Every runner has his or her preferred local spot for a leisurely trail run or serious marathon training. However, chances are you rarely get to run in a locale that is considered one of the most beautiful settings for running in the world.
There are plenty of options to choose from, many of them hosting annual marathons, ultramarathons, and/or other races for those interested in hoofing it through the most gorgeous scenery the planet has to offer. How can you decide which of these global marathons to try?
First you should know that many of the races have qualifying events or even lotteries for entrants. That said, you can always pick up a trail map and head out on your own if you simply want to enjoy the setting. Here are just a few of the most lauded locales for runners.
Patagonia is known for a diverse landscape that includes deserts, glacial lakes, waterfalls, and the majestic torres, or towers, for which Torres del Paine National Park is named. Each year in September this region plays host to the Patagonia International Marathon, a race that also includes an ultra, a half marathon, and a 10K, catering to all levels of runners.
The only potential problem with racing through this spectacular landscape is that the breathtaking scenery will so astound you that you may unconsciously slow your pace to marvel at the jagged, snow-capped peaks erupting from the plains.
If you ever wanted to run through a Robert Frost poem or a Thomas Cole painting, Japan might be the last place you'd expect to find such natural beauty. However, runners can revel in the bounty of nature during the Fujisan Marathon held annually in November.
This jaunt takes runners through the crisp autumn air and turning leaves of an idyllic fall landscape, and lone spire Mount Fuji fills in the backdrop. Sprinkle in crystalline lakes, and marathon runners will barely notice the notoriously tough uphill leg of the race.
The Two Oceans Marathon, so called because it winds around the Cape of Good Hope, thus touching on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, is held in April each year on Easter weekend. It boasts over 25,000 entrants annually for a range of activities, from fun runs for kids and beginners to trail runs, a half marathon, a marathon, and more.
Proponents of the run along this scenic stretch of coastline rave about the ocean views, while race organizers boldly claim it is the "most beautiful marathon in the world". Runners will simply have to sample the wares and decide for themselves whether the scenery is worth the hype. Chances are you'll agree that the cerulean skies, autumnal landscape, lapping waves, and cool weather make for truly ideal running conditions.
Probably better known for winter activities like skiing down the beautiful, powdery pistes this mountainous region has to offer, Mont Blanc is also home to the Mont Blanc Marathon each year at the end of June. Although the snow won't completely melt off the mountains, runners will enjoy plenty of scenery in bloom at this time of year.
Seasoned runners might not describe this race as grueling, but with over 8,000 feet of climbing involved, it's not for the faint of heart or newcomers to the wide world of marathons. Still, passing through botanical gardens, mountain meadows, towering Alpine peaks, and ages-old villages along the route may be enough to tempt anyone to give this race a shot.
Not everyone finds the barren landscape around Arches National Park beautiful. Some would call the red rock canyons desolate.
However, those who have run the best trails in the world still trek to this area for the annual Moab Trail Marathon in November. Not only is the weather perfect for running, with temperatures ranging from about 35-60 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day, but some find this marvel of nature, far from the madding crowd, to be the height of beauty and natural wonder.
The 3,500-foot elevation gain may pose a problem for some marathon runners, but the incredible scenery, carved out by rainwater erosion over hundreds of thousands of years, should provide a welcome distraction.
What runs are on your wish / bucket list? Let us know down below...