The best half marathons to enter around the world

Mountains, cities, forests, and beaches – 13.1 miles has never been so fun
Incredible half marathons to sign up for

We love half marathons. They're long enough to be a test of endurance and fitness without the weighty marathon training plan.

Half marathons are perfect for integrating into your travel. You can still make the most of your time away without the weight of the race dominating your trip. It’s perfect for everyone from beginners to veteran athletes, whether you’re dipping your toes into endurance running for the first time or desperately trying to get a PB.

And when you drop to the 13.1 mile distance, things get a lot more interesting. Forget dull city street marathons and start thinking jaw-dropping trails and unique experiences in bucket list locations.

Here we pick our favorite half marathon events around the world – from novelty fun races to the kind of events that leave an imprint on you for years to come. Hills, scenery, ease of access and even medals are all factors that play a massive part in how good a running event can be.

Valencia Half Marathon

Spanish races, as we’ve discovered over the past few years, are extremely well organised. That may seem like an easy task when you can almost always count on good weather, but wide roads, nicely planned start areas, efficient expos and well-managed water stops all make for the sort of events that leave you feeling like you’ve just done something special.

If we were pushed for our favorite Spanish half marathon it would be Valencia. The half marathon takes place in October, which means it’s still warm, with temperatures up to 77 degrees – so make sure you plan your kit for heat. As well as taking place on wide roads, the course is also flat, so if you’re okay with a bit of sun, it’s a great place to hit a PB.

With a route that takes you by the beautiful marina, through the central park and past the cheering crowds in the main town district, it’s a race that has everything covered. Add to that a start and finish that takes place next the impressive City of Arts and Sciences and you may even forget the 21 kilometres you’ve got to cover.

When: October

Entrance fee: From €25

The best bit: Running across the bridge at the City of Arts and Sciences

Difficulty: Flat but can be hot – check the route on Strava

Elevation gain: 263m

The Great Wall Half Marathon

The best half marathons to enter around the world
Credit: Albatros Adventure Marathon

Man-made landmarks don’t get any bigger than the Great Wall of China, and if your half marathon aspirations verge on the Herculean then it’s definitely one to tick off the list. Taking place in the Tianjin Province in May means that not only are there a lot of steps to climb, but it also hits temperatures of 95 degrees. So probably not one for beginners.

Aside from the staircases, rolling trails, historic cobblestone paths, unpaved terrain and steep ascents and descents, the route means that runners get to take in some of the most breathtaking views you’re ever likely to find in a half marathon. Which, as you may have imagined, tends to help a bit when you’re struggling your way through some of the tougher sections.

With 493m of elevation at its highest point and a fair amount of undulation across the whole 21km, it’s by far the most challenging race on this list. The course doesn’t all take place on the wall though, with the second half winding around the cheering crowds of the local villages. There’s also a full marathon option which means tackling a gargantuan 5,164 steps in total.

When: May

Entrance fee: From $1,450 (includes a full 6-day trip, based on 2019 cost)

The best bit: Running through the crowds in Duanzhuang village

Difficulty: Savage – check the route on Strava

Elevation gain: 300m

Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

The best half marathons to enter around the world

Las Vegas isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you’re thinking fitness, but if you’re looking for something a bit different then it’s well worth investigating – especially considering the whole event takes place at on the Vegas strip at night.

The fact that the race is the only private event in Las Vegas allowed to take over the strip makes the whole thing a big deal. Not only are the streets dotted with everything from DJs to circus performers, but the support from the crowds is some of the best you’re ever likely to find at a running event.

With only 67m of elevation gain and the first 13km of the race being a gentle downwards slope, it’s one of the easier courses on the list. There are up to 40,000 runners taking part in races from 5k to the full marathon though, so expect some congestion if you’re hoping to target that PB. The other good thing about Rock’n’Roll races – they make some of the most impressive race bling we’ve ever seen.

When: November

Entrance fee: TBC

The best bit: Watching the sun go down as the race starts

Difficulty: Flat and fast – check the route on Strava

Elevation gain: 63m

Star Wars Half Marathon, Orlando

In an amazing piece of marketing genius, Disney combined two of our favourite things into the perfect event for any fake-lightsaber-wielding runner: the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend.

Taking place at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, the 13.1 mile course takes runners around the park as costumed characters from the film series.

As you would probably expect, the focus here is fun. It’s unlikely you’re going to see any world records broken here, unless it’s for “fastest Jabba the Hutt”.

The race is part of a full weekend of events, with runs starting from the under 12-month old “Diaper Dash" to the full-on Star Wars challenge, which sees people taking part in both the 10k and the Half Marathon over the weekend to be awarded a bonus medal at the end.

When: April

Entrance fee: $188 (based on 2019)

The best bit: The medals are sought after like modern day bullion

Difficulty: Flat – check the route

Elevation gain: 40m

Kauai Half Marathon, Hawaii

The best half marathons to enter around the world

Hula dancers, Taiko drum troupes, a beautiful mountain backdrop and a finish that ends on one of the most impressive coastlines in the world. Not the kind of things we’ve ever come to expect from a half marathon course, but if you really wanted to take your running experience to the next level then the Kauai Half Marathon is the way to go.

