Approximately 463,000 runners finished the 26.2 grueling miles that earn you admission to the marathon finishers club in 2009, and steady growth in previous years suggests that even more will lace up in 2010.
But all marathon courses aren’t created equal. Some are well known for the crowds they attract. For instance, Boston and New York bring out the hyper-competitive best, while races in the Rock ’n’ Roll series attract music-loving runners in search of a great experience along with a potential personal best.
Others are appealing for the scenery they pass through. The Paris and Barcelona races take you through some of Europe’s most historic cities, the Great Wall Marathon scales one of the world’s wonders, and races in Big Sur in California and Hyannis in Massachussets take the coastal route.
Here, Footwear News calls out some of the biggest, the most prestigious and the most fun runs of the new year and asks athletic brands what to expect.
ING Miami Marathon
It may be winter, but expect some tropical heat on this course that takes runners past the hotspots of South Beach.
More than 40 bands from Austin’s music scene get runners psyched for the race through Texas’ capital city.
For the second time, this Los Angeles community hosts a run with the Rose Bowl being a highlight on the course.
Rock ’n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon
Brooks’ multiyear partnership with the Rock ’n’ Roll marathon series kicks off in New Orleans — and the company says it’s a perfect fit. “We love this [race series] because it underlines what we are as a company: It’s grassroots, fusing music and physical exercise in a fun and spirited way with this big community effort,” said Brooks VP of marketing Dave Larson.
The course takes to the old city’s streets, past historic locales such as the Forum and the Arc of Triomf.
Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon
This marathon features a course that spotlights the sights of Napa’s wine country.
City of Los Angeles Marathon
Boasting a brand-new course (one that starts at Dodger Stadium before hitting Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica), this California race also has a new sponsor: Westlake Village, Calif.-based K-Swiss Inc. Calling the race a “great platform to tie into our California sports company position,” EVP David Nichols said to look for pop-up retail and parties in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, in addition to sponsored apparel and footwear. And word on the street is that another California institution — retail chain Sports Chalet — will sign on as well.
ING Georgia Marathon
Start and finish in the city’s Centennial Olympic Park and run through the campuses of Georgia State University, Emory University and others.
City of Rome Marathon
The starting gun for this Italian race goes off in one of the world’s oldest athletic sites: the Colosseum.
Check out local retailers and the official expo for a special Paris Marathon Gel-Nimbus 12 that sponsor Asics will be releasing for the race.
Salt Lake City Marathon
Salt Lake City
The race starts at the Olympic Legacy Bridge on the campus of the University of Utah, goes around the base of the Wasatch Mountains, then into the city center.
The Boston run is one of America’s (and the world’s) oldest and most competitive runs — qualifying for the Beantown Race is legendarily difficult. The lucky few who make the cut follow a course through eight cities and towns. Registration for the marathon may already be closed, but each year thousands of supporters turn up to cheer on New England’s largest marathon.
Country Music Marathon
A race through the country music capital features 50 live bands along the way.
Virgin London Marathon
This trek through the English capital also features charity cheering posts for spectators at a number of London pubs.
Big Sur Marathon
Big Sur, Calif.
It’s the 25th anniversary of this coastal run, and sponsor Asics is creating a commemorative jacket to help the rural marathon celebrate. It is also making jackets for the 400-some runners who are currently signed up for the “Boston to Big Sur Challenge” — it will be a reward for those runners with the fortitude to take on this California race less than a week after running Boston.
Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon
The 10th anniversary of this marathon pays tribute to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon
Nike also sponsors this marathon that crosses each of the three rivers of Pittsburgh.
BMO Vancouver Marathon
Vancouver, British Columbia
Founded in 1972, it’s one of Canada’s largest marathons.
The Great Wall Marathon
Tianjin Province, China
Runners explore a living wonder and get some major exercise on the Great Wall’s 5,164 steps.
Among the younger international races, Edinburgh is into its eighth year of winding through the city streets.
The Copenhagen Marathon debuts a new course this year, starting and finishing near parliament.
The Big Five Marathon
Held among the wildlife, this marathon takes place in one of Africa’s “big five” game reserves.
San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon
San Diego, Calif.
On a course designed to pass San Diego’s signature attractions, runners will be entertained by local bands.
Lake Placid Marathon
Lake Placid, N.Y.
Located in the Adirondack Mountains, this two-loop course features a few steep hills in a vacation destination.
Finishing quickly may pose a challenge here, with five opportunities to view wildlife built into the course along the way.
San Francisco Marathon
Runners take to the Bay City for a challenging course that goes through Golden Gate Park and Fisherman’s Wharf.
The Berlin Marathon sends runners through what was both West and East Berlin, by way of the Brandenburg Gate.
Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.
Start in Minneapolis, finish in St. Paul, and along the way see six lakes and the Mississippi River.
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Chicago is known for its fast, flat course, taking racers through 29 diverse neighborhoods.
The Baltimore Marathon
Longtime sponsor Under Armour greened up this Boston qualifier in 2009, inspired by their recycled PET Catalyst t-shirt — the official marathon shirt. Will Phillips, manager of Under Armour Green, said the company is looking to improve its efforts in 2010 with more recycling, more composting and more offsets.
Nike Women’s Marathon
It’s not just for the ladies (men are welcome), but female runners dominate this run through San Francisco. And participants can wear their accomplishment proudly, with an exclusive Tiffany necklace for each finisher.
Adidas Dublin Marathon
The Irish capital hosts this run that loops through the historic town.
Marine Corps Marathon
The Marine Corps Marathon pays tribute to its military background this year. Brooks, which has sponsored the annual run since 2002, will set up its BRASH booth — Brooks Running Athlete Support Hospital, a send-up to iconic 1970s sitcom “M.A.S.H.” — where runners can get gait analysis and pedorthist consultations. The event also features VIP porta-potties for those wearing Brooks footwear and apparel. Brooks’ Larson added that the facilities are better and larger this year.
Athens Classic Marathon
It seems fitting that the birthplace of the marathon would have one of the most difficult courses in the world, but runners are attracted to the challenge: half the race is on an incline.
ING New York City Marathon
In one of the world’s largest marathons (43,659 people finished in 2009), it can be hard to stand out — but for 2010, sponsor Asics will be continuing to spotlight runners. Marathoners who pose at the Asics booth at the Marathon Expo can text the company when they get to Times Square to see their pic and a short message on the ABC screens.
The city hosts this race through the Old City, past Independence Hall and other city sights.
Starting and finishing at the Space Needle, runners see the sights of Seattle, including a run along Lake Washington.
Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon
Participants go right down the Strip, past all the major hotels and casinos, where an array of Sin City-inspired acts entertain runners.
For more marathons, see Footwearnews.com.