17 Best Marathons in Asia: Most Scenic and Challenging Races

While marathons in the US and Europe often steal the spotlight, many remain blissfully unaware of the remarkable races Asia has to offer. It’s time to shed light on the thriving marathon scene in this diverse and captivating continent, where rich cultures, stunning landscapes, and some unforgettable runs await.

Contrary to popular belief, Asia boasts an impressive array of marathons, each providing a unique and exhilarating challenge to runners. Below we will list 17 of the most exceptional marathons Asia has to offer.

So, slip on your running shoes, fill up your water bottle, and join us as we traverse Asia, uncovering the very best marathons this vast continent has in store. Whether you’re an experienced marathoner, a casual runner, or simply an enthusiast seeking inspiration, prepare to be amazed by the hidden gems that will push your body to the limit!

What Are The Best Marathons In Asia?

Asia marathons bucket list

For other regions of the world, see our guides to the best marathons in the US, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

1. The Halong Bay Heritage Marathon

When: November

Where: Vietnam

There’s no better way to experience Halong Bay than running the Heritage Marathon along the Vietnamese coast. The route gives runners amazing views of one of the best natural sights in the world. Participants follow the course through fishing villages and coastal paths before crossing the Bai Chay Bridge – Southeast Asia’s longest single-span bridge.

2. Bangkok Marathon

  • When: November
  • Where: Thailand

The Bangkok Marathon is the way to go for a big-city marathon with a difference. The marathon starts at 1 a.m., and the temperatures can reach the high 90s. It’s a smaller race and allows runners to enjoy the course as they run past Wat Chao Am Temple, Rama VIII Bridge, and Phutthamonthon. The race is a good opportunity to explore the city without fighting traffic.

3. Tata Mumbai Marathon

  • When: January
  • Where: India

The Mumbai Marathon is Asia’s largest marathon and should be on any serious runner’s bucket list. Over 45,000 participants enter the event annually across the six race options (marathon, half marathon, 10k, 6k, 4.3k, and 2.4k). The route follows a path past some of Mumbai’s most iconic sights, including Chowpatty Beach, St. Michael’s Church, Marine Drive, Flora Fountain, and Haji Ali Dargah.

4. Yoma Yangon Marathon

  • When: January
  • Where: Myanmar

The most popular marathon in Myanmar is the Bagan Temple Marathon, which is great, but if you want something different, the Yoma Yangon Marathon is worth a look. The flat course meanders through the heart of Yangon, and runners will pass Shwedagon Pagoda, which is said to be more than 2,600 years old. The run is more intimate than some city marathons, with only around 200 participants running the 26.2-miler.

5. The Great Wall Marathon

  • When: May
  • Where: China

If you’re looking for a challenging marathon, the Great Wall Marathon has it all. It’s considered Asia’s most grueling marathon, featuring 5,164 uneven steps, narrow sections where only one person can pass at a time, and undulating hills. Runners run through local villages on dirt tracks and along restored and crumbling sections of the Wall – a unique way to visit this great wonder of the world. The average finish time is between 5 and 7 hours.

Great Wall Marathon in China

6. Danang International Marathon

  • When: August
  • Where: Vietnam

The Danang International Marathon is situated on one of the most stunning beaches in the world, making it a destination marathon of note. Some of the highlights of this race include Dragon Bridge and Bien Dong Park, and you’ll run past temples, pagodas, and shrines. This 2,000-year-old city should be on everyone’s bucket list, and this event has a race event for the whole family, including a marathon, half marathon, and a 5k fun run.

7. Kyoto Marathon

  • When: February
  • Where: Japan

The popular Kyoto marathon begins at Nishikyogoku Athletic Park and winds through the city to the finish line near the Heian-Jingu Shrine. The unique thing about this marathon is that runners pass seven UNESCO Heritage sites and have views of five different mountain ranges along the route. And, if that wasn’t enough, participants run through the Kyoto Botanical Gardens to the Kamo River. It’s a great treat if you enjoy culture and nature.

8. Kuala Lumpur Marathon

  • When: May
  • Where: Malaysia

The Kuala Lumpur Marathon is one of the biggest city marathons in Southeast Asia, seeing around 6,000 finishers every year. The course showcases the city’s amazing experiences and cultural offerings, from sleek high-rise buildings like the Petronas Towers to historic sites like the Batu Caves Hindu temple. As runners tick off the miles, they’re treated to a fusion of old and new, making it a bucket list run for many.

9. The Angkor Empire Marathon

  • When: August
  • Where: Cambodia

This marathon was started in 2014, and Angkor Wat was chosen as the location – the perfect setting for an Asian marathon. The route takes runners past UNESCO Heritages sites like Pre Rup, Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple, and Angkor Wat. The race kicks off at 4:30 a.m., so participants can run with the sunrise, a special experience by any standard. The route is flat and fast, too, so runners looking to set a new PB can push their limits with this marathon.

10. Singapore Sundown Marathon

  • When: March
  • Where: Singapore

When it comes to cosmopolitan marathons, Singapore is the king. The Singapore Sundown Marathon is an exciting way to take in the city’s skyline as the sun sets – there’s nothing quite like the Singapore skyline at night! This marathon runs through the downtown area of one of the most densely populated cities in the world. For fun-loving, festival-going runners, this race is perfect. The start and finish areas have dance music, lights, and a party vibe you won’t forget.

