Do you Dream…

…of running a certain race?  

Maybe it’s one of the marathon majors – NYC, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, or London. Maybe it’s a race that is touted to be a “beautiful” course – Big Sur, Honolulu.  Maybe it’s in a part of the world that you hope to travel to one day – Paris, S. Africa, Athens.

So here’s the question – if money, ability, time, and travel were NOT an issue, what race would you want to run?

My husband and I have a (very) long list of races we want to do. This list is a LIFETIME list – we have NO intention of doing most of these races in the near-term.  We would love to – but we can’t afford to travel to some of the destination races at the moment (we are about to purchase our first home!), nor we do have the time to adequately train for some of the more physically demanding races.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be on the lookout to add new races to my list (the actual list is about 25 races long).

Below are my *current* top ten races (in no particular order):

1. Two Oceans Marathon (Cape Town, South Africa) Self-proclaimed as “the world’s most beautiful marathon”, the race is run against a backdrop of spectacular scenery through the Cape Peninsula in early April each year.  The course takes you along the Indian Ocean first and then on to the Atlantic Ocean (hence the name – Two Oceans).


2. Midnight Sun Marathon (Baffin Island, Arctic Bay, Canada)  Held each year at the beginning of July, this marathon is the most northern race in the world (480 miles north of the Arctic Circle). Despite being so far north, you won’t see much snow while you are there (it’s actually too cold and too far north to have any significant evaporation).  With temperatures hovering around freezing, barren rocks and hills along the course and potential sightings of polar bears, this race is not for the faint of heart.  But the 24 hours a day sun (the sun does a full loop in the sky), delicious food that you will be given as part of the travel package, and empty roads you will be running on (approx 150 runners participate each year) make up for the lesser endearing qualities!


3. Badwater Ultra Marathon – (Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA)  Recognized globally as the “world’s toughest foot race”, the race covers 135 miles with temperatures up to 130 degrees in the middle of the summer (July). This is one of the races that has (understandably) demanding requirements (for example – you have to complete at least THREE running races of 100 miles in length to even be in contention for acceptance).


4. Athens Marathon: (Marathon to Athens, Greece) Recognized as the original marathon course, this race is held every year in November.  According to legend, it covers the same ground that the Athenian messenger Phiedippides ran when he brought news of victory from the battlefield of Marathon 2,500 years ago. The finish line is in Athens’ magnificent Olympic Stadium, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games. 

5. Big Sur International Marathon  (Big Sur, California) Held each year at the end of April, Big Sur is named one of the top 3 marathons in the US as well as the top destination marathon by Runner’s World. Big Sur is the largest rural marathon in the world, winding through redwoods, paralleling ranches, and offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean (description from Big Sur’s Website). Not only have I heard nothing but amazing things of this race but I would like to do at least one marathon the west coast (all the marathons I have done have been on the east coast!)

6. Ironman Kona: (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii) To participate in the World Ironman Championship (held annually in October), you can gain entry one of three ways: by earning a qualifying slot at one of the qualifying events held worldwide, by being selected in the Ironman Lottery Program or by winning a slot through the eBay Auction.  The 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run is considered by many to be the toughest course in the world – the Hawaii water is warm enough that helpfully buoyant wetsuits are not allowed, strong winds on the bike; and high temperatures during the run. Just participating in this race would be a huge honor: less than 1,900 started the 2011 race – and you get the opportunity to compete with the world’s best triathletes.


7. Western States (WS) 100: (Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA)  One of the oldest trail events in the world, the WS 100 has a tough lottery system (only 10% get in through the lottery); similar to Badwater, you have to run a qualifying race to even be eligible for the lottery.  The course has over 18,000 feet of elevation gain and almost 23,000 of elevation loss.  To put this into perspective for you, the Boston Marathon and NYC Marathon have 544 and 885 feet of elevation gain and 922 and 844 of elevation loss, respectively. Side note – I have yet to see Unbreakable: The Western States 100 – have you seen it??

8. Great Wall Marathon: (Tianjin Province, China)  A tough and demanding course (held in mid-May) that takes runners up to, across, and down the Great Wall of China (almost 5,200 steps) over the first 11 miles.  Runners then begin the journey through the rice fields and villages to the finish line. The first part of the race is so difficult that the 2011 male and female winners completed the race in 3:18 and 4:11, respectively.

