This October will mark the 40th anniversary of the Chicago Marathon, which, like Berlin and London, is flat and fast. Each year, as many as a million spectators line the loop route that begins and ends at Grant Park. More than 37,000 runners started in 2016. How flat is the course? There’s only about a 30-foot difference between the highest and lowest points. Views of the Chicago river winding through the city are plentiful. Runners cross the river five times.
The London Marathon is not only a great opportunity for elite runners to set records—world records have fallen four times—but it’s also great for people-watching. Many participants wear costumes. In 2016, more than 30 Guinness World Records were set for fastest times in various get-ups, including the fastest time in a film-character costume (2:39:09 by a man dressed as Elsa from Frozen) and the fastest two-person three-legged race (3:07:57). A record 39,140 runners finished in 2016. With elite fields and a flat course, London races often come down to the wire, so the finish line, with Buckingham Palace in the background, is great for spectators. Runners pass the Cutty Sark, Big Ben, the Tower of London and the London Eye, cross the Tower Bridge and finish near Buckingham Palace.
It’s been called “the people’s marathon”, as it is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money. With its hills and lack of elite field, this isn’t a race for records, but it’s a favourite for everyday runners. Just under 20,000 finished the race in 2016. The course begins at Arlington National Cemetery, takes a loop through Washington DC and finishes at the Marine Corps War Memorial (aka the Iwo Jima Memorial) at the national cemetery.
New York City
The New York City Marathon has the bridges, the five boroughs, the huge crowds and the elite fields. Plus, it’s a challenging course for as many as 50,000 finishers each year. “It’s truly an experience to race a marathon there and take in the unique atmosphere in each of the boroughs and the way the entire city comes out to celebrate with the runners,” said Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, who has won three times. The race begins with runners charging over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn, with views of New York Harbor and Manhattan in the distance.
You May Also Want To Watch:
It is only every four years, the venues change, and the race is for only elites, but the fields are the best, and the chance to make history is unmatched. In 2004, the race was again run in Athens, with Americans Keflezighi taking silver and Kastor bronze. Watching the lead runner enter the Olympic stadium for the final push towards gold is one of the scenic highlights of this event.
The Marathon de Paris is huge, attracting more than 40,000 runners from about 150 nations in 2016. It isn’t as fast as Chicago, Berlin or London, yet Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia ran a 2:05:04 in 2014 to set the course record. It’s also a race in which costumes are prevalent and runners enjoy themselves. In order to participate in this marathon, runners must provide a note to race organisers from their doctors declaring that they are healthy enough to run 26.2 miles. The marathon is more like a travelogue, with the course winding past the Seine, the Eiffel Tower and cathedral of Notre Dame. It begins on the Champs-Elysees and ends near the Arc de Triomphe.
It’s a spring race with generally mild temperatures through one of the world’s great cities. Although Rome is known for its hills, the marathon course is generally flat. One challenge can be some narrow, cobblestone streets. The race starts and ends near the ancient Colosseum. The route passes landmarks such as the Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the
Vatican, the Spanish steps and the Piazza Venezia. Live music is played at several points along the route. More than 13,300 runners from across the globe finished the last race.
It’s a relatively new race, begun in 2007, and one that’s flat (just 129 feet of elevation change between the lowest and highest points) and attractive to elite runners. It’s also popular. About 300,000 applications were received for the last race, which was limited to 36,000 (with most chosen by lottery). More than 1.5 million spectators turn out each year. The course will be part of the Olympics in 2020.