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The Top 5 'Non-Major' Marathons

The Top 5 'Non-Major' Marathons

Part of the beauty of running is that it is a global language of sorts. No matter where you end up in the world, there will always be a running event happening and that opens us up to some pretty epic possibilities for running adventures.

For example, I'm heading to Hong Kong later this week for a business trip. So I looked up some running clubs and events and there is no shortage of community running groups.

Running is a beautiful global language.

In this article we're going to uncover hidden gems of running events around the globe. For this obvious reason, we’re avoiding the World Majors (New York, Boston, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, London & Chicago).

So, from stunning coastal routes to scenic mountain trails, let's explore the top five non-World Major marathons around the world promising breathtaking views, perfect weather, and unforgettable experiences. Get ready to feel inspired and add these races to your must-run list!

1. Athens Marathon

The Athens Classic Marathon, rooted in history and legend. It’s an event that honours the origins of modern athletics. Originating from the inaugural modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, where it served as a tribute to the ancient Greek messenger Pheidippides, the race holds a special place in the hearts of runners worldwide.

Every year, athletes from across the globe converge to retrace the legendary footsteps of Pheidippides, running a challenging 42km route from Marathon to Athens. Passing historic landmarks like the Marathon Tomb and enduring the hills and heat of the course, runners find themselves immersed in a journey that transcends mere physical exertion. The race culminates in Athens, where spectators line the streets to cheer on the participants as they cross the finish line at the iconic Panathenaic Stadium.

Beyond the athletic achievement, the Athens Marathon is a testament to resilience, history, and the unbreakable bond between sport and culture. With each stride, runners pay homage to the rich heritage of the marathon, reaffirming its status as a timeless symbol of human perseverance.

I mean, it doesn't get too much better than that, we think!

2. Bali Marathon

The Maybank Bali Marathon, formerly known as Bali Marathon, has evolved into a premier sports tourism event, combining the thrill of a road race with the allure of Bali's holiday destination. Renowned for its international athletic standards intertwined with Balinese culture, natural splendor, and warm hospitality, the marathon has garnered acclaim since its inception in 2013.

Recognised as Indonesia's first marathon and an official race directory of the Boston Marathon, Maybank Marathon achieved the prestigious 'Elite Label' status by World Athletics in 2020, solidifying its place among the world's top marathon events. Offering a distinctive running experience, the marathon route winds through the picturesque Gianyar and Klungkung districts, encompassing rice fields, bustling urban areas, and scenic countryside vistas. 

Now, let me just say, if you've never run in the thick heat of Bali, you're going to want to acclimatise yourself. It's very different!

The first time I ran in there I absolutely blew up! It's something you definitely need to get adjusted to.

As runners embark on this journey, they are immersed in Balinese traditions, with locals engaging in cultural performances, music, and dances along the route, adding a unique charm and vibrancy to the competition. Maybank Bali Marathon stands as a testament to the fusion of athletic excellence and cultural richness, inviting participants to experience the beauty and diversity of Bali while pursuing their running aspirations.

Definitely worth adding to your bucket list.

3. Istanbul Marathon

Talk about bucket list items.

The Istanbul Marathon, an iconic event bridging continents, originated from a novel idea proposed by the Tercüman Newspaper in 1973. Initially met with skepticism, it gained momentum in 1979 when a group of German tourists initiated the run from Asia to Europe. Over the years, under the auspices of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the marathon evolved from a local affair to a global spectacle, attracting participants worldwide.

Spanning 42 kilometres from the Martyr’s Bridge to Sultanahmet Square, the Istanbul Marathon is renowned for its challenging yet breathtaking route.

With a record 30,000 participants, including both professionals and amateurs from over 100 countries, it stands as one of the largest and toughest marathons globally. Commencing on the Asian side of Istanbul and culminating at Sultanahmet Square on the European side, the marathon offers runners a unique opportunity to traverse continents in a single race, symbolising unity and diversity.

Truly spectacular. BRB booking flights right now.

4. Rotterdam Marathon

Moving on to the NN Marathon Rotterdam—the Netherlands' largest one-day sporting event. With over 35,000 participants, including both elite athletes and enthusiastic amateurs, this marathon is a celebration of athleticism and community spirit.

Elite runners and amateur runners from around the globe converge with thousands of others, each embarking on their own journey of triumph. 

Rotterdam Marathon stands out for its unparalleled ambiance, with a staggering 925,000 spectators lining the course to cheer on the participants, adding to the electrifying energy of the event.

Honestly, it's wild.

The concept of an international marathon in Rotterdam took root in 1980, with the Rotterdam Athletic Union PAC organising the national 25-kilometre championship to commemorate its 85th anniversary. Originally spanning from the Nenijto-sintelbaan to Nieuwerkerk aan de Ijssel and back, the event has evolved significantly since its inception, establishing itself as a cornerstone of the Dutch sporting calendar.

Even if you're not running it, this is a great event to just soak it all in. An incredible atmosphere.

5. Kyoto Marathon

You don't need to ask me twice to go to Japan.

But for running? SIGN ME UP.

Experience the magic of Japan's cultural capital with the Kyoto Marathon, an annual event held in mid-February. Covering 42.195 kilometres, this marathon starts at Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium, meandering through Kyoto Botanical Gardens and along the picturesque Kamo River before finishing near Heian Jingu.

Notably ranked among the top ten most expensive marathons globally in 2015, this race offers participants a cultural odyssey through the "City of International Culture and Tourism." With seven UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites along the route and breathtaking vistas of Kyoto's iconic scenery, runners are in for a treat. From revered temples to serene ponds, each stride celebrates the rich heritage and natural beauty of this historic city.

Wrapping up, exploring beyond the World Major Marathons unveils a treasure trove of scenic marvels and invigorating challenges.

Whether you're drawn to Kyoto's cultural splendour or Rotterdam's vibrant urban energy, each event promises a unique blend of natural beauty, heritage, and athletic excellence.

These non-World Major marathons offer unforgettable experiences that extend far beyond the racecourse. So, remember, it's not just about crossing the finish line—it's about embracing the journey, pushing boundaries, and discovering the remarkable beauty of our world, one stride at a time.

Run well.

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