Here Are The 10 Biggest Marathons In The World

Do you want to run one of the biggest marathons in the world, but you aren’t sure which marathons are the largest in terms of participants?

Keep reading for a list of some of the biggest marathons in the world to help you choose the next 26.2-mile race to add to your marathon bucket list.

We will look at the following: 

  • Is It Better to Run a Big Marathon Or Small Marathon?
  • What Are the Biggest Marathons In the World?

Let’s get started!

People running a marathon.

Is It Better to Run a Big Marathon Or Small Marathon?

If you are looking to run one of the fastest marathons in the US or one of the fastest marathons in the world to set a PR, you might be wondering whether it is better to run a big marathon or find a smaller marathon to do so.

There can be benefits to both.

For example, some of the fastest marathons in the US, in terms of the difficulty of the course, are actually smaller marathons, such as the Baystate Marathon in Massachusetts. The same could be said for many of the fastest marathons in the world.

The benefit of running a smaller marathon when you are trying to set a PR is that the course will be less crowded,

Therefore, you will not have to weave around other runners, and you can more easily settle into your pace without getting caught up in the throngs of runners around you who may or may not be running at your intended marathon pace. 

A person celebrating after finishing a marathon.

If you have friends or family members who are coming to support you during your marathon, it’ll be easier for you to find them along the course and actually hear their cheering and words of encouragement.

When running one of the biggest marathons in the world, such as the Boston Marathon or New York City Marathon, it might be hard to pick out personalized support along the course.

However, many of the fastest marathons in the US and the fastest marathons in the world are indeed massive marathons with a huge field size.

The benefit of running one of the biggest marathons in the world is that there will be no long stretches of the race course where you are trying to maintain your pace by yourself. 

You will have other runners to work with, so it is actually like you are in a race rather than on a long solo long run.

The energy of the crowds along a big city marathon is also much more consistent, which can help distract you from the challenges of running 26.2 miles. 

People running a marathon.

The biggest marathons in the world also tend to have excellent support along the course, with plenty of water and medical tents if necessary.

Some runners also love the pride and notoriety that can come from running one of the largest marathons in the world.

Your non-runner friends are much more likely to have an appreciation for your accomplishments when you finish the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, or London compared to if you finish a small marathon that they have never heard of. 

They may even be more likely to spectate or watch on TV, which might provide an added layer of motivation that pushes you all that much harder to hit your PR.

Of course, as runners, we know that 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles no matter what marathon course you run, and some of the hardest marathons in the world are actually little tiny trail marathons and small-town marathons that even plenty of avid runners have never heard of. 

With that said it’s always nice to get a good ego boost when friends, coworkers, and family members in your life seem extra jazzed about the marathon that you are running. 

People running a marathon.

Recognizable marathons by non-runners tend to be the most popular marathons in the world, with the largest field size.

Plus, these marathons tend to have a stronger elite field, which means that they will be a bunch of fast runners up front, and a strong sub-elite field, which may pull the entire pace of the marathon along at a faster clip, even if you are not the one leading the chase.

Therefore, there are certainly compelling arguments to choose to run one of the biggest marathons in the world, but running a little local marathon is no less impressive if you find that running one of the most popular marathons in the world is just not jiving with your preferences as a marathon runner.

What Are the Biggest Marathons In the World?

A list of the biggest marathons in the world is dynamic in that some of the largest marathons in the world have fluctuating field sizes from year to year.

As such, this is less of a definitive “biggest marathons in the world list” but rather a list of some of the largest marathons in the world most years.

Due to changing registration numbers from year to year, the list of biggest marathons in the world is not set in stone, nor is it necessarily in order from the biggest marathon in the world to the smallest of the largest marathons in the world.

A blurred picture of people running a marathon.

That said, here is a list of some of the biggest marathons in the world:

#1: TCS New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon had a whopping 47,743 finishers in 2022 and is consistently considered the world’s largest marathon. 

The NYC Marathon was the first marathon to break the 50,000 finisher mark, which occurred in 2013. In 2019, there was a record of 53,627 finishers.

The iconic New York City Marathon course meanders through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx, ending back in Manhattan in the famous Central Park. 

