7. Rotterdam Marathon
Rotterdam is not high on anyone’s list of must-visit European cities. But every spring, thousands of runners flock to this modern, industrial port and city to take part in its marathon. They are drawn by a pancake-flat course and the knowledge that the organisers, despite a limited budget, put on a fine race. Crowd support doesn’t compare to New York or Boston, but the city does get behind the race and practically closes down on race day. Rotterdam was one of the first marathons to adopt chip timing, and the event is constantly trying to innovate and challenge the idea that only major cities can have great marathons.The course: The Netherlands is a country devoid of hills, so it’s no surprise that Rotterdam offers one of the most consistently flat courses around. Other than the Erasmus Bridge at 2km and two wooden sections after 5km and 30km, the loop course is largely unremarkable and unmemorable. But then, you don’t go to Rotterdam for the scenery.
Highs: Fantastic crowd support along the waterfront.
Lows: An out-and-back section of the course at 29km, where you pass runners going in the opposite direction to the finish.
Watch out for: The well-stocked feed stations with cake and hot drinks.
Contact: Rotterdam Marathon, P.O. Box 21955, 3001 AZ Rotterdam, The Netherlands; fax 0031 10 291 9172; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org