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Marathons worth traveling for

Runners with wanderlust will go the distance for these spectacular destination races.

You know how looking forward to a trip can keep you going during a rough week at work? Well the same could be said for marathoning, in that booking a 26.2-mile lope along the Seine could help you break through any temporary training block. You'll see enough of your local landmarks as log your preparatory miles—here, our top five destination marathons.

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  • Big Sur International Marathon

    Big Sur International Marathon

    The race: Breathtakingly beautiful takes on new meaning during this April race, a spectacularly scenic—but notoriously difficult—course that hugs the fog-filled Pacific coastline between Big Sur and Carmel. 

    The hotel: A collection of glass-and-wood villas perched on Atlantic-facing beaches and cliffs, The Post Ranch Inn is a decompressing spot in Big Sur. 

    The reward: One of the Bay Area’s best restaurants—and that’s saying something in this region of outsized culinary creativity—Aubergine in the L’Auberge Carmel is a great place to celebrate a race well run. Order a four-course dinner that includes the likes of saffron-and-smoked-roe-topped Hamachi and Dungeness crab with rosewater and coconut.

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  • Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon

    Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon

    The race: This far-flung March race is named for the spectacular views of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans that runners get as they traverse the tip of South Africa. An extremely enthusiastic crowd lines the race route, along which marathoners get Coke, salty potatoes, chocolates and ice cream. 

    The hotel: Stay at the old-worldly Cape Grace and you’ll get marina views, a grand-feeling room, and a chauffeur who’ll drive you to the race start.

    The reward: Tack on a few extra days to kick back at the Western Cape’s Babylonstoren, an exceptionally stylish, quiet and luxe collection of 17th century cottages on a working farm—the eight acres of gardens are filled with 300 types of edible plants. Pick the ones you want and a chef will help you fix them for dinner.

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  • Marathon de Paris

    Marathon de Paris

    The race: This April marathon winds along the Seine and through Paris’s perfect architecture and leafy parks. The mostly flat route starts on the Champs-Elysees, and its second half brings you past the Bastille, the Notre Dame cathedral and the Musee D’Orsay, along with the Eiffel Tower.

    The hotel: One of France’s most fabulous new hotels, the Shangri-La Paris, is in the former palace of Napoleon’s grandnephew. Think marble foyers, grand staircases, a Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, and unparalleled views of the Eiffel Tower.

    The reward: You won’t even recognize yourself after a session with derm-doctor Philippe Allouche at Biologique Recherche’s Champs Elysees day spa. It specializes in super-scientific facials that leave skin supple and taut—a great recovery from marathon-induced exhaustion.

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  • Athens Classic Marathon

    Athens Classic Marathon

    The race: For this November race, modeled after a run made by Pheidippides in 490 BC, runners begin with a lap around the tomb of the Athenian soldiers in the town of Marathon, then veer through the beach town of Nea Makri before descending into Athens. A warning: Miles 13 through 19 are uphill.  

    The hotel: 
    The Semiramis Hotel is convenient—it’s closer than downtown Athens to the start line—and cool: The Karim Rashid-designed palace has candy-colored glass walls and pops of chartreuse and bright pink.

    The reward: Haven’t you earned Cycladian cheese fried in Peloponnese olive oil? Or a goat-cheese-and-dill-stuffed pepper with rice-filled grape leaves? Head to the homey white Mamacas for classic-yet-interesting taverna dishes.
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  • BMW Berlin Marathon

    BMW Berlin Marathon

    The race: The late-September race is a fit for history buffs who’d be thrilled to pass the Reichstag and finish beneath the Brandenberg gate along the Unter Den Linden, a lime-tree-trimmed boulevard in Berlin’s tony Mitte neighborhood. Expect a flat and perfectly maintained course, and a fast finish.

    The hotel: Stay at the new Das Stue, a very-modern hotel by the Tiergarten park—and very close to the marathon’s starting and ending point (the race is a closed loop). Cool interior touches include a bed that appears to float and a restaurant ceiling made from copper pots. 

    The reward: How about some hammam time and an elbow-grease-laden massage at Soho House’s Cowshed spa? Afterwards, enjoy a cocktail at the rooftop bar, which has views of Berlin’s famous TV tower.

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