A Guide To Europe’s Most Epic Marathons

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Written By Runna.

Only a few things in life can match the challenge of taking on a marathon. From the unseen hard-yards you put in throughout your training to the electric atmosphere when you close in on the starting line, every moment edged into memory. And that’s just a scratch on the surface because there are a dozen more reasons to run a marathon. To get fit. To accomplish a goal. To take on a challenge. And, if you pick right, to soak in 26.2 miles of soul-stirring scenery. That’s what this is all about. There are hundreds of marathons scheduled throughout the year that will take your breath away... in more ways than one. Big, small, crazy, high altitude, through the night and everything in between, there is a marathon for every kind of runner.

And in that spirit, here are the best 26-milers in Europe; marathons that are worth both the flight and the chafing.

Lisbon Eco Marathon

Lisbon, Portugal | May

Far from one of the famous capital city marathons held in Europe, this 26 miler is for those that would rather hop over an exposed tree root than a city sewer grate as you complete the entire race within the city of Lisbon. Most of the race takes place in the “lungs of the city”, winding its way through the stunning 2,200 acre Monsanto Forest Park and up the iconic boulevard to the top of Parque Eduardo VII, this marathon course will leave you with pinch marks up your arm as you take in the incredible views of this charming city, from the river to the castle and beyond. And best of all, it usually goes down on the longest day of the year.

Athens Classic Marathon

Athens, Greece | November

There are marathons, and then there is THE marathon -- a title that is rightly awarded to the Athens Marathon. Dating back to 490 BC, this run is rumored to follow the route that Phidippides took when he ran to the city with news the Greeks had defeated the Persians in the battle of Marathon. Fable or truth, one thing we know for sure is this 26 miler is as challenging as it is picturesque. Almost entirely uphill from the 10k mark to the 31k mark, this marathon is as tough as any major run comes. Starting off in the town of Marathon, the route takes you past the tomb of the Athenian soldiers, along the coast of Nea Makri and then downhill towards the city of Athens. As a running route, it can be traced back to the Marathon race of the 1896 Olympic Games.
Rome Marathon

Rome, Italy | March

Winding through the ancient cobbled streets of world-famous landmarks and over 500 monuments, this marathon route takes place in the very epicenter of The Eternal City. And yet that’s only half the reason to tick this spectacular race off your wishlist because before you’ve even laced up, you’ll get to indulge in some of the tastiest carb-loading anywhere on the continent. As for the race itself, you’ll want to keep your head high and eyes open as you run past an almost-endless labyrinthe of iconic Roman attractions. From the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican, before finishing your race at the almighty Colosseum, the ultimate Roman symbol of athleticism.

The Paris Marathon

Paris, France | April

There are a thousand reasons why Paris is one of the biggest marathons in the world, and it all starts with the iconic route through one of Europe’s most postcard-perfect cities. Lacing up alongside another 57,000 participants from over 145 countries, the Paris runners get to take it all in along this 26.2 miles: the regal Champs Elysees, Place de la Concorde, down the wide cobblestone road toward the Place de la Bastille and then along the Seine River towards the two largest parks in all of Paris; the Bois de Vincennes and the former royal hunting grounds of the Bois de Boulogne. City-center marathons don’t come more picturesque than Paris.

Midnight Sun Marathon

Tromso, Norway | June

Officially the northernmost marathon in the world, this breathtaking race takes place in Tromsø, Norway, an Arctic city at 70 degrees north, kicking off at 8pm and running well through midnight. But don’t worry, the sun never sets during this time of the year, giving this daylight marathon one of the most surreal backdrops you could ever imagine. From seeing the stunning fjords as you cross the Tromso bridge to the arctic snow-capped mountains in the distance, you won’t miss a moment of magic on this Midnight Sun Marathon.

Thank you so much to our brilliant contributors Runna for sharing their insights on Europe’s Most Epic Marathons - be sure to follow them at @runna_coach.

Thanks for reading our blog on A Guide To Europe's Most Epic Marathons. For more travel inspiration, follow us on Instagram and Facebook -- and then subscribe to our Do.More. podcast.

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