If you are training to achieve a new personal best in a running marathon, a critical element for success is choosing an ideal race. Most runners will typically be looking for an event with low to no elevation gain and low temperature, possibly close to 10° Celsius (50 f). Also, they'll typically be looking for a certified course so that the result can be used as a qualifying time for the starting pen for your next race. We've gathered some of the Marathons that will help you achieve this.
1. Berlin Marathon, Germany
Period: Mid-late September
Temperature: average Max 19° (66 f) / Min 10° (50 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:01:39 (2018, WR), Women 2:18:11 (2018)
Established in 1974, the Berlin Marathon is the place to go if you're looking for a PB. In fact, all the last 7 world marathon records by men have been achieved at the Berlin Marathon. In other words, Berlin is the city holding the world marathon record since 2003. It's one of the "Marathon Majors", one of the most renowned marathons in the world. You can expect a massive, well-organized event where you'll run in front of Berlin's top sights and and cross the Brandeburg Gate just before the finish line.
2. London Marathon, UK
Period: Used to be late April, now late October.
Temperature: average Max 15° (59 f) / Min 7° (44 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:03:05 (2016), Women 2:15:25 (2003, WR)
Established in 1981, the London Marathon is the most popular marathon in the world with 414,168 applicants to the 2019 event. This is another great race for your next personal best. It's not a coincidence that many world records, including the current women's record, have been set here. However, it's also one of the busiest races and if you want to get your entry, you are much likely to get it if raising money for a charity. Also, beware that mild climate is not guaranteed because climate change has made the last editions of this race particularly hot. The 2018 London marathon broke the record for the hottest on record with 23.2 degree Celsius. Such high temperatures are likely to impact your performance.
3. Frankfurt Marathon, Germany
Temperature: average Max 15° (59 f) / Min 6° (42 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:03:42 (2011), Women 2:20:36 (2008)
Also established in 1981, the Frankfurt Marathon is the ideal late-season record-setting location. It's the third fastest marathon in the world based on course records. German site marathon-ergebnis notably ranks this race as the fastest in Germany (therefore faster than Berlin) based on average finish times.
An interesting fact is that this is the oldest marathon in Germany but only the second most popular (after Berlin). If you don't like hot temperatures, this is probably the race for you. However, be prepared for cold or wet weather.
4. Chicago Marathon, USA
Temperature: average Max 17° (62 f) / Min 10° (50 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:03:45 (2013), Women 2:17:18 (2002)
Established in 1977 and one of the six "Majors", the Chicago Marathon is the place to go if you're looking for a PB in the USA. It's also the fourth largest race in the world by finishers, with the number of participants capped at 45,000. Responsible for 13 past world records, at this race you are guaranteed optimal personal besting conditions.
5. Dubai Marathon, UAE
Temperature: average Max 24° (75 f) / Min 15° (59 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:04:00 (2018), Women 2:19:17 (2018)
A recent addition to the world stage, the Dubai Marathon has been established only in 2001. This race has also been called the "richest marathon" for the generous prize money for professional athletes. In 2008 it set what was then the second fastest marathon time just under 2:05. The marathon starts at 6am to take advantage of the lower temperatures in the morning.
6. Rotterdam Marathon, Netherlands
Period: Early April
Temperature: average Max 13° (55 f) / Min 4° (39 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:04:27 (2009), Women 2:18:58 (2012)
The Rotterdam Marathon is responsible for three past world records. It's fast and flat, has great crowd support and, if you don't mind temperatures a bit on the low side, it's the race for you.
7. Sevilla Marathon, Spain
Temperature: average Max 18° (64 f) / Min 7° (44 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:06:36 (2019), Women 2:24:29 (2019)
The Sevilla Marathon is a great early-season option if you live in Europe and a certified IAAF Road Race Label Events. Although course records might not make it justice, it's a flat and fast course that runs through a Unesco world heritage city. You might also appreciate the low-cost flights and the plenty of cheap accommodation options compared to many of the "big city" events.
8. Lisbon Marathon, Portugal
Temperature: average Max 22° (71 f) / Min 15° (59 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:08:21 (2014), Women 2:24:13 (2016)
If you've ever been to Lisbon you might know that the city is not at all flat. Quite the opposite, in fact. Therefore, you may be wondering how this city made the list of the fastest marathons. Well, in fact, the Lisbon Marathon is run entirely along the coast and across the 25 April bridge. If you are looking for a scenographic race in mild temperatures, this is the one for you.
9. Milan Marathon, Italy
Temperature: average Max 18° (64 f) / Min 10° (50 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:07:13 (2017), Women 2:24:59 (2002)
The Milan Marathon has only been established in 2000 but is rapidly growing in popularity and has effectively become the largest marathon in Itay. Although it has a good amount of turns, it's as flat as a marathon can be and passes in front of literally every sight of the city. The growing prestige of the race has made it so that it will soon be added to the World Major circuit for Age Groupers.
Bonus: Malta Marathon, Malta
Temperature: average Max 16° (60 f) / Min 9° (48 f)
Course Record: Men: 2:16:06 (2013), Women 2:40:28 (1994)
The Malta marathon is downhill with a 200 meters descent. In case it's not obvious, running the entire marathon downhill is a great way to give a boost to your performance. Don't expect this to count as a Boston qualifier. Needless to say, top athletes rarely race Malta which makes comparing course records futile. It's still a very fun race getting more and more popular every year.