News and info hub

The big six of marathons

Whether you’re a seasoned runner, a novice or someone looking for motivation, you’ll find that running is an exhilarating sport that engages your muscles, your mind and your heart.

People love running for different reasons – to lose weight, as a form of stress relief or to improve their social life, or simply to experience the joy of the outdoors.

Research shows that when combined with weight training, running can help to maintain the perfect balance between mental stimulation and physical fitness. It can also help to boost your immune system and lower the risk of thrombosis (blood clots).

For serious runners, a marathon is the ultimate achievement and running in another part of the world holds great appeal. If, however, your sights are set on covering longer distances, you will need long-term vision and short-term motivation. Set goals, carefully allocate resources, understand your abilities, such as your endurance and stability levels, and learn about the specific area’s altitude and other factors that could play a role. To get you inspired, here are arguably six of the best marathons in the world.

1. Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is the oldest consecutively run marathon in the world. It is popular for the size of the crowd it draws and has a history that spans more than a century. It also offers a half marathon for those not up to the full distance. To qualify, you have to meet certain time standards. The race goes through eight Massachusetts cities and towns, beginning from Hopkinton and ending in Copley Square, Boston.

Distance: 42.195km

Destination: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Type: Road running

Best for: Serious runners

2. Comrades Marathon

The annual local Comrades ultramarathon starts in Pietermaritzburg and finishes in Durban. Dubbed the Ultimate Human Race, it was first run in 1921 and is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon. It is a tribute to all comrades from the South African Infantry who fought in World War I. Anyone from 20 years of age on the day of the race is eligible, as long as they qualify. It is popular for its undulating route and the spirit of ubuntu among runners.

Distance: 89km

Destination: Durban, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Type: Road Running

Best for: Serious and endurance runners

3. New York City Marathon

The historic New York City Marathon dates back to 1971 and is known for being an extremely diverse race. It also offers a variety of methods through which runners can enter. Its course runs through New York City’s five boroughs. It’s one not to be missed.

Distance: 42.195km

Destination: New York City, New York, United States

Type: Road running

Best for: Serious runners

4. Big Five Marathon

The Big Five Marathon, where running meets classic African safari, was first run in 2005. The wildest of them all is run in a private game reserve. It is attended by runners from all over the world and entries are limited to ensure runners’ safety. It’s a challenging route that has no fences, no rivers – nothing at all to separate runners from the wildlife – so the park rangers are on high alert throughout the race. It also offers a half marathon.

Distance: 42.195km

Destination: Entabeni Game Reserve, Limpopo, South Africa

Type: Trail and road

Best for: Thrill seekers

5. London Marathon

As part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, the London Marathon attracts a lot of participants. With a high level of competition, entries are selected via a ballot system. The 2018 race tickets were honoured by Queen Elizabeth II, who pushed the start button.

Distance: 42.165km

Destination: London, United Kingdom

Type: Road running

Best for: Serious runners 

6. Paris Marathon

The Paris Marathon offers a unique opportunity to make the city yours. It combines personal challenge with the chance to discover one of the world’s greatest cities. To take part, you must be at least 20 years old on the day of the race. The Salon du Running fair at Porte de Versailles that takes place three days before the marathon makes this event popular, as it attracts more than 80,000 visitors.

Distance: 42.195km

Destination: Paris, France

Type: Road running

Best for: Serious runners

Ready, steady, run!

Biokineticist Grace Pholi of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa has these tips for new runners:

  1. Consult your doctor to check for conditions such as high blood pressure and any risk factors for heart attack.
  2. Start slowly by taking a brisk walk around the block or joining a running club.
  3. Swimming, cycling and rowing help to build cardiovascular endurance and strength without impacting the joints.
  4. There is less chance of injury if you do corrective exercises and wear the appropriate shoes and gear.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.