarctica summer, so do prepare for mud. The tour is limited to 30 participants and sells out quickly, with pricing similar to the more Antarctica-focused Marathon Tours trip.

Marathons in Asia

Great Wall Marathon course photo
(photo Great Wall Marathon Facebook page)

Jerusalem Winner Marathon logoJerusalem Winner Marathon*
3,000 years of history in 26.2 miles
Jerusalem, Israel (Mar)
The Jerusalem Winner Marathon leads runners on a memorable tour of the Holy Land and 3,000 years of history. Few global cities boast the cultural and historical diversity of Jerusalem, and athletes from 80 nations made the pilgrimage to Israel’s capital city in 2019. Starting at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), the hilly urban course winds past the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram and Mount Scopus campuses before a visit to the Old City, which along with its surrounding wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The home stretch then leads runners through the Valley of the Cross to the finish line celebration in Sacher Park. Be sure to leave time after the race to visit nearby Bethlehem, the Dead Sea and the ancient fortress of Masada.

Great Wall Marathon logoGreat Wall Marathon*
Step up to one of running’s greatest challenges
Huangyaguan, China (May)
How often do you get to run atop one of mankind’s architectural marvels? The Great Wall extends more than 13,000 miles; fortunately you’ll run only four of those miles on the marathon course, with the majority of the route traversing adjacent farmland and villages. Nonetheless, the Great Wall earns its reputation as one of the world’s toughest marathons thanks to its one-two punch of 5,164 steps (but who’s counting?) and oppressive heat. Half marathon finisher @Gruma calls the race “More than a challenge” and offers these training tips: “Do stairs. Then do more stairs. Run in temperatures that make you feel like you are being melted.” All of which will pay dividends on race day, when the strict 8-hour cutoff arrives in a hurry.

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon logoStandard Chartered Singapore Marathon*
Cosmopolitan candidate for the World Marathon Majors
Singapore, Singapore (Dec)
Currently under consideration as the 7th member of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM), Singapore introduced a new twist for 2019 by moving the race start time to the evening, an hour before sunset. The later start should help to mitigate public enemy #1 for its runners — the equatorial heat and humidity — as will mist tunnels, splash zones and ice chip stations along the course. And the ample 7.5-hour cutoff caters to runners of all paces. AWMM veteran @FLTLBrun praises SCSM’s production and hospitality, saying the marathon “ranks right up there with the other [AWMM members].” If you’re in search of a high-energy, cosmopolitan race experience that rivals the best in the US, add Singapore to your bucket list.

Marathons in Europe

Marathon du Medoc course photo
(photo Marathon du Médoc website)

Reykjavik Marathon logoReykjavik Marathon*
Nordic charm in the Land of Fire and Ice
Reykjavik, Iceland (Aug)
Among traveling runners, few destinations elicit such unanimous approval as Iceland. And for good reason — the beauty of the world’s northernmost capital city shines through in its marathon course, which features a scenic combination of residential neighborhoods, urban parks, seaside vistas, and distinctive Icelandic architecture like the towering Hallgrímskirkja church. Don’t expend all your energy running, though, because the marathon happens on the same day as Reykjavik Culture Night, the city’s biggest celebration and one of the most popular events in Iceland. Then jump-start the recovery process by soaking your weary muscles in the mineral-rich geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, less than an hour’s drive from Reykjavik.
Pro Tip: Planning to visit other Nordic countries in addition to Iceland? Icelandic Air allows its passengers a stopover in Iceland without any additional airfare, an ideal arrangement if, for example, you’d like to run the Stavanger Marathon in Norway the weekend after Reykjavik. 🙂

Marathon du Medoc logoMarathon du Médoc
Exceeding “grape” expectations
Pauillac, France (Sep)
Marathon running meets molecular gastronomy at this 26.2-mile party held in the Bordeaux region of France and organized around the region’s world-class wine country. Starting in Pauillac, the rolling figure-eight course leads costume-clad runners past 59 châteaux as well as 22 refreshment stations and 21 food stands serving wine, oysters, steak, cheese and ice cream, among other fare. For those who savor the full race day experience, the group recovery walk (10 km) the next day may be just what the doctor ordered. Médoc hopefuls take note: the race is limited to 8,500 runners and sells out within 24 hours. If you don’t believe a marathon can be fun, or if you’ve ever wanted to be asked “Red or white?” at an aid station, Médoc is your race.

Athens Marathon logoAthens Marathon: The Authentic*
In the footsteps of Pheidippides
Athens, Greece (Nov)
It’s safe to say no marathon boasts greater historical significance than Athens. Following the “authentic” 25-mile (40 km) route from the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the race starts in the town of Marathon with a relatively flat six miles before climbing to mile 21. From there it descends to a boisterous finish in Panathenaic Stadium, the site of the 1896 Olympic Games and the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. At its midway point the route passes the town of Pikermi, a name known to runners as a proposed replacement for the term “half marathon.” Athens is a hilly and crowded course, but when the going gets tough, channel your inner Pheidippides and let the cries of “Bravo!” from the raucous crowd fuel you to the finish.

