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© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of natural environmental factors on the spatial distribution of marathon events in China, and to identify the suitable natural environmental factors for the marathon events. Methods: Geographic information system (GIS) spatial analysis tools were used to perform coupling analysis, e.g. overlap, neighborhood, intersection and buffer for terrain, climate, air quality, mountains and water resources with 342 marathon events held in China in 2018. Results: The results indicate that the spatial distribution of marathon events in China is negatively correlated with the elevation of the terrain (plain > hill > plateau > mountain > basin); climate (subtropical monsoon climate > temperate monsoon climate > temperate continental climate > tropical monsoon climate > plateau alpine climate), air quality (level 3 > level 2 > level 4 > level 1). Results indicate that buffer zones can protect water resources: there are 24 items in the buffer zone of river 0.5 km and lake 1 km, 131 items in the buffer zone of river 3 km and lake 5 km, 191 items in the buffer zone of river 5 km and lake 10 km, 298 items in the buffer zone of river 10 km and lake 20 km. Results indicate for mountain range buffer: 13 items in the 20 km buffer and 39 items in the 50 km buffer. Conclusions: Marathon events are more likely to be held on the third rung of China’s topography where a city has a typical landform (plains, basins, hills, or mountain) with good climate and air quality. Meanwhile a city with water and mountain resources for recreational events such as cross-country or obstacle course are essential. The contribution of this study is to systematically and intuitively reflect the influence of natural environment factors on the distribution of marathon events in China, and to provide evidence for the medium and long-term planning of marathon events in China, the selection of venues for different types of marathon events and how to attract participants.

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