7 Dream Destination Races Around the World

7 Dream Destination Races Around the World

The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination.

– John Bingham

Running, like travel, is often more about the process, the journey, than crossing the finish line, or getting to the place to which you’re traveling. I’ve been fortunate to run many races and travel to many places in my life. What better way to combine two of my favorites things to do – run and travel – than to seek out destination races?

Some of these dream destination races have long been on my bucket list. The Paris Marathon is one I’ve been thinking about for years. But there are other races calling out my name…now it’s just a matter of planning when and how they will fit into my life. ๐Ÿ™‚

7 Dream Destination Races – What’s on Your List?

Key West Half Marathon. I’ve been to Key West, one of the Florida Keys, once and just for a day trip, but it’s stuck in my memory as one of the most beautiful, relaxed spots in the world. The half marathon, held in January when you’re more than ready for winter to be over, is mainly along the coastline (Key West is pretty small, so there’s little chance of avoiding the spectacular ocean views). It’s a flat out-and-back and it starts at 7am, so you’ll be done before the heat gets crazy and with the whole day ahead of you to explore.

Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon. This is a small (capped at 3,500) and popular race, with good reason. Held in July, the temperatures for race day are usually around 50 – 60 degrees and the scenery looks spectacular. You’ll run past vineyards, bay views and a wildlife preserve. At the finish area is a wine and music festival to enjoy once you’re done racing. They had me at wine.

Marathon de Paris. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that Paris is one of my favorite places on earth. So what better distance to run in Paris than 26.2 miles, to soak up as many sights of the city as you can. Followed, of course, with some world-class recovery involving leisurely walks through iconic Parisian neighborhoods, replenishing with croissants, baguettes, cheese and wine, and enjoying visits to some of the most revered art museums in the world. Le sigh! This must happen soon.

7 Dream Destination Races Around the World

The Runner’s World Half Marathon and Festival. I’ve never uttered the words, “I must visit Bethlehem, Pennsylvania before I die,” but this race festival in PA is well and truly on my wish list. First of all, you get to run with the editors of Runner’s World, which, if you’re a running nerd, is a really big deal. Then, there’s something for every runner. There’s a kid’s race, a dog’s race, a 5K, a 10K, a trail race and a half marathon. If you’re a slight overachiever, you can also combine races and try the Runner’s World Hat Trick (the 5K, 10K and Half), the Five and Dime (5K and 10K), or the Grand Slam 26.2 Weekend (the 5K, 10K, 3.8 mile trail race and the Half). Check out recaps from past participants Allie and Laura, who attended the 2015 festival. 

Chicago Marathon. Yes it’s a big city marathon, with massive crowds. But anyone who has run a marathon on that scale knows the spectators are incredibly motivating, the course support is excellent and the excitement throughout the race is palpable. Chicago is such a beautiful city and filled with friendly mid-westerner attitude. This is definitely a bucket list race for me when I’m ready to tackle marathon distance again.

The Midnight Sun Marathon. Held in Tromso, Norway in the Arctic Circle, this race is run in summer during the phenomenon of the midnight sun. There are several distances you can choose from and the races all begin at night…in full sunlight. While I admit this race would be more an excuse to explore Norway, which I’ve long wanted to visit, there’s something enticing about a night race that isn’t dark. (P.S. that’s Tromso in the image at the beginning of the post – so beautiful, right?)

The Original Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu. This marathon (there is also a 30K option) calls itself “the most difficult marathon in the world”. It also suggests only very experienced runners attempt the race, given it is comparable in difficulty to a challenging 50K trail race, with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain and 11,000 feet of elevation loss. It sounds brutal. Basically, I’ve included this one because seeing the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu is something on my travel must-do list. If the opportunity to travel to Peru coincided with being in amazing shape, I would consider this race…otherwise I might stick to a hiking tour.

There are some destination races not on this list because I have already experienced them. I’ve been lucky enough to run the NYC Marathon not once but twice – in 2010 and then again in 2013. My first half marathon is also the race I have run the most times, The Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont. There’s a reason it sells out almost as quickly as it opens for registration. I’ve also run the iconic Sydney race, the City to Surf, which starts in the middle of the city of Sydney and winds its way to gorgeous Bondi Beach. 

Where have you raced that was an unforgettable experience?

What’s on your bucket list for destination races?

Or do you prefer to separate traveling from racing?

7 Dream Destination Races Around the World


  1. I have a dear friend who wants to run a marathon/is in the process of running marathons on every continent. I told her without hesitation I would join her and absolutely any of these. For me it’s the destination and then the run <3
    Carla recently posted…I never felt stoppable.My Profile

  2. Holy cr@p, I couldn’t even begin to imagine running the Inca Trail. I hiked it and *that* was brutal in it of itself. It was an incredible trip and I absolutely recommend doing it, and if you’re able to do it as a marathon, more power to you.

    One reason why I would recommend hiking, as oppose to running the trail, is to give yourself time to truly enjoy and soak in the views and Inca ruins. One of my favorite days was an afternoon we spent idly sitting at a ruin overlooking a majestic valley.

    I’d love to do Napa-to-Sonoma one day.

  3. I don’t think I have enough time in my entire life to run all the races on my bucket list!! Thanks so much for including my recap here. That RW festival was truly amazing! I would really love nothing more than to plan a race trip with YOU and all our favorite running people!! Let’s make it happen!
    Allie recently posted…Racing in Cuba – What to ExpectMy Profile

  4. Key West would be fun, I would also love to run the Bahamas Marathon…and then stick around for a few days ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Jen recently posted…Sick Toddler and Bad HabitsMy Profile

  5. Oooooh the one in Norway speaks to me. That’s one of my fave countries ever! Athens Marathon is on my bucket list. I highly recommend racing in Dublin. I’m currently looking for a race in Dubai since I’ll be there this summer. ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Chicago is one of my very favorite races! I also loved the Kauai Marathon. Something about it was very surreal and spiritual. I also want to run the Sonoma/Napa marathon. Others on my list include St. George in Utah and Berlin.