John O’Regan’s Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons

[This post is part of a series where we ask runners from all over the world what some of their favorite marathon and ultramarathon races have been.]

“Running has given me an excuse to travel and one race usually leads to  another.  Listed below are some of my favorites.” – John O’Regan

1.  Spartathlon: This must be the toughest and most satisfying ultra Marathon in the world because of its unique history and background.  The thought of this race scared be as I knew by the consistently high dropout rate of 70% that the chances of not finishing were quite high but fear of failure isn’t a good enough reason not to do something you really want to do.  This race traces the footsteps of Pheidippides as he ran from Athens to Sparta to seek help from the Spartan Army in the battle of Marathon.

2. Antarctic Ice Marathon, Patriot Hills, Antarctica:  When I heard rumours of a Marathon to be held on mainland Antarctica.  Stepping off the plane onto the ice runway and feeling the cold while taking in an incredible vista is a memory that will stay with me forever.  Running a Marathon in Antarctica made me want to run a Marathon on each of the 7 Continents.

3.  North Pole:  When I heard there were plans for a Marathon at the North Pole my first thought were, how do I enter?  To add to the experience I ran this while guiding a blind runner ‘Mark Pollock’.  To say it was tough is an understatement but it was very rewarding and I’d love to go back.

4.  Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru:  It takes 4-5 days to do this trek but running the Marathon gives you the opportunity to cover the trek in less than 1 day.  Along the way you pass many interesting sights before the final approach to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gates.  The final Vista before you ascend to the finish line is enough to stop you in your tracks and makes the effort worthwhile.

5.  Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, Nepal:  You can’t have the lowest without the highest and that’s what made me choose this race.  It starts at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall just above Everest Base Camp and finishes 26.2 miles down the valley in Namche Bazzar.

6.  Dead Sea Ultra, Jordan:  With the lowest finishing line in the world I just had to do this one and to top it off you get to relax with a dip in the Dead Sea.  Another highlight of this race was an opportunity to visit Petra which then became one of the 7 Wonders of the World.  The accidental tourist.

7.  Marathon des Sables, Morocco: Probably the most famous Ultra in the world, 6 stages over 7 days covering 150 Miles in the Sahara Desert and my first introduction to Ultra Running.  This race taught me that anything is possible once put the work in and it’s a race to need to experience rather than read about.

8.  Run Connemara 80K, Ireland:  A trail race in the west of Ireland that also doubled as the 2011 Trail World Championships.  One of the most amazing races I’ve ever ran which took in all aspects of the Irish countryside.  It was a new experience and sometimes you forget what’s on your own doorstep and the grass isn’t alway greener on the other side.  Think about and appreciate what you have before you look for more.

9.  North Face 100K, Australia: 100K through the Blue Mountains in Sydney.  This is an opportunity to see the one of Australia’s natural wonders without feeling like a tourist.

10.  Yukon Arctic Ultra, Yukon Territory, Canada: 100 Miles along the Dawson trail following in the wake of the famous Yukon Quest dog sleigh race.  Competitors haul their required kit and must remain self sufficient throughout.  There’s also a longer option of 300 Miles and 460 Miles. Thinking back I wish I had signed up for the longer race but I wasn’t feeling that way at mile 90J

11. Energia Belfast 24-hr Race:  We all want to know how fast we can run and this race gives you the opportunity to find out how far you can run.  Unlike a regular race where you cover a set distance in the fastest possible time in a 24-hr race you try cover the maximum distance in a set time.  This is a true test of mental and physical strength and you will soon discover your weaknesses.

12.  Donadea 50K, Ireland:  A very enjoyable trail race through 243 hectares of mixed woodland with plenty of squirrels to cheer you on.  The race consists of 10 * 5K loops but the route is so interesting you never get bored.

13.  Run Winschoten 100K, The Netherlands:  I did this race when it doubled as the World Championships and it consisted of 10 * 10K laps through the suburbs of Winschoten.  The course was almost pancake flat and all the locals embrace the event giving it an almost party type atmosphere.

14.  Celtic 100K, Ireland:  This was my first introduction to the 100K distance and it consisted of almost 50 laps along Salthill Promenade in Co.Galway.  The thoughts of running so many laps was slightly overwhelming at the start but this race taught be a lot about the benefits of proper pacing and how to control the mind.

15.  Self Transcendence 100K, Scotland: This race took me to the historic town of Perth in the heart of Scotland.  A flat looped course along the banks of the river Tay which to me was a memorable distraction.  The Tay is a world famous salmon fishing river and I spent most of the race looking into the water in the hope of seeing a fish jumping.

16.  Boddington 100K, England:  A small friendly race in the English countryside and also includes 50k and marathon options.

17.  Dublin, Ireland:  My hometown Marathon and one that I’m proud to say is known as the Friendly Marathon.  This was my first ever race and one I always look forward to doing and it feels so different every time because it just keeps getting better.

18.  London, England:  I have ran this race on a few occasions as part of the Runner’s World Pacing Team.   I seldom do the same race twice but make an exception for London because of the carnival type atmosphere on race day.

19.  Dingle, Ireland:  A very scenic Marathon which follows the Dingle Peninsula.  I found it hard not stopping during this race as the views are breathtaking .  If you need an excuse to visit Ireland, this is it.

20.  Longford.  A relatively flat Marathon which takes in 3 counties and although quiet along the course it has a great finish.  At times you could almost forget you’re running a race and sometimes that can be nice.  I was the first entrant in the first Longford Marathon and wore race No1, for that reason more than any I will always remember this one.

“Some experiences should be remembered and not repeated and I seldom do the same race twice but if I was asked and given the opportunity to run one of my big races again it would be the Antarctic Ice Marathon.”

John O’Regan



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This post was written by:

- who has written 1071 posts on Run It Fast®.

Joshua Holmes has completed 204 marathons/ultramarathons while running 100+ miles 43 including races such as the Badwater 135, Western States 100, The Last Annual Vol State 500K (3x). He is the founder of Run It Fast, the most driven club on the planet. His favorite races to date are the Vol State 500K, Badwater 135, Barkley Fall Classic, Catalina Eco Marathon, Chimera 100, Across The Years, Savage Gulf Trail Marathon, Strolling Jim 40 Miler, Tunnel Hill 100, RUTS, EC100 and the Flying Monkey Marathon in his home state of Tennessee. Follow @bayou Follow @joshuaholmes on Instagram

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One Response to “John O’Regan’s Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons”

  1. Lisa says:

    Awesome list! I’m going to add a few of these to my todo list, for sure.


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