Starting in Poipu in the early hours, runners watch the sun rise as the route follows the famous beaches, volcanoes and tropical rainforests that lead deeper into the island, before heading through the impressive tunnel of trees and back to the coastline.

As is always the case, beautiful scenery doesn’t come without a price, in this case, 506m of elevation gain. Luckily the last half of the race is all downhill so you can enjoy the final push as you stare longingly at the beach in front of you. There’s also a marathon option which has over 1,300m of elevation, for when you really want to feel like you’ve earned that Mai Tai.

When: April

Entrance fee: $105 (based on 2019)

The best bit: The tunnel of trees

Difficulty: Hilly and hot – check the route

Elevation gain: 506m

Kilimanjaro Half Marathon

The best half marathons to enter around the world

Credit: Johanna Ginsberg

If ever there was a backdrop to spur you on as you desperately try to find the strength for the last few kilometres of a run, a snow-capped Mt Kilimanjaro is it. You have to work for it though, with over 300m of elevation to contend with in temperatures that can reach 95 degrees. Once you reach the turning point on the climb though, things get drastically easier as you only have a long downhill to deal with.

The best part about opting for the half marathon distance is that you miss out a long road section that the marathon runners end up doing, meaning the bulk of the course is run on beautiful trails.

With Kilimanjaro just a drive away as well as a selection of national wildlife parks, it’s a great option if you like turning your running trips into a holiday.

When: February

Entrance fee: Packages start from $378 USD

The best bit: The sun rising over Kilimanjaro in the distance

Difficulty: Stifling and very hilly – check the route

Elevation gain: 300m

Edinburgh Half Marathon

The best half marathons to enter around the world
Credit: Reuben Tabner

Edinburgh is famous for many things: The Fringe festival, Sean Connery, one of the most striking castles in the UK and, luckily for us runners, a very popular series of running events.

The Edinburgh Marathon Festival takes place in May, hosting an enormous range of races from a kids' kilometre to the extremely popular Edinburgh Marathon. Since it started in 2003 it’s become one of the stalwart UK races to tick off the bucket list, offering amazing views, cheering crowds and a great place to spend an extended trip.

The half marathon covers the first half of the full route, a course famous for the fact that the first 8k is all downhill. Which basically means you get that free. Once through the city streets, the course heads down to the coastline and follows it out surrounded by the Scottish hills that surround the city.

When: May

Entrance fee: £38.50

The best bit: The 90m of downhill for the first 8km

Difficulty: Undulating – check route on Strava

Elevation gain: 161m

BMO Vancouver Half Marathon, Canada

The best half marathons to enter around the world
Cameron Sparling / RUNVAN

Often mentioned as one of the most picturesque city marathon races in the world, Vancouver half marathon has a lot going for it. Starting in the impressively designed Queen Elizabeth Park, the route heads north through tree-lined suburban streets and past enormous crowds until you eventually end up finishing in the beautiful Stanley Park.

Although the first 5k is downhill, the easy jaunt doesn’t last long with the rest of the race undulating until a final climb for the the last 2k. A small price to pay when the view in front combines the breathtaking mountains with the waters of the Burrard Inlet.

Great organisation, amazing scenery, a limited number of runners (it only has about 5,000 participants) and one of the nicest cities to celebrate in afterwards mean it’s pretty easy to see why people who’ve run it love it so much.

When: May

Entrance fee: $108

The best bit: The final few kilometers through Stanley Park

Difficulty: Undulating – check route on Strava

Elevation gain: 560m

New York City Half Marathon, N.Y.

The best half marathons to enter around the world

As high profile half marathons go, you’re not going to find anything that packs as much punch as the New York Half. The perfect event for runners that want to experience the staggering crowds of the New York marathon without the distance. Either that, or a second chance at racing in Central Manhattan if you didn’t get in through the marathon ballot.

Starting off in Prospect Park, the course takes runners through the cheering Brooklyn crowds before heading over Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan. From there the route follows the east side of the island until moving into the centre for a final incredible loop around Central Park.

It may not be the toughest race in the list, but there is a fair amount of incline across the course, so make sure to hit some hill training before the big day.

When: March

Entrance fee: TBC for 2020

The best bit: The final few kilometres through Stanley Park

Difficulty: Flat and fast – check route on Strava

Elevation gain: 117m

Mont St Michael, France

The best half marathons to enter around the world
Credit: Gautier Demouveaux

If ever there was a sight in the distance to spur you on as you make your way through 21 kilometres, Mont St Michael has got to be it. A fairytale island topped by a medieval monastery that marks the end of the race is a vision you won’t find anywhere else.

Starting on the Brittany coastline, the half marathon course takes place on quiet pastoral paths as it follows the waterline through to the finish looking up at the magnificent Mont St Michael. Although the first half of the marathon has a meaty climb, the second half is as flat as a pancake, meaning you can enjoy the scenery.

If it's crowds you’re looking for then this is probably not the best option, but if you’re the kind of runner that likes to soak in beautiful scenery, then this is one of the best choices out there.

When is it: March

Entrance fee: From €34

The best bit: Looking up at Mont St Michael as you cross the finish line

Difficulty: Flat – check route on Strava

Elevation gain: 30m

Main image credit: Albatros Adventure Marathon

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