There are a number of American races on my bucket list. There is just something about the excitement of a destination race—the promise of a big race expo, a post-race donut and some awesome race swag. However, I often take for granted how many amazing races I have on my doorstep (or a hop across the Channel).
A few things to remember if you’re running a European race:
- The mile markers are often kilometer (km) markers.
- You need a medical form to run many of the races, particularly in France (even for a 10K).
- The aid station may not be what you’re used to; there is cheese, dried fruit, and sometimes even sausages and red wine.
- Many of the races end with beer—after the Berlin marathon it’s easier to find the beer stand than the water!
Racecations are a growing trend, and it’s not just the Marathon Majors that are on runner race lists (although they are firmly at the top of my list!). But you needn’t run a huge city marathon to race on your next vacation.
Here are some of the top European races to add to your bucket list…
Royal Parks Half—One of the most famous half marathons in London, taking in three of the Royal Parks: Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens. Additionally, you can spot famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye as you tackle 13.1 miles through the autumnal foliage. The crowd support at this half is only matched by the London Marathon in April.
Berlin Marathon—Run the Marathon Major route where multiple World Records have been broken. This big city race is the perfect place to earn a new PR, or enjoy the sightseeing at a more gentle pace. Did I mention there was beer at the end of the race? Might be best to avoid the post-race pig trotter though and stick to the pretzels and schnitzel.
Paris to Versaille—This is a 10-mile (16K) race through one of the most gorgeous of cities, although be warned it is not flat (the 2km hill at the 8K mark makes the course profile look like a joke). Le Grande Classic starts under the Eiffel Tower, you run along the banks of the Seine with 25,000 other runners, making your way out of the city to the palace of Versaille. You’ll certainly earn your post-race crepe.
Marathon of the Midnight Sun—Based in the Arctic circle, at 70°N, this is the world’s most northerly marathon. Held in June, when the sun is so high in Norway that it never sets, with a 8:30 p.m. starting time, this is a race like no other. There are 10K and half marathon options for those who aren’t quite up for the full 26.2 distance. Alternatively there’s a Polar Night Half marathon in January when there is very limited daylight, and temperatures reach -5°C; the perfect location to spot the Northern Lights.
Great North Run–The ‘Toon plays host to the world’s largest half marathon, with 57,000 runners taking to the streets of Newcastle in this annual sell-out race. Along with plenty of elites, you’ll toe the line with a number of celebs (okay, you may not have heard of any of them). It’s rumored to have one of the best goody bags around too.
Marathon de Medoc—The ultimate fun run. The aid stations at this French race are hosted by various vineyards and provide a selection of twenty-three different wines as well as oysters, foie gras, steak and ice-cream. Oh and costumes are mandatory… 2017’s theme is ‘Music in 33 Rounds’, celebrating the race’s 33rd year. This race sells out quickly, so I’d recommend registering for next September’s race as soon as it opens in March.
Athens Marathon—Marathon die hards will probably have the original 26.2 distance on their bucket lists (although fun fact—did you know that the point two was added so that it finished outside the Queen’s Royal Box during the 1908 London Olympics?). The perfect fall destination race, held in November, is open to both runners and power walkers, there is also a 5K and 10k race option.