The world’s most scenic marathons and races

Richard Mellor

From lion-lined savannah to colonial grandeur, these ten challenges are so attractive that you’ll be tempted to run clutching a camera.

Ultra-trail Angkor, Cambodia

Ultra-trail Angkor
Image via: Ultra-trail

The newest of a series of Angkor marathons, this endurance test offers 32-km, 64-km and 128-km routes around the famous temples, including Bayon and Angkor Wat.

Watch out for monkeys, and the gigantic tree vines that memorably hug some of the complexes.

 

Trans-Atlas marathon, Morocco

Trans-Atlas marathon
Image via Trans-Atlas marathon

Newly launched in 2015, this marathon is part-extreme-sports trial, part-holiday.

Competitors start out amid Marrakech's souks, and stay overnight in beautiful Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains, eating traditional tagines and learning about local customs along the way.

It’s a shame about the 285 km (177 miles) of running at altitudes topping 13,000 feet.

 

Marabana, Cuba

Marabana
Image via CN Traveller

Havana's crumbling colonial buildings provide the backdrop to the Marabana marathon which runs every November.

Starting and finishing in Old Havana, its glorious citywide circuit includes the waterfront Malecón, Plaza de la Revolución, complete with Che Guevara iconography, and the sprawling Parque Central.

Just be sure to leave those Cuban cigars until afterwards…

 

Dodo trail, Mauritius

Dodos
Image via Photo Trail

Traversing rugged coastline and tropical forests, the Dodo Trail is full of wildlife, although the eponymous dodo remains, sadly, extinct.

While the demanding 50km Xtreme route covers 828m-high Black River Peak, a beginner-friendly Mini Dodo Trail (10 km) is easier. Most packages include post-race spa treatments.

 

Marathon du Medoc, France

grapes running
Image via When On Earth

Truly a marathon for the beau monde, this Bordeaux-region run manages to factor in wine-tasting and five-star oysters while crisscrossing 50 pretty chateaux.

As you might guess, not every participant is wholly concerned with recording a fast time, and many finish the race less fit than they began.

 

Big Sur international marathon, USA

Big Sur international
Image via See Monterey

Hello, Highway One!

The world’s largest rural marathon promises giant redwoods, ranches and those much-photographed Pacific panoramas, especially so around Bixby Bridge, as it hugs the coast.

There’s no time for gawping, though: you have a maximum of six hours to finish the course.

 

Great ocean road marathon, Australia

Great Ocean road marathon
Image via Charity Resource Centre

Another notoriously scenic coastal drive, southern Australia’s Great Ocean Road stages a footrace every May.

Neck-ache could be a problem: in one direction lies the South Sea, and in another handsome forest and, if you’re lucky, a koala or two.

Be warned, however, that the series of steep inclines and slopes make this one of the toughest marathons going.

 

The Great Wall of China marathon, China

Great Wall Marathon
Image via Great Wall Marathon

How about running along one of the Seven Wonders of the World?

Given the Great Wall has 5,164 steps, that’s not quite as idyllic a proposition as it might seem. The race takes twice as long as most marathons and yet, ambitiously, has an eight-hour cap.

The good news? Staggering (literally) views of villages and paddy fields, and lifelong bragging rights.

 

Everest marathon, Nepal

Everest marathon
Image via Everest Marathon

Nope, you don’t have to reach Everest’s summit to complete this one.

Instead, ‘the highest marathon in the world’ (as certified by Guinness) takes in the Sherpa capital town of Namche Bazaar, beautiful Buddhist monasteries at Pangboche and Thyangboche and an array of gasp-inducing (providing you have any remaining air) Everest National Park vistas.

 

Big Five marathon, South Africa

Big Five marathon
Image via Big Five Marathon

Marathon meets safari at the privately owned Entabeni Game Reserve every June.

The start time is dependent on the race-day location of the Big Five members—African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos—as organisers try to guarantee sightings.