Destinations Marathons

5 Things to Look for in a Destination Marathon

Destination Marathon
Written by Charlie

A destination marathon (or any distance race!) can be a lot of fun! It is vacation, sightseeing, running, and relaxation all rolled into one. There are many different options for a great destination marathon but everyone has different things they want to take from such an event. I will give you what I count as 5 things that I look for in a destination marathon. These things also apply for races of other distances as well.

5 Things To Look for in a Destination Marathon

Great Sights

Destination Marathon

Something great to see along a marathon

Destination marathons are meant to be an exciting time. These races should be in places that you have a desire to see. One of the great things about marathons is the amount of a city/town/park that you get to see in a short amount of time. I loved running the National Marathon in Washington DC. Washington DC is one of my favorite cities to visit and to be able to see so many famous landmarks while on the run is just fantastic. When you run a marathon, great sights can help the time to go by quicker, keep you from getting bored, and leave you with some wonderful memories of a special place in the world. It never fails that I will be talking with someone and they will mention some city they visited that I have run a marathon in. As soon as they mention the city, my mind is already renewing the memorable sights of that city.

Destination marathons that bring great things to see can be as close as your neighboring city or as far away as something like the Great Wall Marathon (on my bucket list, by the way!). What is great is very much up to what is appealing or interesting to you. If there is a place you have always wanted to visit, find a marathon there to check out the great sights the best way possible!


I have friends that are race directors so I know a bit about what goes into the planning and organizing of a marathon. It is a huge task and one that I appreciate the directors and their work. That being said, I do not want to travel all the way to a marathon in a different city and have it turn out to be a bad experience because race committee did not do their job. Some of the things that often get overlooked at a poorly planned marathon are enough water cups at aid stations, enough port-a-potties along the route, properly closed roadways on the course, and poorly marked route signs to name a few. Unfortunately, I have experienced all of those things in different marathons that I have run.

It can be hard to know which marathons are properly organized if you have not run it yourself already. The best thing to do is to search the web for reviews of the marathon, starting with Marathon Guide’s website. Runners go there to review different races they have run. It is a good spot to see how well the different runners rank a marathon based on many factors, including organization. Check for high reviews before picking a marathon as your destination marathon.

Miles and Points

Hotel Mid-Tier StatusOf course, before I choose a destination marathon, I am checking to ensure that I can get to the destination with as little cash spent as possible. That means making sure that I have the miles in the appropriate programs for the airlines that serve my destination city and have enough points for hotels in the area. If you do not have the miles/points necessary for such a trip, it is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it certainly helps to make the trip more cost effective.

One of the things about points for hotel is that I want to make sure that those points are going to get me at a hotel that is conveniently located to the marathon start/finish and also comfortable so that I can feel rested for the race. It also helps for the hotel to be near landmarks in the city so that I can tour the city before the race without having to walk a ton before the race. Having a centrally located hotel also is helpful so that I can go back and rest during the day to make sure I am strong enough for the race.


A destination marathon should be a wonderful time! It should be a time to appreciate what is around you and the various landmarks on display. Having a course that is excessively hilly can make that difficult. A course without moderate shade can also be hard – a summer marathon out in the open is a good way overheat your body. While there are certain destination marathons that use the difficult terrain as a feature of the marathon (Pikes Peak, Great Wall Marathon), they are not normally races you would choose to have a “fun” time.  One more reason to choose a marathon that stays away from difficult terrain is that the days leading up to the marathon may have you walking the streets to check out the area. If it is particularly hilly or hot, it can cause your muscles to grow fatigued before you even reach the marathon starting line.

Destination Marathon

A course profile like this is something to look for in a destination marathon (LA Marathon)


Overall, a destination marathon should leave you with a great experience. It gives you an opportunity to visit some new city and explore some of the cultural aspects of that city. In addition to getting to experience the city from the course of the marathon, you can use the days around the marathon to experience the food, landmarks, tourist areas, and other standout sights in the area. Running a destination marathon will leave you with an experience that you should never forget! I look for that experience in my selection of a destination marathon. I want something that I can take home with me and remember for a long time. A destination marathon is an opportunity to make memories and you should look for a place that will give you that.


What are things that you look for in a destination marathon? Do you have any destination marathon that is at the top of your list? What makes it at the top?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Thanks for this post Charles! One of my main goals was to run a marathon in all 7 continents (finally reached that goal last year in 2012) and I wish I had read this post beforehand to help with costs. As for my top destination marathon, it will always be the Athens Classic marathon, where we ran from Marathon to Panathinaiko stadium in Athens. It’s the original marathon route from the 1896 olympics and also the ancient route Pheidippides (sp?) most likely ran. I think it’s more historic than Boston but many friends argue that with me. 😉

    • Congrats on reaching that high goal! Believe it or not, I am a mere 40 minute flight from Athens and was unable to run it this year! 🙁 Which marathons did you do for your 7 continents?