9. Big Five Marathon:  (South Africa) Held in the middle of June, this trail race is amidst the wildlife of the African savannah.  The course literally takes you through the habitats of the Big Five Game (hence where the marathon gets its name): the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.  No fences, no rivers – NOTHING separating the runners and the wildlife.  It’s also considered to be a very tough course (there are some major climbs and descents) – read one runner’s race report here. (Note: there are helicopters and armed rangers on guard throughout the route for safety.)


10. Great Ocean Road Marathon (Victoria, Australia) The point-to-point course takes place on the Great Ocean Road from the town of Lorne to Apollo Bay – one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines.  Although the race, held in mid-May, is actually 45k (just under 28 miles, runners receive two official times (both the marathon and the 45k). The isolated, winding course is about 3 hours south of Melbourne and has tough, undulating hills and a slight headwind coming in from the southern ocean.  My husband and I definitely want to take a trip to Australia/NZ – we have close friends who recently moved to Australia and would love to combine sightseeing, visiting friends, and running a marathon!


Other notables:
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Marathon
Berlin Marathon
London Marathon
Chicago Marathon (I want to complete the Marathon Majors)
Hood-to-Coast Relay

Do you have a list of dream races?  Share!! What are a few of them??


Be sure to mark your calendar for the next #fitblog session on Tuesday, Jan 31st at 9pm EST.  I will be hosting and we will be talking about…guess what??  DREAM RACES!!


A few good reads on the best/beautiful marathons in the world:
Top 10 Marathons Worth Traveling For
Marathon Guide 2012: Fast, Faster, Fastest
Amazing Running Tours
20 Races to Do Before You Die 


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    46 thoughts on “Do you Dream…

    1. Awesome post. I learnt a stack of really good things from this. Cheers, have a great day

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    5. I love every single race on this list! I don’t really have my own wish list, especially since many of these locations are way out of my budget but I would really love to run Big Sur. That might be more affordable than some of the others. :) I always think about Badwater ever since reading Dean Karnazes’ journey there a few times and I think running that race would be an amazing experience…minus the 128 degree temps!

    6. I have entered the Venice Marathon last week, it’s my first marathon and I am very excited about it!

      If I enjoy it (I am pretty sure I will), the next ones will be Paris and Toronto. Before you start thinking I am minted (I wish!) Mum and Dad live in Venice (where I grew up), my brother is based in Paris and I am hoping to do Toronto thanks to a friend as well :)

      Adter reading about the Two Oceans marathon I have added it to the list, maybe as a 40th Birthday present to myself in 2015 – I’ll start saving up now!

      Also, if I may be a bit pedantic, Athens is in Greece -where the Marathon was born- and not in Italy :)

      • OMG. THANK YOU for pointing that out for me. I am beyond embarrassed that I even wrote that in the post!! You must think I don’t know a thing about world geography!! I’m totally blaming my son for distracting me while writing this post! Seriously – thank you for telling me =)
        Your list of races sound A-Mazing. Just goes to show you that knowing people in the right places is just as important as having lots of $.
        When is the Venice Marathon!??!

        • It’s Oct 28, my birthday! :)

          No worries about the mistakes, I still can’t name half the streets in my hometown, and I lived there for 20 years!

    7. I dream of running a marathon, period! And, specifically, the NYC Marathon, because this is my hometown. But if I accomplish that and decide to keep going, the Polar Circle Marathon would definitely be tops for me — all that ice and snow, what a thrill!

    8. this is awesome! i have always wanted to run big sur and one in hawaii. the australia one looks amazing though and also western states (and basically every other one you listed). i also really really want to run hood to coast. there are so many amazing races in the world!!!

    9. yes, you need to come do Kona. Its awesome! you know we lived there and I worked for Ironman, right?
      and yes, Athens is my marathon DREAM

        • I know!!! I would kill to live there! Lindsay – does your hubby do Kona every year? I don’t envision myself doing that race for a LONG time! I basically have to place in my AG for another IM (which I don’t think is likely seeing as I haven’t done one yet!)…maybe when I’m like 60 or 70 I can do it and hope that not many other 60+ year olds are doing it!!

    10. That’s such an inspiring list. I want to do the Cape To Cabot, running form the most easterly point of North America to Cabot Tower, it would be HARD, with hills and rain, but worth it.

    11. I love daydreaming about this. I would love to do Honolulu, Paris and Big Sur. Two Oceans looks incredible. My husband and I were in Kona on our honeymoon during the Ironman and it was such an amazing atmosphere to be in. Those triathletes are ripped! We were training for NYC while we were there and we felt like such slugs next the the Ironmen/Ironwomen.

