The World’s Top Marathons (and the Women who Run Them)
The NYC Marathon got everyone excited about sports and fitness this month. And if watching triumphant runners got you motivated to try a 26-miler of your own, why not go for it?
Here’s some more inspiration for you: a round-up of the world’s most revered marathons, and the powerful women who run them. Whether you want to race in your hometown or pound the pavement in a place you’ve never been before (or, of course, just cheer on others after you finish your 5K), here are the details on seven serious races.
What makes it special: The world’s largest marathon, it also attracts the largest crowd of international runners of any marathon on earth, making the race a true melting pot of talent and diversity. (Plus, you get to cross the finish line in Central Park.)
Famous female runner to watch: The inspiring Amanda McGrory, who has been paralyzed from the waist down from age 5, won first place in the wheelchair division this year. She also set the course record at 1:50:25.
What makes it special: It’s the world’s oldest marathon, as well as one of the toughest to qualify for. (Also, it’s not for the weary—watch out for all of the hills!) But the payoff is big: You’ll be cheered on throughout the entire length of the course by Beantown’s unparalleled fans.
Famous female runner to watch: Kenya-born marathon superstar and two-time Olympic silver medalist Catherine Ndereba, who has won the Boston Marathon four times.
What makes it special: The last few miles along the Thames, a jaunt past Westminster, and the finish line in St. James Park, with enough fanfare to rile up even the most unenthused runners! London is one of the newer marathons, but it’s one of the five races that make up the World Marathon Majors competition, the winners of which can claim a $1-million prize.
Famous female runner to watch: Mary Keitany, who holds the women’s world record for a 10-mile race, won the 2011 London Marathon with a personal best of 2:19:19. She’s the fourth fastest woman ever in the event.
What makes it special: The women, of course! This marathon, held in annually in early March, has been championing female runners since 1984. It’s often a showcase for local Japanese women who go on to set records all around the world. Though the 2011 race was cancelled due to the Tohoku earthquake, we hope that this tradition back next year.
Famous female runner to watch: Yuri Kano, winner of the 2010 race, won her first marathon in Hokkaido in 2007. Since then, she’s been taking part in marathons all over the world, from New York to London.
What makes it special: The beautiful architecture, the flatness of the course, and the tendency of its runners to break marathon records. Plus, there have been several poignant moments in the race’s history. On September 30, 1990, runners ran the marathon just three days before German unification—the same day that the Berlin Marathon became known as one of the fastest marathons in the world after several records were set. In September, 2001 after 9/11, runners held up a banner that read “United We Run” and displayed the symbols for the NYC Marathon. The feeling of being part of a deeply historical course is overwhelming. And getting to run through the Brandenburg Gate isn’t so bad, either!
Famous female runner to watch: Naoko Takahashi, the first woman marathoner to break the barrier of 2 hours and 20 minutes in 2001. To date, she owns the seventh fastest marathon time in the world.
What makes it special: Every October, runners sign up for this fast, smooth race that starts in Grant Park and loops around to finish on Lake Michigan’s shores. There are lots of post-race parties and festivities, and while it doesn’t attract the same international crowds as New York or Boston, the Chicago Marathon is one of the more philanthropic events. In 2010, runners raised over $12 million on behalf of their charities of choice.
Famous female runner to watch: Rosa Mota, one of Portugal’s foremost athletes, won the Chicago Marathon in 1984 and achieved her personal best of 2:23:29 in 1985.
What makes it special: Getting to run through the historical sights of Paris in the springtime. The race begins at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, and continues on down the Champs-Élysées, past the Place de la Bastille, and through the Bois de Vincennes. Even though the cobblestone passages can be treacherous, and Parisians are infamous for being apathetic toward the marathon, the beauty of the course more than makes up for it.
Famous female runner to watch: Atsede Baysa Tesema, an Ethiopian long-distance runner who won the Paris Marathon in 2009 and 2010. And she’s only 23!
Ready to get started? Check out “The Everywomen Marathon”, our beginner’s guide to training for a race!