Euro Stars

Missed out on London? No worries - here are 9 European alternatives


Posted: 2 October 2008

It’s official. You haven’t been accepted for the Virgin London Marathon. But don’t despair. London isn’t the only marathon around. In fact, it’s not even the only impeccably organised, impressively supported, big-time race with a fast course in one of Europe’s finest cities. If you want to run a big-city marathon in the spring or early summer around Europe, you’re spoilt for choice. It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for a new PB or you just want a long weekend away that centres around a run, there is a race out there for you. For those prepared to cross the Atlantic in search of a top marathon, the choice is even wider, but to start with, here’s a look at some of the top European marathons outside the UK. At the bottom of the page, you'll also find links to the pick of America’s best, and a few shorter race options for those who don’t want to run a marathon.

Rome Marathon, Italy

2010 Date: March 21
For architecture and history, the Eternal City’s marathon is up there with the very best. You’ll feel like a gladiator when the race starts and finishes at the imposing Colosseum in the centre of the city before taking in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City (for some divine intervention), the Olympic Stadium and the Trevi Fountain, among other world-famous sites. It still leaves a little to be desired organisationally - it doesn't match London or Stockholm - and the abundant stretches of cobblestones on the course, especially in the last few miles, make PBs rare. But, run in March, the temperature is warm rather than hot and the hoards of summer tourists have yet to arrive so you're guaranteed a memorable weekend in a wonderful city.
Expected runners: 14,000
PB Potential: 7/10
Contact: Viale B, Bardanzellu 65, 00155 Roma, Italy; 0039 06 40 65 064; fax: 0039 06 40 65 063; e-mail: info@maratonadiroma.it; web: www.maratonadiroma.it

Paris Marathon, France

2010 Date: April 11
Runner's World recently chose this as one of the top 20 races to do before you die. And rightly so. The view from the Champs Élysées is hard to beat - throw in the banks of the Seine, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and you have one of the most beautiful city races anywhere in the world. It’s also flat and fast, offering PB potential aplenty under the right conditions. Don't forget you'll be asked to provide a doctor's certificate stating that you're fit to race - a requirement at any French race.
Expected runners: 30,000
PB Potential: 9/10
Contact: ASO Athlétisme, BP 182, 92135 Issy les Moulineaux Cedex, France;
0033 141 33 15 68 2; fax: 0033 141 33 15 69; e-mail: info@parismarathon.com; web: www.parismarathon.com

Rotterdam Marathon, Netherlands

2010 Date: April 11
Europe’s largest port city isn't exactly picturesque, but you’ll hardly have time to notice: the Rotterdam Marathon is, quite possibly, one of the fastest courses in the world. The nearest you will come to a hill are the underpasses and occasional bridges, It’s the largest one-day sporting event in the Netherlands and also attracts a large number of runners from overseas, including numerous elite athletes who have broken world records on the flat wide streets of this city.
Expected runners: 15,000
PB Potential: 10/10
Contact: Rotterdam Marathon, PO Box 21955, 3001 AZ Rotterdam, The Netherlands; fax: 0031 10 291 9172; e-mail: info@fortismarathonrotterdam.nl; web: www.fortisrotterdammarathon.nl

Prague Marathon, Czech Republic

2010 Date: May 9
One of the most popular marathon destinations for Britons, though it’s worth remembering that strong Czech beer and 26.2 miles don’t necessarily mix. A relative youngster compared to some of its older European cousins - the first race took place in 1995 - its draw is universal, and this is one of the few marathons where foreigners outnumber home runners. The city is bustling, but while the course starts and finishes in the famous Old Town Square, much of the race is run outside the city, following the Vltava river. It’s fast though - apart from the odd cobbled section - meaning you should be able to outrun any British stag parties that have descended on the city.
Expected runners: 5,000
PB Potential: 8/10
Contact: Prague International Marathon, spol. sr.o, Zahoranskeho 3, 120 00 Prague 2; 00420 2 24923355; e-mail: info@praguemarathon.com; web: www.praguemarathon.com

