The World’s Top 10 Marathons

Ask 10 runners what the best marathon in the world is, and you could get 10 different answers. Marathon memories are, to say the least, vulnerable to our own biases. Smash a PB in the Luton Marathon and (let’s take a leap of the imagination here) it could be instantly higher on your list than London, where you forgot your lucky socks and that man was so rude to you on the Tube.

That’s why when we decided to name the world’s 10 best marathons, we went straight to the top. We collected the opinions and experiences of the staff of the seven international editions of RUNNER’S WORLD (a report like this will appear in each). We all cast our votes, and even though we all run and report on international marathons for a living, we each added the votes of an expert from our country from inside the sport (in our case RW Contributing Editor Hugh Jones, the secretary of the Association of International Marathons and a former London Marathon winner).

We weren’t so interested in the elite fields; mainly the experience of the ordinary runner (of course, the two can be related: elite fields draw the TV coverage, which draws crowds, competitors and money to the race). Among other things, we scored the races for beauty, atmosphere and speed. And, hand on heart, we did nothing to sway the outcome. Read on, start noting dates in your diary, and, if you get your entry accepted for the world’s greatest marathon, in April, now is the time to be doubly proud.

Without further ado; the world's top 10 marathons:

1. London Marathon, April
2. Berlin Marathon, September
3= New York City Marathon, November
3= Chicago Marathon, October
5. Boston Marathon, April
6. Stockholm Marathon, June
7. Rotterdam Marathon, April
8. Paris Marathon, April
9. Honolulu Marathon, December
10. Amsterdam Marathon, October

Marathon Sense

The easiest option for running a European marathon is to book a package with a tour operator who can guarantee an entry into a race. The following companies offer packages for UK travellers for many of the above races: 2:09 Events 0870 3500 209; Sports Tours International 0161-703 8161; Nirvana 01670 859300.

  • If you’re travelling independently, you’ll find that most event organisers speak English, although it is easier to contact them in writing via e-mail. Those who don’t speak English generally understand it in writing.
  • From February 28, 2002, the majority of Europe will use the same currency, the Euro. Sweden is the one European country in the top 10 (along with the UK) outside the Euro zone.
  • Outside the UK and USA, most of the world’s marathons are measured and marked in kilometres rather than miles.
  • Most European marathons use a timing chip, and provide competitors with two times, from the gun and start to finish. American marathons such as Chicago are switching to this system too.