In recent years, literary-minded visitors travelling to Prague to pay homage to Kafka have been overtaken by stag parties, which can be a bit of a trial, but don’t let them put you off. The 13th Prague Marathon on May 13, 2007 offers a chance to run around one of the most stunning cities in Europe. The event brings sport and culture together – the course is lined with a multiplicity of live musicians, and you can always enjoy your post-race refreshments at a pavement café with your feet up and a literary classic on the table.
Organisers of the Kosice Peace Marathon reckon their race is the longest-standing marathon in the world – it’s been held every year since 1924. Marathoning is fast becoming a national past-time: prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda is a regular marathon runner – he has a PB of 2:57, and even managed to find time to run the Flora London Marathon while on an official visit to meet Tony Blair this spring. This year’s Peace Marathon takes place on October 7.
Vilnius, a UNESCO world heritage site with Europe’s largest baroque old town, is hosting its first ever marathon on September 11 this year, in a bid to welcome runners from around Europe to discover the charms of the cobbled town and its surrounding hills. To encourage as many entrants as possible, entry fees are being paid by the race’s main sponsor, Maxima supermarkets – all you have to do is register online, by post or by fax.
Like its Lithuanian cousin, the Riga International Marathon, held every May, is free, with the tab again picked up by Maxima. Last year, of the 135 finishers only 13 were women – a quirk that should be ironed out as the race welcomes runners from all over Europe.
Estonia boasts all kinds of sporting events to tempt the competitive traveller, from firefighting competitions to kiiking, where participants aim to complete 3600 rotations on a swing with increasingly long bars. For those who prefer their sport horizontal and non-flammable, the Tallinn Half-Marathon is on September 24 this year, and the full marathon is held annually in July.
Website www.tallinnmarathon.ee, www.marathon.ee
There has been a growing tradition of mountain races in Slovenia in recent years, opening up some spectacular countryside to the running tourist. Events range from hilly 10Ks to ultra-marathons with almost 5000ft of climbing. For more urban types, the capital, Ljubljana, also hosts a road marathon, with half-marathon and 7K options.
For such a small island, Malta has a wide range of running events, including the Malta Marathon, featuring a descent of 700ft over the length of the race. Alternatively, the Malta Challenge Marathon also covers the full distance, but in three stages over the weekend of November 23-25. Both events attract large numbers of overseas competitors, putting local runners in the minority.
Website www.maltamarathon.com; www.maltamarathonchallenge.com
Another island location, Cyprus, is an ideal destination for those wishing to combine running and romance. On March 11 the full marathon starts at Petra tou Romiou, birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Post-race celebrations take the form of traditional Greek singing and dancing.
As well as a city marathon (October), Budapest offers a range of running events over the autumn, including a city-centre half-marathon, women-only 10K and a night-time event. Runners can also enjoy a marathon along the shores of Lake Balaton in November, a hilly spring half-marathon and a 16K run through the Hortobágy National Park in June.
The Warsaw Marathon, on March 25, promises to be one of the city’s best-supported events of the year. Schools will compete to create the best roadside activity to encourage passing runners, and those with the best ideas will be paid by sponsors. There’s also the Poznan Marathon. The city lies halfway between Berlin and Warsaw, and the organisers are hoping 5000 will turn out on October 14 this year.
Website www.warsawmarathon.com; www.marathon.poznan.pl