When the first New York City “5 borough” marathon began in 1976, no one realized the profound impact it would have on the nature of marathons. Before this, nearly all marathons had featured country roads and focused on professional athletes.
Everyone was surprised when the 1976 New York City Marathon was not only successful, but showed a wonderful side fo the city- allowing runners to admire the city’s diversity and architecture by foot, as well as the “vibe” of each neighbourhood that they passed through. It brought forward massive support from local residents, with spectators watching, cheering and supporting the runners. It made New York look welcoming and wholesome, and brought the entire city together.
More and more cities created their own urban marathons over the next decade. Now there are over half a million marathon finishers a year, in nearly every major city and country in the world.
Whether you enjoy running urban marathons as a way to explore a new city or to challenge yourself with different courses, here are some suggestions of great courses in beautiful cities all over the world.
In its 33 year of running, although with a course that has changed several times to encourage a sub 2:10 finish, the Los Angeles Marathon offers a chance to run from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica Pier. The course travels through Chinatown, historic Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, past Sunset Boulevard and Route 66 to Santa Monica. The LA marathon is a fantastic opportunity to see the best and most famous LA landmarks, while admiring the city's beautiful location on the Californian Coast.
In its fortieth year of operation, the Stockholm marathon is often lauded as one of the more beautiful urban marathons. Running through all 7 districts of Stockholm, the course begins at the 1912 Olympic stadium, wandering through the historical centre of the city and past it’s remarkable German-style architecture. The course also contains several bridge crossings, which provide beautiful vistas of the city as you cross.
The 2000 Olympics in Sydney was the inception of one of the most scenic marathons in the world. The course gives you the opportunity to run across the Sydney Harbour Bridge without any traffic, which is worth the price of admission alone. Finishing your marathon at the Sydney Opera House is also a once in a lifetime experience. This IAAF Gold course features stunning views of Sydney Harbour and an opportunity to explore the city without traffic.
A unique race that takes place in February, the Kyoto marathon offers a great course that wanders through the city, providing scenic views of Mt. Daimonji and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Passing by 7 UNESCO Heritage Sites, as well as some uniquely Japanese experiences, like Shinto monks giving blessings and “Cheer Groups” giving encouragement, the Kyoto marathon is a singular experience in a wonderfully historic city.
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