Hamburg Marathon, Germany

2010 Date: April 25
The city where the Beatles first cut their teeth as performers is also where former British number one Richard Nerurkar made his marathon début. Like Rotterdam, Hamburg is best known for its port, but it too has a highly regarded marathon. The race can boast typical Teutonic efficiency, and the route is an attractive one, passing along the Reeperbahn and including a section around Aussenalster, the city lake. The superb organisation goes some way to explaining its popularity but it's really the flat and fast course that marks this race out from the competition - plus the fantastic support from thousands of loud locals along the entire length of the course.
Expected runners: 20,000
PB Potential: 9/10
Contact: tel 0049 40 8803 52; e-mail: info@marathon-hamburg.de; web: www.marathon-hamburg.de

Madrid Marathon, Spain

2010 Date: April 25
If you failed to secure a place at the Virgin London Marathon, this lesser-known race in the Spanish capital takes place on the same day. It differs from London in many ways though: there's a hillier course and higher altitude - it's the highest capital city in Europe, which may affect your breathing. Factor in also, that Madrid can become extremely hot - even in April - and it certainly makes for a tough race. But, as well as taking in some of the city's great tourist sights, support is fantastic. The Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor and Palacio Real are all good viewing points to watch the race and then celebrate with some of the city's famous nightlife!
Expected size: 14,000
PB Potential: 4/10
Contact: Calle Galileo 74 Local Viajes Sandra's, 28015, Madrid; tel 0034 91 447 96 31; fax 0034 91 447 94 11; e-mail: inscripciones@mapoma.es; web: www.maratonmadrid.org

Copenhagen Marathon, Denmark

2010 Date: June 12
First run in 1980, this beautiful city marathon, held in one of Scandinavia’s liveliest cities, now attracts more than 8,000 competitors and this year became the first marathon in the world to use GPRS-based Tractrac technology that allows real-time positioning of the leading runners on giant screens or the Internet. The course is scenic and flat, taking in many of the city's major landmarks, but it does twist and turn. Support is good but it's worth bearing in mind that the Danes are rather quieter supporters than their vocal German counterparts.
Expected runners: 8,500
PB Potential: 8/10
Contact: Sparta Atletik og Motion, Sparta Lobskontor, Gunnar Nu Hansens Plads II, 2100 Kobenhavn, Denmark;
e-mail: info@copenhagen.dk; web: www.copenhagenmarathon.com

Stockholm Marathon, Sweden

2010 Date: June 5
Scandinavia’s largest marathon has previously been voted the world’s top destination marathon. The two-loop course runs partly by the side of the Baltic, and passes many of Stockholm’s most historic points including the Parliament, City Hall and Opera House as well as the Djurgarden, a large tree-lined park. There are many wonderful waterfront views along the course - the city is built around 14 islands - and as one final touch, it finishes on the track inside the 1912 Olympic Stadium. The crowd support is excellent, the organisation meticulous and the city is a joy to be in. If there is a downside, Stockholm in late May can be hot – a steamy 80ºF is not abnormal.
Expected runners: 15,000
PB Potential: 8/10
Contact: Stockholm Marathon/Tjejmilen AB Box 10023 SE-100 55 Stockholm, Sweden; 0046 8 545 664 40; fax: 0046 8 664 38 22;
e-mail: info@marathon.se; web: www.marathon.se

Midnight Sun Marathon, Tromso, Norway

2010 Date: June 19
This is one international marathon where we can almost guarantee you will make the first 200. The race takes place 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle and takes its name from the 24-hour sun Northern Norway receives during the summer months: it goes without saying, that the experience of running in broad daylight in the middle of the night is one that you're unlikely to forget in a hurry. Don't expect to return with a PB though: there’s quite a steep climb over the bridge connecting the Tromsoya Island to the mainland. The crowds are also limited by the 10pm start, but it’s a unique experience nonetheless.
Expected runners: 300
PB Potential: 5/10
Contact: Postboks 821, N-9258 Tromso, Norway; 0047 77 67 33 63; fax: 0047 77 67 33 64; e-mail: post@msm.no; web: www.msm.no


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