Marathons in Oceania

Blackmores Sydney Running Festival marathon course photo
(photo Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Facebook page)

Gold Coast Marathon logoGold Coast Marathon*
Flat, fast celebration of running Down Under
Gold Coast, Australia (Jul)
Situated 500 miles north of Sydney along Australia’s eastern seaboard lies the Gold Coast, home to Oceania’s other IAAF Gold Label marathon. For more than 40 years GCM has attracted runners from across the globe — including 57 countries in 2019 — with its flat, fast, seaside course (personal best, anyone?), mild winter temperatures and low humidity. With several distances to choose from including two kids runs, GCM is one of the more family-friendly races on this list. And that ethos extends to the post-race recovery — where else can you kick back on a white-sand beach, entertain the kids at one of five local theme parks, or take a leisurely stroll through lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls and glow worm caves? Good on ya, mate!

Blackmores Sydney Running Festival logoBlackmores Sydney Running Festival*
One of the world’s most photogenic races
Sydney, Australia (Sep)
Few cityscapes worldwide boast the visual allure of Sydney Harbour, and its running festival smartly plays to that strength. Established in 2001, the Sydney Marathon earns IAAF Gold Label status as the sole remaining legacy of the 2000 Summer Olympics. It’s also the only day of the year on which the main deck of Harbour Bridge closes to vehicular traffic. The rolling course starts at one iconic landmark (Harbour Bridge) and ends at another (Sydney Opera House) while in between showcasing parks, commercial districts, and residential neighborhoods as well as the harbour itself under the watchful gaze of Sydney Tower Eye. With a half marathon, 10 km Bridge Run and 3.5 km Fun Run also available, Sydney features a distance for everyone.

Queenstown International Marathon logoQueenstown International Marathon*
Unspoiled nature in the world’s adventure capital
Queenstown, New Zealand (Nov)
If eye-popping, jaw-dropping scenery is a prerequisite for your ideal marathon, then New Zealand is the country and Queenstown is the place. Set against a backdrop of majestic mountain ranges and the pristine waters of Lake Wakatipu, the point-to-point marathon course follows mainly dirt roads and hard-packed trails around lakes, along rivers, and across bridges through breathtaking landscapes that will linger in your mind’s eye long after you cross the finish. After the race, experience the adrenaline rush of bungy jumping, spoil yourself at one of the outstanding local vineyards, or make the short drive to Glenorchy where several scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed. Living this well could easily become a “hobbit.”

Marathons in South America

Rio de Janeiro Marathon course photo
(photo Rio de Janeiro Marathon Facebook page)

Santiago Marathon logoSantiago Marathon*
Nestled in the foothills of the Andes Mountains
Santiago, Chile (Apr)
Sandwiched between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Santiago delivers its runners an unsung marathon in a dramatic urban setting. And with Nike signing on as the official technical sponsor for the 2020 race, Chile’s largest annual sporting event promises to get even better. The loop course starts and finishes at Palacio de la Moneda, the official seat of the President of Chile. Highlights include La Universidad de Chile and the soaring Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in Latin America with an observation desk that offers 360° views of the city. And few places understand post-race recovery like Santiago, where you can hike San Cristóbal Hill to Santiago Metropolitan Park or visit one of several nearby wine regions or beaches.

Rio de Janeiro Marathon logoRio de Janeiro Marathon*
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Jun)
If you fancy a warm-weather marathon set against a backdrop of mountain peaks and beautiful beaches, Rio is calling. The recently updated course starts and finishes at Parque do Flamengo, the city’s largest public park. The route closely follows the winding coastline, highlighted by the conical façade of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) visible across Guanabara Bay, named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Complementing its natural beauty, an assortment of musical instruments and styles keeps the course entertaining, from electronic rhythm to hip-hop to traditional Brazilian frevo. So come ready to run, because according to the race website, “All shows will be over 120 bpm, to encourage runners not to let the pace drop.”

Buenos Aires Marathon logoBuenos Aires Marathon
Eat, drink & be merry in the birthplace of tango
Buenos Aires, Argentina (Sep)
The largest marathon in South America treats runners to a compelling tour of Argentina’s seductive capital city. The route showcases the city’s eclectic architecture, from the colorful tenement homes of La Boca to the neoclassical stylings of world-renowned Teatro Colón and Casa Rosada, the sprawling pink executive mansion of the President of Argentina. And no structure in Buenos Aires Is more distinctive than the imposing Obelisk, a national monument which runners pass no fewer than three times. After the race, visit the trendy shops and inviting parks of the Palermo barrio (the city’s largest neighborhood) or the upscale cafés and historic tombs of affluent Recoleta, both within walking (or limping) distance of the finish line.

Have you run one or more races on another continent?

Post your own review to share your experience and help other runners make smart decisions! And use RaceRaves to discover more great marathons around the world — try our handy Find a Race tool to search for events by continent & country or by name, date, US location (state, city, zip code radius), distance, terrain & more. Sign up for a free account to start building your future wish list, and use our smart 50 States Map to track your racing accomplishments!

Other RaceRaves articles you’ll enjoy (trust us!):

Getting to know the Abbott World Marathon Majors
Packing for a destination race
Coach Bette: Tips for a traveling runner
Tagline(s), you’re it: Test your race IQ
Runners Choice: Best Marathons in the U.S.
Best Bets for Boston Marathon Qualifying Races

And for more helpful articles, check out our blog!

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