Hungary has not traditionally been noted for being an integral cog in
the marathon-running machine, but perhaps it's time the world started to pay
it a bit more attention.
2008's 23rd edition of the Budapest Marathon saw
a whopping 10 different distance options for race-hungry punters of all abilities, including the full 26.2, a 30K, a half and
a 3.5K fun run – and nearly 13,000 runners from 50 different countries converged on the city to take them on.
Just a two-and-
a-half-hour flight away from London, Budapest is steeped in history – Attila the Hun and Ghengis
Khan are two historical figures to have stalked it – and to walk (or run) around
the city is to feel the multicultural
influence of the Roman Empire, the
Italian Renaissance, a 140-year Turkish occupation and a 19th-century alliance
Running through the heart of the city
is the mighty Danube River, which divides the city into the separate districts of
Buda and Pest. Competitors run along its
banks for a substantial portion of the course, and the fantastic riverside views
go a long way towards distracting those suffering from fatigue.
The route, an out-and-back along the Danube via the city's industrial quarter, starts and finishes in Heroes' Square, where Madonna filmed many of her scenes in Evita. The course is mostly wide and flat, aside from a few slopes leading up to bridges at the several river crossings.
Spectators were uniformly spread out along the course but slightly thin on the ground, so if you're more turned on by fantastic views and running a quick time than a boisterous atmosphere, this race may well be for you.
Register for next year's race at budapestmarathon.com.
GET THERE Numerous airlines fly from the UK to Budapest’s Ferihegy International Airport, which is 10 miles outside the city centre with excellent shuttle-bus links.
SIGHTSEE Breathtaking views of the city from Castle Hill, 551ft above sea level, or from a river cruise along the Danube at night.
FUEL Try one of the Trófea Grill restaurants in the city centre where they offer a buffet menu from which you can select your raw ingredients to be cooked by the chef. Prices around £10 per person. For something flashy, head to Gundel on Heroes’ Square, named by Restaurant Magazine as one of the world’s 50 best restaurants (£40pp).
WARM-UP Head to Margaret Island on the Danube, which is circumnavigated by a 5K running track, or take off into the Buda hills.