The 47th annual TCS New York Marathon took place last weekend, with a record 50,000+ runners completing the race. But with all of the attention on those participating in this historic tradition, there are a group of people oft-forgotten. The underdogs of marathoning. The Spectators. Sure, running 26.2 miles is kinda hard (I guess), but it’s certainly made easier by the hoards of folks watching and cheering from the sidelines. So what actually is the best marathon for a spectator to attend? Let’s take a look.

The TCS New York Marathon

New York City is a pretty great place to hang out in for a weekend, with so many sights and sounds (and smells. You know what I’m talking about New Yorkers–build some public restrooms) that it would take forever to see them all. Luckily, just following along the course of the nearly 50-year-old New York Marathon will get you to all five boroughs, as it winds from Staten Island (go ahead and catch up with the runners later, there’s nothing to see there) through Brooklyn’s historic Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Park Slope, Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg and Greenpoint. From there, you go up into Long Island City, Queens and across the Queensboro Bridge, offering fantastic views of the city. The next stretch is also worth skipping through–Spanish Harlem and into The Bronx–but be sure to catch back up with what’s left of the nearly 100,000 runners on the East Side of Central Park and enjoy the scenery of one of the most picturesque areas in the urban complex. A festival atmosphere abounds as millions come out to cheer on the disruption of traffic patterns in an already tough city to drive in.

Athens Marathon

Travel to where the marathon got its start in 490 B.C. and watch as thousands of Greeks retrace the steps Pheidippides, some of whom even dress the part with ancient style armor and helmets. Fun is to be had by all, but the Greek countryside is the real start here, as you travel through the ancient ruins and sites in the town of Marathon, including the Tomb of Athenian Soldiers before heading toward the coast. The trek takes the runners into Athens and to the site of the original Olympics, both ancient and modern (1896) at Panathinaiko Stadium. Be sure to make arrangements for a vehicle though– the incline on the course is among the toughest of all as it goes uphill six miles by the times the runners have traveled 18.6 miles. If you decide to only watch part of the race, we recommend hanging out near Athens and taking in the sites before the crowd arrives.

The Great Wall Marathon

If Greek ruins are too modest for you, then may we suggest posting up along the Great Wall of China to watch runners take on more than 20,000 stone steps as they traverse one of the most challenging races in the world. While the wall itself may be the main course of a feast for the eyes, the dessert is the vast mountains and small villages dotting the landscape. Get there early and you may be able to post up at a spot giving you a view of the runners, the wall, and the mountains, and if you start to feel like joining in on the action, shorter fun runs are available.

Tokyo Marathon

If you want a nice mix of the urban offerings of New York, the mountainous views of China, and the festival offerings among historic sites, then the Tokyo Marathon has what you need. In fact, this is one where you can join in the fun without having to exert much energy by joining Team SMILE, who give runners not only water and beverages, but snack ranging from tomatoes to chocolate. Gorgeous views of Mount Fuji and the skyline of one of the world’s most exciting cities make the views alone worth seeing. The course itself is designed to take runners through the past, present, and future of Tokyo, offering up visions of historic sites to modern buildings to technological marvels.

(Image courtesy of Matt Kowalczyk via Flickr.)