Please see contact information below or complete the form and we will get in touch with you.
3rd Floor Brigade House
8 Parsons Green
The Big Six and beyond: the best marathons in the world
Here in Britain, the London Marathon is the pinnacle for distance runners, with more than 48,000 participants giving it a go every year. Like the other ‘big six’ world marathons (New York, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo and Berlin), people travel far and wide to take part in it. Some runners go so far as to earn a Six Star Finisher Medal by completing all of them. Beyond these ‘majors’, there’s an even wider world of marathons to explore, including some extreme challenges that go the distance – and then some.
If you are ready for a marathon challenge, here’s our guide to five of the most extraordinary…
Of all the big six races, London is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring, thanks in no small part to the famous City landmarks that provide a backdrop to the event. The marathon passes alongside the river Thames from Blackheath to that iconic finish along The Mall, attracting the world’s greatest long-distance runners plus scores of people running for charity (wacky costume optional!). Founded by athletes Chris Brasher and John Disley in 1981, the race usually takes place in April, although it moved to October for 2020, 2021, and 2022 due to Covid. Back in 2003, Britain’s Paula Radcliffe beat the women’s world marathon record in a successful defence of her London Marathon title. In doing so, she became the first woman in history to run under two hours 16 minutes.
Learn more about the London Marathon here
Another one of the big six, New York is said to be the world’s largest marathon by the number of participants taking part, with more than 50,000 entrants racing every November. The inaugural New York race took place in 1970 in Central Park. Entry cost just a dollar and 127 people took to the starting line, although only 55 people made it all the way round! Within five years, the marathon had grown to such an extent that it couldn’t be contained by the park any longer and a course was devised that took in all five of the city’s boroughs. Among its many claims to fame is that in 1976 Dick Traum became the first runner to complete an official marathon with a prosthetic leg.
Ready to run NYC? Find out more here
This big six race has been held every year since 1974. The two-day event always takes place in September and sees the marathon course host a range of races, from road running to inline skating and handcycle races. Berlin is a flat course and renowned for the speedy times that elite competitors post. World records have been broken eight times in the German capital, with the current men’s record (2:01:09) set by Eliud Kipchoge, widely acknowledged to be the greatest marathon runner of all time, in the 2022 race.
Click here to get more information on the fast Berlin marathon
Marathon des Sables
If one of the big six seems like too much a stroll in the park for you, then why not take on an ultramarathon? They don’t come much tougher – or hotter – than Morocco’s Marathon des Sables. This race is rightly known for being one of the most gruelling in the world, not only due to the fact it takes place in the desert, but also because it involves running more than 250km over the course of just seven days. That’s the equivalent of six marathons! Started by Patrick Bauer in 1984 following his own epic trek across the Sahara, he decided to give others the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. 30 years later, the race now attracts more than 1,000 runners every year. A spectacular challenge, but probably not one for beginners to try.
If you want to know more about this tough run, click here
Another ultramarathon and one that takes things back to the birth place of the marathon in Greece. The course retraces the steps of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian messenger, who was sent from Athens to Sparta before the battle of Marathon to seek help in the war against the Persians – and is said to have arrived within a day. This race, which runs every September, was created by RAF commander John Foden, who decided in the autumn of 1982 to see if it was possible to achieve what Pheidippides managed by running from Athens to Sparta (250km) within 36 hours. He pulled it off and from there the Spartathlon was established. It is one of the most spectacular races in the world, with the course taking in roads, trails and mountain footpaths. The start takes place in the shadow of the Acropolis while finishers receive a hero’s welcome in Sparta from the locals. The finish line is next to the grand statue of King Leonidas and every finisher is presented with an olive wreath and offered a goblet of water from the Eurotas River, as Olympian winners would have been in ancient times.
Up for the challenge? Click here for more information
Running assessments are a great way to understand your running style and how to avoid injuries that will keep you off the roads – go here to find out how Beyond Health’s expert physiotherapists can help you run to your maximum.