Starting a brand new year can often be about setting new goals, pushing new limits, and bettering yourself—whether as a parent, runner, employee, student, or friend.
But shouldn’t setting new goals also be kind of fun? When every item is checked off on the priority list, shouldn’t there be something waiting for you at the end? The holiday season may technically be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself—and your families or friends—to a new adventure in 2019. And because you’re a runner, shouldn’t you make that an awesome destination race?
With the help of some expert runners and frequent travelers, we rounded up 7 of the most exotic and exciting races around the world. While our list only features marathons, most of these races include half marathons as well if you want to start with a smaller distance. Here are some epic backdrops for your next finish line.
1. Paris Marathon
Where: Paris, France
When: April 14, 2019
If you’re the type of runner who thrives off large crowds, the Paris Marathon will probably work for you because this large race completely takes over the Paris streets. Runners have an epic start in front of the Arc de Triomphe, and then continue down Champs-Elysees. Whether you’ve been to France’s capital a dozen times or have never been, this marathon is a great way to see iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Seine. The race is a huge conglomeration of cultures, totaling about 145 nationalities and more than 27,000 runners from outside of France. “We’ve heard great things about the Paris Marathon,” Murphy said. “What could be more luxurious than going to Paris?”
2. Stockholm Marathon
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Where: Stockholm, Sweden
When: June 1, 2019
The Stockholm Marathon will celebrate its 41st anniversary in 2019. The race starts and ends in the Stockholm Stadium, home to the 1912 Olympic Games. The route guides runners to-and-from islands around the city, including Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm that was founded in the 13th century. Colorful and ancient structures surprise runners around every corner. After 40 years, this Swedish race must be doing something right.
3. Midnight Sun Marathon
Where: Tromso, Norway
When: June 22, 2019
If sweltering summer races aren’t your cup of tea, then try an Arctic marathon where the sun doesn’t set… really. From May 20 until July 22, Norwegians experience the “midnight sun,” which allows weird runners like us to run a marathon at midnight. A major portion of the race is along the coast, so runners will have picturesque views of the Norwegian sea. They’ll pass the Arctic Cathedral, a major landmark in town, with mountains as a dramatic backdrop. For a full view of the city, participants will run across the Bridge of Tromso and enjoy a flat course for the second half of the race. You won’t be able to see the Northern Lights in June, but if you enjoy this race, you can always come back the following January for the Polar Night Half and possibly get a peek.
4. Sydney Marathon
Where: Sydney, Australia
When: September 15, 2019
To really log some miles in the air, and to go down under, try this popular race in Australia. “The Sydney Marathon traverses all through the city and provides an awesome tour of the city and its landmarks,” said Chris Warren, a cofounder of the Marathon Maniacs who has run more than 250 marathons. Runners will start at Bradfield Park, run across the Harbour Bridge, traverse through Centennial Park, and for a dramatic finale finish on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a flat and fast course, so participants can focus on having a great race while discovering one of the most famous cities in the world.
5. Great Wall Marathon
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Where: Tianjin, China
When: May 18, 2019
For all of you overachievers wanting a medal in bad-assery, then this bear of a marathon will help you get it. Runners start and finish in Yin and Yang Square by the old Huangyaguan fortress, and then almost immediately head toward the Great Wall. The race is sandwiched with what the locals call the “Goat Track” on the steps of the Wall, which is just as miserable and epic of a climb as what you’re probably imagining right now. Participants will run through old villages and see sweeping hillside views, all to the sound of hundreds of enthusiastic locals cheering for them. This marathon isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s the race of a lifetime.
6. Kauai Marathon
Where: Kauai, Hawaii
When: September 1, 2019
This tropical marathon is the perfect getaway for individuals or families who want to have a destination race without the stress and cost of traveling internationally. “I found the marathon to be pretty tough, but if you are going to suffer, suffering in paradise is the way to go,” said Angie Whitworth Pace, the event coordinator for the Marathon Maniacs. The race has views of everything you would expect (and hope for) in Hawaii: the Pacific, volcanoes, vibrant foliage, and more. Runners will start and end at Poipu Beach and have the fun of running through the infamous Tunnel of Trees. A postrace reward of relaxing on a beautiful beach doesn’t sound too bad, either.
7. Rome Marathon
Where: Rome, Italy
When: April, 2019
We still believe that when in Rome, you should run a marathon. We were already inspired by the documentary about the Midnight Mission Runners who took the journey from homelessness in L.A. to running the Rome Marathon, and now we think you should add this race to your bucket list. There are lots of reasons why Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world: the culture, the history, the art, the locals, and everything in between. Minus a couple of spots, the race is relatively flat, which makes for a fast course through beautiful, historic structures. The marathon has increased in numbers over the past few years, last year totaling almost 14,000 participants.
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