Singapore Sundown Marathon
Singapore Sundown Marathon, via their FB page

11. The Bagan Temple Marathon

  • When: November
  • Where: Myanmar

Bagan is Myanmar’s crown jewel and home to more than 2,000 temples, crumbling pagodas, and stupas, making this marathon a treat for the eyes. The dust and heat make this marathon challenging, but runners are rewarded with an exquisite route on old dirt roads through traditional villages where locals line the streets to cheer. The marathon starts at the Htilominlo Temple, and participants will experience the Khamsum Yulley Temple, rice paddies, monasteries, Punakha Valley, and rain forests before finishing at Punakha Dzong. What are you waiting for?!

12. LSR Colombo Marathon

  • When: October
  • Where: Sri Lanka

If you want a marathon that’s a bit quieter and off-the-radar, the LSR Colombo Marathon is worth a look. It’s a locally-organized race and gives you the perfect reason to explore Sri Lanka. The marathon is a basic out-and-back course and boasts endless views of the shockingly blue Indian Ocean to one side and the Negombo Lagoon to the other. If you want to enjoy a calm, peaceful marathon with nothing to distract your eyes, this is the race for you.

13. The Tokyo Marathon

  • When: March
  • Where: Japan

The Tokyo Marathon is one of the World Marathon Majors and one of the most popular marathons in Asia. Many marathoners do this race once they’ve taken on the New York and London equivalents. 10,000 participants line up at the start line to run through Tokyo’s streets through some of the most famous areas in the city, including Asakusa, Ginza, and Shinjuku. Runners are treated to views of Buddhist temples and skyscrapers as they cover the flat route.

14. Borneo International Marathon

  • When: April
  • Where: Borneo

The Borneo International Marathon allows runners to experience the tropical jungle, waterfront houses, and pristine beaches as the backdrop of the race. The event has 3 distances – marathon, half-marathon, and 10k – for nature-loving runners to choose from. The circuit race starts and finishes at the Likas Stadium and highlights the beauty of Kota Kinabalu, including Suria Sabah, Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen, and City Mosque, best known as the floating mosque.

15. Jeju International Tourism Marathon

  • When: May
  • Where: South Korea

Runners can soak up endless coastal views along the Jeju International Tourism Marathon. Participants run along the beaches of the volcanic island while racing in one of Korea’s oldest marathons. Gimnyeong Beach is the start and finish of this marathon, and the course leads runners along unique beaches with gray, red, white, and black sands. Check out this marathon if you love running with shoreline vistas to soothe your mind.

16. Pyongyang Marathon

  • When: April
  • Where: North Korea

This marathon attracts many international runners to get a rare glimpse of North Korea as they run through the streets of Pyongyang, the capital city. The event has four distance options – marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 5k. The only way to enter this marathon is through an organized tour group. The course starts and finishes at the Kim II Sung Stadium and passes many major landmarks, including Mirae Scientists Street and Kim II Sung Square.

17. Ladakh Marathon

  • When: September
  • Where: India

This marathon has quite a twist – it requires runners to arrive seven days before the start of the race to allow them to acclimate to the high altitude. The race is run at 11,500 feet above sea level, and the air is very thin. Despite being very challenging, the event attracts up to 6,000 runners from over 20 countries. The course is very hilly and involves 6,000 feet of elevation gain. Altitude sickness is common, so participants need to be prepared for this.

Honorable Mentions

We’ve included two honorable mentions below if you’re looking for more of a challenge while traveling through Asia. These ultramarathons show off the best Asia trails has to offer while providing a challenge you won’t soon forget.

Gobi March

  • When: July
  • Where: Mongolia

The Gobi March is an unforgettable race often called “the ultimate test of endurance.” This march spans seven days, and participants cover 250 kilometers in stages. This race is part of the popular 4 Deserts series – all races are self-supported endurance races where participants carry their own food and equipment. The race organizers only provide tents each night and drinking water along the way. The terrain is a mix of rocky river beds, alpine hills, green pastures, dusty tracks, salt flats, and narrow ridge paths. Add in a few river crossings, and most runners take between 24 and 70 hours to complete the epic challenge.

The Himalayan Crossing

  • When: August
  • Where: Himalayas

As its name suggests, the Himalayan Crossing is a 338-kilometer-long route that crosses through the various mountain ranges of the Himalayas. Participants push themselves to the limits with rough terrain, extreme temperatures, and high altitudes. The views make the entire effort worth it – competitors catch a glimpse of the spectacular untouched mountains, hike through the Rohtang and Kunzum passes, and pass through the Spiti and Kinnaur Valleys to end at Komic, the highest village in Asia. The race takes four days to complete, which is part of the challenge (the race has a daily average of 80+ kilometers).

Have we missed your favorite Asian marathon? Let us know in the comments below!

Author Profile

Thalia Oosthuizen

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Thalia started running during the the pandemic as a way of getting out of the house. The running bug bit, and now much of her life revolves around everything to do with running - videos, podcasts, studies, books, articles, and interviews. She's also done several courses on running nutrition and mechanics to aid in her training and advising others.
Thalia Oosthuizen

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