For many, running a marathon is the achievement of a lifetime. For others, it’s one in a series of training events that pushes them to get faster, stronger, better. But whether you run it for charity, to get fit, or just to cross it off your bucket list, a marathon has benefits that can’t be ignored. These benefits include the joy of travel and camaraderie.
Across Europe, there are many opportunities to run in amazing races and meet equally amazing people. Here are 10 of our favorites.
The Athens Authentic Marathon is as close to the original as it gets. The current course, which was marked for the 1896 Olympic Games, was modeled on the journey undertaken by the messenger who ran the 42 kilometers to Athens in 490 B.C. to announce the Greeks’ victory at the Battle of Marathon. You begin in the city of Marathon, passing through a series of coastal villages before ending at the historic white marble Panathinaikos Stadium in the center of Athens. The race is challenging and so popular that it is capped at 18,000 runners. Registration is open until it’s full.
One of the biggest road races in the world, the Berlin Marathon had over 40,000 registrants in 2015. The course winds through the city, beginning at Brandenburg Gate, the passageway that links East Berlin to West, which was opened to marathoners in 1990. It’s one of the fastest marathons in the world — with great weather and a flat course with few corners — making it one of the most popular places to try to break a world record.
The first Amsterdam Marathon took place as part of the 1928 summer Olympics, but the race didn’t return until 1975. This year, as in the most recent years, the race begins and ends in Olympic Stadium in front of the grandstand. The mostly flat course takes you along the Amstel River, past windmills in the countryside, as well as through the city center, where you’ll run through the historic Rijksmuseum, which houses masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
You’ll be running at midnight, but you won’t have to find your way in the dark. That’s because in June, the sun never fully sets in Tromsø, Norway. The Midnight Sun Marathon offers a very scenic route with views of the mountains, but the first leg involves a climb, rising from 6 to 43 meters above sea level while crossing the Bridge of Tromsø, where you’ll get a view of the Arctic Cathedral backed by water and white-topped mountains.
One of the largest in the world, the Paris Marathon regularly welcomes around 57,000 runners to the streets of the city. The scenery is out of a guide book, as runners pass or catch views of the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and more. Some of the race is on cobblestone roads, so you may want to find some similar routes locally for training purposes.
In the Edinburgh Marathon, you’ll run by Holyrood Palace, where Scottish kings and queens have resided through the years, and even pass an extinct volcano before reaching the seaside and then turning back past Musselburgh Links, the oldest golf course in the world. One of the best places to run your first marathon or beat a personal record, the course is flat and the crowds enthusiastic.
Fundraising efforts at the London Marathon routinely break world records, because a sizable amount of racers are out there running for good causes. In addition, the race partners with Guinness World Records, so it’s not unusual to see runners aiming to do more than just complete a 26.2-mile run, but also to try to do it dressed as superheroes, carrying added weight, or sharing a costume with two other runners.
Not a race for the faint of heart, the Jungfrau Marathon is a challenging mountain climb through the Swiss Alps. Because the running path is somewhat narrow, particularly during the mostly uphill final miles, this probably isn’t the best option for setting a personal best. Indeed, many runners find themselves reduced to a walk during some stretches. Instead of speed, runners are rewarded with unmatched mountain vistas and a phenomenal view of Lake Brienz.
The Rome Marathon, or Maratona di Roma, begins at the Colosseum, and winds past breathtaking historic landmarks throughout the race. You’ll run past the Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and more. At least some of the course is over cobblestones, so you’ll want to mind your step. There are also a few hills and narrow streets that may slow you down, but a long list of musicians will keep you pumped up and on pace through to the finish line.
Whether it’s because the weather is usually ideal, or because the race is held on a public holiday, the crowds are out in full force during the Dublin Marathon. They play music and cheer on the runners, providing extra motivation as you run the single-lap course that starts and ends in the city center.