    12. That’s a good list, very multi-continental! :) I would also like to run the Big Sur because I love that area of Northern California.
      Is it cool if I do a recap post of your NFC challenge and promote your Super Bowl challenge? It’ll be good, promise!

    13. What a fun post!! I have had a marathon bucket list for a few years now.. Of course I have the big ones: Boston, NYC, Chicago. I would also love to do Big Sur, San Francisco, and Athens. I’m sure this list will get longer and longer the more I run!!

      I am also planning to do the Disney Princess Half with my girls when they are older. They are only 3 & 7 right now but maybe when they are in college?? I think it would be so fun for the 3 of us to do it together. :-)

      • I really love the idea of doing the Disney half with your daughters – how much fun would that be?!?! If I end up having a daughter, that is definitely going on my list (as long as she is up for it!)
        And I find that my list just keeps getting longer with each new race I hear about!

    14. Ooh, I didn’t know there was a Midnight Sun Marathon in Canada! I’ve always wanted to do the Midnight Sun in Norway. Apparently, I just want to run at midnight.

      • Having the sun up at night is a strange phenomena! My husband’s family is from Alaska and I was amazed the first time I went and experienced a bright sky at 10pm at night! =)

    15. Two Oceans looks gorgeous, wow! I love the idea of destination vacations… family trips with a casual marathon along the way. :) I’m new enough to marathoning that I’m excited about any little race. First goals are Chicago, NYC and Boston!

    16. What a fun post! I want to run so many races! I am not a triathlete so my list is limited to marathons, but I love to travel adn I love to run so there are so many. I would love to run the Two Oceans one you posted about (and I have been to Africa 3 times and love it there) and I would love to run the Midnight Sun race as well. I am a total wimp in the heat so any of those HOT races make me say “no thanks”. That just looks miserable to me!

      • I am a total wimp when it comes to the cold so I’m trying to venture out and do a few more that are colder! I have never been to Africa – definitely up there on my to-do list as well (even if it doesn’t line up with one of the marathons!) =)

    17. Here are my races from my bucket list

      Actually Possible
      Mount Washington Road Race – entry only by lottery
      Boston Marathon as a “legal”runner
      Marine Corps Marathon in 2013 – 30 years after I finished in 1983
      Maine Marathon
      Beach to Beacon – Cape Elizabeth
      Falmouth Road Race

      Fantasy – Would love to run them but probably never will
      Dipsea Trail Race
      Athens Marathon
      London Marathon
      Western States 100

      I do love your list and would add the Australian race to my list after reading about it :-)


    18. Running through wine country is my dream. Either a half or full marathon would be a dream surrounded by the vines! There is one in Napa and one in Sonoma, I’d love to do either one!
      For now, I’m dreaming of just one race – Chicago. It’ll be my FIRST marathon :)

    19. Marine Corps, definitely. My brother was a Marine Sniper, and Marines hold a very special place in my heart!

      Internationally, I would love to do the Machu Picchu Marathon [mom is from Peru] and a marathon in Germany… We’ll see. I haven’t really given the “big” ones much thought!!

    20. This is a great list! I want to do some of these too. My dream marathon is the Loch Ness in Scotland. I’m pretty sure I was a highland lass in a previous life. 😉

    21. Love!

      Were ability not an issue: Badwater, Big Sur (looks terrifying), Boston, Ironman Kona

      Random one-days: Honolulu, Disney, Disney Goofy (I actually want to do this sooner than later), San Diego, Dublin (the first marathon I spectated!)

    22. Great list Michele. I’ve got a high school buddy that lives in Prague and they have a marathon in April that I’m seriously considering going out for one of these years. The free lodging offer makes it that much more doable :)

    23. Really great post! I just started a similar post and of course there are some of mine that match! I’m impressed you’re planning on bad water, that is amazing and truly hard core! Don’t you wish we could have sponsors to pay for our travel??!!

    24. I can’t say I have a dream race location; more, I have a dream race marathon that I still want to run. Where doesn’t matter–just getting all the pieces to fit together perfectly is what I want.

      That said–the two in Africa, plus Western States, wouldn’t be such a bad deal! I actually did a 35k trail race in Australia last year and it was awesome! Highly recommend the country, so go for a visit.

    25. The Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland is my dream marathon! Also, Big Sur, definitely. Those two are at the top for me!

    26. Those are all great ones! I’d love to finish out the 5 majors. Beyond that Big Sur and Marine Corps are on the list as well.