From the time the ancient Greek runner Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greeks' victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon, humans have been compelled to push the limits of endurance.
The marathon truly is different from any other running race. It unites people, and it changes lives. Perhaps that's because people recognize the truth in what running philosopher Dr. George Sheehan once said: "The marathon is an adventure into the limits of the self, a theater for heroism, where the runner can do deeds of daring and greatness." And it gives you really nice legs.
Change your life in 2017 and try one—or all—of these 10 marathons.
Houston MarathonJanuary 15, 2017 - Houston, Texas 1 of 11
Though the location might seem slightly innocuous, the Chevron Houston Marathon is truly a sight to behold. The largest single day sporting event in Houston brings nearly a quarter-million supporters and spectators together to watch one of the largest—and fastest—marathons in the U.S.
Runners will pass through popular areas like Houston Heights, Neartown, Hermann Park and Rice University—and many will "Run for a Reason." A philanthropic community unique to the Houston Marathon, Run for a Reason gives participants the opportunity to fundraise and raise awareness for meaningful causes represented by 62 different charity partners. Since 1995, the initiative has raised over $24 million.
Hilton Head Island MarathonFebruary 11, 2017 - Hilton Head Island, S.C. 2 of 11
The Hilton Head Island Marathon takes place on, you know, Hilton Head Island—so we're off to a nice start. One of the top vacation destinations in the continental U.S., Hilton Head truly has a little something for everyone.
The fast, flat course is one of the most scenic you'll find, with passes through communities like Spanish Wells, Point Comfort and Honey Horn Plantation, en route to a post-race party that features a craft beer garden with over 30 brews from which to choose. So, pack your golf clubs, your bathing suit and your running shoes—you're headed for paradise.
Napa ValleyMarch 5, 2017 - Calistoga, Calif. 3 of 11
A relatively intimate marathon with about 2,500 runners, the Napa Valley Marathon is a quaint race in an agricultural setting. If you like to mix wine with your running (and who doesn't?), this is the marathon for you.
The scenic course runs along the Silverado Trail on the east side of the valley and winds south from Calistoga to Napa alongside the many vineyards. Except for the last half-mile, the entire course is rural. Take in the views, but don't drink and run (okay, maybe just a little). After the race, stay at one of the charming inns and spend the next day wine tasting and relaxing.
Paris MarathonApril 9, 2017 - Paris, France 4 of 11
Ah, Paris! The city of lights, the city of romance, the city of... a marathon? Yup, the most romantic city in the world has a marathon, and a popular one at that, with 35,000 to 40,000 runners.
The course starts on one of the most famous streets in the world, the Champs-Elysees, and runs a winding loop through the city, beside the banks of the River Seine and past some of the city's greatest sites, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Place de la Bastille before finishing near the Arc de Triomphe. Volunteers hand out red wine and cheese to runners at the Eiffel Tower, about three-quarters of the way through the race—just enough time to numb yourself before hitting the marathon wall.
Pro Football Hall of Fame MarathonApril 29, 2017 - Canton, Ohio 5 of 11
For the pro football fan who loves to go long, what better bucket list 1-2 punch than the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon, hosted on the hallowed grounds of Canton, Ohio? The football-themed course is a Boston Marathon qualifier that leads to one of the best finisher medals you'll find.
Canton Brewing Company will throw the welcome party on Friday night to kickoff a weekend full of music, food and fun for the whole family. Of course, no weekend will be complete without a visit inside of the Hall of Fame, itself.
Big Sur InternationalApril 30, 2017 - Carmel, Calif. 6 of 11
The Big Sur International Marathon offers a course that features incredible beauty as well as a real challenge for most runners and faster walkers. Staged entirely on Highway 1, runners are treated to panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean on their left and the pastoral beauty of the coastal mountain range on their right. An eclectic offering of music serenades runners along the course, including Michael Martinez playing the Yamaha Grand Piano at Bixby Bridge at the halfway point.
The Great Wall MarathonMay 20, 2017 - Tianjin Province, China 7 of 11
A destination and bucket list race for many, The Great Wall Marathon might be one of the most beautiful races on the planet, but it is not for the faint of heart. The famous course winds up and down a large section of the Great Wall of China—totaling 5,164 stone steps of various heights and widths, making for a notably treacherous and challenging run.
The Portland MarathonOct. 8, 2017 - Portland, Ore. 8 of 11
Now celebrating its 45th year, the Portland Marathon is consistently ranked as one of the best marathons for beginners, with Runner's World deeming it "the best people's marathon in the West."
The course has no shortage of entertainment, with over 74 different entertainment groups performing at 53 locations during last year's race alone. It is also known as one of the most walker-friendly marathons in the United States—the course stays open for eight hours to accommodate participants of all athletic abilities.
TCS New York City MarathonNov. 5, 2017 - New York 9 of 11
The largest marathon in the United States with over 50,000 runners, the TCS New York City Marathon is the cream of the marathon crop. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, if you can run there, you can run anywhere. The marathon is organized by the New York Road Runners, the largest running club in the United States.
The course begins on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and runs through dozens of culturally and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan, and then finishes in world-famous Central Park. You cross five bridges, including the Queensboro Bridge, which puts you onto First Avenue in Manhattan at mile 16, where you're greeted by thousands of screaming spectators, making it one of the most exciting streets to run on in the world. After the race, get off your feet and dine at one of New York's many famous restaurants, see a Broadway show, and ride a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park.
Because of its enormous popularity, getting into the TCS New York City Marathon is harder than hailing a taxicab in Times Square on a Saturday evening. You can have the privilege of running New York by applying by lottery that is drawn in April, running a speedy qualifying time, running for charity, or being a celebrity.
Honolulu MarathonDec. 10, 2016 - Honolulu 10 of 11
The Honolulu Marathon is the fourth largest marathon in the United States, attracting some 20,000 runners each year.
To beat the heat, the race starts at 5 a.m. (yes, you read that right!) on Ala Moana Boulevard, which is Hawaiian for "path by the ocean." And that's just what you get in this exotic locale known for its relaxed atmosphere, cheap noodle joints and fancy Pacific Rim cuisine. Enjoy spectacular ocean views as you run alongside world-famous Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head and Koko Head volcanic craters before finishing at Waikiki's Kapiolani Park. After the race, soak your tired legs in the ocean and lounge on the sand. If you get there early, don't miss the concert and luau at the Waikiki Shell held a couple days before the race.