There are thousands of marathons scheduled throughout the year: big, small, crazy, high level, low level, long, shorter, with kids, without kids. One for every taste. After all, unlike other sports, running is something that anyone can do, with a bit or a lot of training.
Running a marathon has become one of those bucket-list items. Then there’s the opportunity to combine a marathon with discovering new destinations. Some of the best are host at extraordinary places, from international cities like Paris, London, Athens and Rome to iconic settings such as Bordeaux, Transilvania or Tuscany.
For many people, there’s no better way to see a city or a town than by running through it. If you’ve caught the running bug, you now know that participating in a marathon in a beautiful new locale is a major lure to joining the next one. Here’s a list of 12 top marathons to tempt you to plan your next Europe visit.
When: April 23, 2017
The world’s second biggest marathon, the Virgin Money London Marathon, with more than 38,000 runners racing over 42.2 kilometers through London’s legendary streets, is popular among professional athletes and celebrities, and those well known for breaking records – including its own in the Guinness Book for the largest annual single-day charity fundraising event for eight consecutive years. And some wacky records like those planned for this year: the fastest runner dressed as a 3-D dinosaur, the fastest runners as a four person costume, as a three-legged duo, as a book character and other outrageous costumes.
Starts in Greenwich, crosses the Thames River via the Tower Bridge and passes some of London’s most famous landmarks including Big Ben, the Tower of London, the Cutty Sark, the London Eye, finally ending in front of Buckingham Palace.
Registration for the 2018 marathon is already open.
When: April 8, 2018
Under clear blue skies, some 50,000 athletes, many from abroad, ran this year through the streets of Paris on Sunday, April 9th, for the city’s annual marathon.
The Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris course, which totals 42.1 kilometers, starts at the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysees and ends at the Arc de Triomphe after winding along the banks of the Seine River and some of the city’s most beloved sites including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre Museum while featuring two big forests – the Bois de Vincennes on the eastern side and the Bois de Boulogne to the west.
The next encounter will be on April 8, 2018, and registrations have already opened.
When: April 8, 2018
This year’s Maratona di Roma took place under pouring rain on April 3rd – which didn’t stop the 13,312 participants running through the streets and enjoying the history of Rome.
“It is so beautiful,” wrote an enthusiastic reviewer, “that you just forget the aches and pains in your limbs as your weary feet take you from one incredible, iconic sight to the next.”
For 42 kilometers starting at the Via dei Fori Imperial by the Coliseum, it winds along the Tiber river and encompasses most of the famous landmarks that, like Paris and London, make Rome one of the most visited cities on the planet. Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Venezia are among the attractions. Although Rome is known as the “city of the seven hills,” the race is mostly through flat streets. It ends back at the Coliseum.
Registrations for next year’s race are already open.
When: September 24, 2017
The BMW-Berlin Marathon is known as one of the biggest, fastest and best organized in the world. Several speed world records have been broken by top runners through the years.
It’s mainly a flat course with few turns and generally perfect racing weather. The official marathon distance is 42.195 kilometers and it draws some 40,000 runners among professionals and amateurs and over one million spectators. It starts at the Brandenburg Gate and passes along some of the city’s landmarks like the Reichstag, the Berliner Dom and Potsdamer Platz.
When: October 15, 2017
This competition is hailed as “possibly the world’s most gorgeous marathon.” It starts at 8:00 AM in the small picturesque coastal village of Cascais, outside Lisbon, and runs for 42 kilometers along the coastline and the banks of the Tangus River, passing through the towns of Carcaveos, Estoril and other scenic landmarks and World Heritage sites to end at the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon.
It’s also called Lisbon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathonbecause the race is accompanied throughout by live music and includes both a mini and a half marathon held at the same time during the final eight kilometers of the course.
When: November 12, 2017
This year is the 35th anniversary of the challenging Athens Classic Marathon, The Authentic, at the place where it all started and will see a record number of over 50,000 participants in the five different races scheduled that include the main marathon, a power walking race, 10 km road race, two five km road races and a kids run.
