Whether you’re a seasoned marathon pro or simply planning to make your 26-mile debut, Europe plays host to some of the most exhilarating, challenging and picturesque marathon courses in the world. Of course the marathons of London, New York, Chicago and Boston are renowned, but why not consider one of Europe’s capitals for a weekend break with an athletic twist, combining sightseeing and culture with adrenalin and endurance and an all-round sense of satisfaction and achievement? We take a look at a few of the options…
The world’s fastest marathon course and arguably one of the largest and most popular, the BMW Berlin marathon first started in 1974 and this year’s event marks its 40th year, taking place on September 29th. Starting and finishing near the iconic Brandenburg Gate, the mostly-flat course covers both the east and west sides of the city and passes by or near some of Berlin’s most famous and historic landmarks including the Reichstag building, Berliner Dom and Potsdamer Platz, with an estimated one million spectators and bands lining the route.
One of the ‘big five’ alongside New York, Berlin, London and Chicago, the Paris marathon is a glorious springtime event (April 13th, 2014) taking in some of the very best sights that the city has to offer. Where better to start the race than the famous Champs Elysées with the mighty Arc de Triomphe in the background, taking in Place de la Concorde, Rue de Rivoli and Place de la Bastille along the way, before heading out to more verdant landscapes of the Bois de Vincennes. Returning into the city centre, participants take in the legendary Notre Dame Cathedral, Musée d’Orsay and Eiffel Tower and pass through the Bois de Boulogne before arriving at the finish line on Avenue Foch.
Said to be one of Europe’s most popular marathons (possibly because it’s so flat?!), the Amsterdam race has been taking place since 1975 and compared to other fixtures remains quite a small and intimate affair. Starting and finishing at the Olympic Stadium, the race follows part of the Olympic route along the Amstel River, passing stately homes and even a few token windmills to add a touch of Dutch authenticity! The course also takes in Vondelpark (Amsterdam’s largest park), the Museum of the Tropics and the Rijksmuseum, undisputedly the jewel in the crown of the city’s heritage. The 2013 race takes place on Sunday, 20th October.
Another small and intimate race compared with some of its larger counterparts, Stockholm is considered to be one of the best organised marathons and its spring date in the racing schedule (May 31st, 2014) makes for a perfect time to be in the Swedish capital. Much like Amsterdam, Stockholm’s marathon starts just outside and finishes inside the 1912 Olympic Stadium and the course takes in the Royal park of Djurgården, the Västerbron Bridge and a two-lap loop through Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s atmospheric and picturesque Old Town, passing the Royal Palace, City Hall, Royal Opera House and the Houses of Parliament.
A veritable history lesson in the making, Rome’s marathon offers unquestionably some of the finest scenery you could ever hope to encounter as you pound the streets of the Italian capital. Starting and ending at the mighty Coliseum, the course takes in a glorious array of sights including the Piazzas di Spagna, del Popolo and Navona, Forum, Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo and Saint Peter’s Basilica amongst many others. Although mostly flat, the addition of cobbles at points throughout the course can prove somewhat of a challenge to weary legs. The 2014 event takes place on Saturday, March 23rd .