#2: TCS London Marathon, London, UK

The London Marathon saw about 48,000 finishers in 2023. The World Marathon Major is not only one of the biggest marathons in the world but also one of the hardest to get into.

In fact, the race organizers have reported that the 2024 TCS London Marathon has received over half a million applicants, setting the world record for the most marathon entry applications to date.

People running a marathon.

#3: Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Chicago, IL

The Chicago Marathon had 39,420 finishers in 2022.

In terms of the three Abbott World Marathon Majors in the US (alongside the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon), the Chicago Marathon has the fastest course. 

So, if you’re looking for one of the largest marathons in the world—and one of the fastest—this is a great option.

#4: Boston Marathon, Boston, MA

The Boston Marathon is the oldest continually running marathon in the world, having been held every year since 1897, and also one of the biggest. There were over 30,000 runners in 2023.

The point-to-point Boston marathon course starts in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and finishes on Boylston Street at Copley Square in Boston.

People running a marathon.

#5: BMW Berlin Marathon, Berlin, Germany

All of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors earn a spot on our list of the biggest marathons in the world. It has a huge field of over 47,000 runners, which means that you will have plenty of fellow competitors to push you to a fast time.

You should consider running this marathon because it is an extremely fast course, as it is the site of the last eight men’s marathon world record performances.

It is one of the best fall marathons in the world, with great running weather and good timing after marathon training through the summer.

There is a massive marathon expo and an extremely well-organized race.

It also has a rich history in this area of Germany, so you can turn it into a memorable destination marathon.

#6: Tokyo Marathon, Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo Marathon is another one of the biggest marathons in the world, and it is one of the Marathon majors. It is also one of the most popular marathons in the world, with more than 300,000 runners applying for the lottery each year and a max field size of 30,000 runners.

It’s a great opportunity to visit a fascinating country with welcoming people, great food, rich history, and varied and stunning landscapes.

A blurred photo of people running a marathon.

#7: Paris Marathon, Paris, France

Even though the Paris Marathon is not one of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors, it is still one of the biggest marathons in the world every year.

In fact, according to official data from the race organizer, in 2019, there were 48,029 finishers in the Paris Marathon, which bumped it up to the second-largest marathon in the world that year for the first time behind only the New York City Marathon. 

In fact, there were 5,500 more finishers in the 2019 Paris Marathon than there had been in the 2018 Paris Marathon, which, at the time, had been the biggest race yet.

Since the Paris Marathon was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of finishers has dropped somewhat substantially to about 27,000 in 2021.

In 2022, the race saw a big uptick in the number of finishers, with about 34,405 finishers completing the Paris Marathon.

However, this year, in 2023, there were about 52,000 participants in the Paris Marathon.

#8: Osaka Marathon, Osaka, Japan

Although the Tokyo marathon is often the first one that comes to mind when people make a list of the biggest marathons in the world—and, to be fair, it is bigger than the Osaka Marathon—the Osaka Marathon in Japan is also one of the world’s biggest marathons.

There are usually about 30,000 finishers in this late November/early December marathon.

People running a marathon.

#9: Mexico City Marathon, Mexico City, Mexico

There are typically about 24,000 finishers in the Mexico City Marathon, which was previously called the “Maratón de la Ciudad de México.”

However, despite this being one of the largest marathons in the world, it has a poor reputation internationally in terms of the integrity of the participants. 

There are often reports of a significant number of runners “cheating” and taking shortcuts. This may be a marathon that has made the “biggest marathons in the world list,” but it’s not necessarily one that should be recommended on the “best marathons in the world list.”

However, not having participated in this race ourselves, we can only provide these warnings based on the reputation and reviews online, not first-hand experience.

#10: Xiamen Marathon, Xiamen, China

It’s not surprising that the most populous country in the world is also home to one of the biggest marathons in the world.

The Xiamen Marathon in China is the biggest marathon in China and one of the largest marathons in the world. There are usually about 25,000 finishers who choose to kick off their year of running at this marathon, which takes place on the first weekend of the year. 

Another perk of the Xiamen International Marathon is that the course is fast and relatively flat.

Do you like running small marathons, or do you feel most excited by running one of the largest marathons in the world? Let us know your thoughts!

For a list of the most beautiful marathons in the world that should be on your bucket list, click here!

People high-fiving after a race.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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