The race in Greece was born as a true heroic event in 490 B.C. when a news-bearing foot soldier, Pheidippides, ran from Marathon to Athens to announce, before dying from exhaustion, the victory of Greece against Persia during the Marathon Battle.
The tough course of 42.1 kilometers, “a celebration of human will and strength” according to the Hellenic Athletics Federation that organizes it, begins in the town of Marathon by the Aegean Sea on the ancient site of the legendary battle and curses up and down hills to end at the Panathenaic Stadium, the scene of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
When: 22 April 2017
The Tuscany Crossing is a 100-kilometer “ultra” marathon winding through the rolling hills of the Italian Tuscany region of Val de Orcia. A course of changing landscapes, World Heritage sites, vineyards, forts, wheat fields, castles and medieval churches inspiring artists since the Renaissance.
The route is an ancient one, used for centuries by travelers and pilgrims and crosses through towns with names like Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia, Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The race ends at the Orcia fortress and the competitors have a maximum time of 24 hours to complete it.
When: May 26, 27, 0r 28, 2017, depending on your preferences.
Ranked among the 10 most beautiful marathons in the world, with the exceptional sight of the fortified island village of Mont-Saint- Michel as focal point, this race goes for 26.2 miles with some 6,000 participants.
Starting in Cancale in Brittany and passing through other charming French villages, it ends at the top of the magnificent Abbey, a World Heritage site and “a jewel of French cultural heritage,” as described by its appreciative organizers.
This year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary the Marathon de la Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel, will also include a half marathon setting off from the town of Avranches, where families and friends can participate.
When: May 20, 2017
This year will be the fourth edition of this “beginners” endurance run through the mysterious and spectacular wild landscapes of Transylvania. Climbing and descending ancient forest trails, mountain plateaus and windswept ridges, it covers 100 kilometers.
It also has competitions for 50, 30 and 20 kilometers and offers special prizes “to all runners and teams who finish inside the time limits.”
When: June 17, 2017
It runs in the evening starting at 8 p.m and ends around midnight. This race, which has been frequently described as breathtaking, takes place in Tromsø, Norway, an Artic city at 70 degrees north (a popular place to observe the majestic phenomenon of the northern light) and is the world’s northernmost officially certified marathon by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.
It happens in June because at that time of the year and until August the sun doesn’t set in this region, so the “evening run” takes place in broad daylight and includes crossing the bridge of Tromsø and its stunning views of the Arctic snow-capped mountains.
It also offers a Half Marathon, a 10k Race and a children’s Fun Run.
When: September 9, 2017
An endurance race mostly uphill, finishing almost two kilometers higher than the starting point, this race compensates for its challenge with astonishing views of Switzerland’s Alpine nature including the Eiger Glacierand other gorgeous snow-capped mountains such as Mönch, and Jungfrau with their lush vegetation.
Many describe the Jungfrau Marathon, which will mark its 25th year, as “the most beautiful marathon course in the world,” with its outstanding sight of Lake Brienz and a varied landscape between the start in Interlakenand the finish line in Kleine Scheidegg.
When: September 9, 2017
For 41.8 kilometers, 7,800 runners generally dressed in outrageous costumes based on a new theme each year, jaunt through 23 of Bordeaux’s fairytale wine producing chateaux, some of which serve as “water stations” where the runners enjoy tastings of their famed red wines, and “refueling stops” offering regional foods like a variety of cheeses, foie gras, oysters, steak and other specialties accompanied by music and other amenities – which is why it’s so difficult to stay on track and finish the competition.
The Marathon du Medoc is the main event of a festival that runs for three days “au perfume du grand cru” that started 34 years ago.
The route also offers food for the eyes with astonishing scenery, vineyards and castles. The runners have six hours and 30 minutes to complete it. The Marathon Du Medoc is considered one of the most beautiful and fun in the world.