There are thousands of races all over the world, so if you like to run, you’ve got options. But some are just better and more attractive than others. For example: Running through ancient historic sites or along a verdant riverbank is scientifically — or at least conspicuously — better than logging 26.2 miles on a dusty highway.
With that in mind, here are eight of the most scenic races in the world. Because if you’re going to run long distances, you might as well do it in the presence of natural beauty.
1. TWO OCEANS MARATHON
March 31 | Cape Town, South Africa
Often dubbed the “world’s most beautiful marathon,” the Two Oceans Marathon takes place in Cape Town, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans merge. Dating back to 1970, it features a 35-mile route and a 13.1-miler, both drawing thousands of competitors from around the globe. This race is famous for a reason, so if you like good scenery and long jogs, it deserves a spot on your calendar.
2. MARATONA DI ROMA
April 8 | Rome, Italy
You don’t have to run a marathon to visit Rome … but what a way to sightsee. The annual Maratona di Roma winds through the historic city, passing by iconic sites like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. So be sure to snap some photos along the way.
3. BIG SUR INTERNATIONAL MARATHON
April 29 | Big Sur, California
Enter the Big Sur International Marathon and you’ll be jogging along the famed Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel. With distances ranging from a modest 3K up to a full-marathon, there’s a race for everyone. And depending on the distance you choose, you’ll encounter massive redwoods, gorgeous coastline and the highly Instagrammable Bixby Bridge.
4. GREAT WALL MARATHON
May 19 | Jixian, Tianjin Province, China
While the Great Wall is most often experienced as an all-day excursion on that group tour you booked to China, sometimes it’s a running path. Sign up for the Great Wall Marathon, and you can run a full-marathon, half-marathon or a shorter distance, per your preference, all while taking in the scenic countryside from atop one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. After all, they don’t call it the Good Wall.
5. PATAGONIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON
September 8 | Patagonia, Chile
Each September, runners from around the world converge on the southern tip of Patagonia to compete in distances ranging from 10K to a full-marathon. The route takes participants through the majestic Torres del Paine National Park, a remote setting dotted with glaciers and located 250km from the nearest city.
6. LOCH NESS MARATHON
September 23 | Inverness, Scotland
This stunning run takes you along the shores of the famous Loch Ness (keep an eye out for Nessie) and continues through the Scottish Highlands. Green moors and sparkling water keep you company until the finish in Inverness, so there’s never a dull moment. If 26.2 miles is too much, there’s also a 5K and 10K. And if all of it’s too much, well, there’s a pasta party on opening night.
7. ST. GEORGE MARATHON
October 6 | St. George, Utah
Beginning in Utah’s Pine Valley Mountains, the St. George Marathon descends 2,600 feet through southwest Utah — making this race one of the fastest marathons around. But be sure to take in your surroundings, which include imposing mountains, tree-dotted valleys and usually blue skies.
8. BAGAN TEMPLE MARATHON
November 24 | Bagan, Myanmar
Bagan is home to more than 2,000 temples and pagodas and provides a dramatic backdrop to this annual race. With marathon, half-marathon and 10K distances, runners wind along dirt roads through farms and villages, passing 1,000-year-old temples and high-fiving locals along the way.