TRAVEL ON THE RUN
Combine a challenging run with some sightseeing, says Sarah Baxter
1. THE BIG APPLE
Tour all five boroughs of New York City along with 50 000-odd people — and very vociferous spectators — by joining the world’s biggest marathon in early November.
From the Staten Island start to the finish in Central Park, you experience all sides of New York — not just Manhattan but Brooklyn’s industrial-turned-trendy Gowanus, the brownstones of Lafayette Avenue and Williamsburg.
2. A ROMAN RAMBLE
Take the 2019 Rome marathon (April 7) at a stroll and you have a first-class tour of the Eternal City: a loop from the Colosseum concentrates on the historic centre, following the Tiber, crossing piazzas and passing 500 landmarks — from St Peter’s Basilica and the Circus Maximus to the Villa Borghese and Spanish Steps. Fortunately, those famed seven hills are avoided and cobbles are kept to a minimum.
3. CAPE CRUSADERS
Cape Town’s marathon is held on the Sunday closest to Heritage Day (this year it’s on September 23) and was designed to deliver a diverse dose of history — the route passes sites such as the Castle of Good Hope fortress, the National Gallery, Nederduitse Kerk and District Six.
It also shows off the city’s natural advantages, tracing stretches of Atlantic coast, the banks of the Liesbeek River and fynbosflush Rondebosch Common, all beneath the watchful eye of Table Mountain.
4. READY, STEADY, REICHSTAG
Berlin boasts what is arguably the world’s fastest course — the world record of two hours, two minutes, 57 seconds was set here — and its marathon (taking place this year on September 16) is a scenic saunter through the city. It’s an efficient way to see the Brandenburg Gate (race start/finish), the Reichstag, Potsdamer Platz and more.
Alternatively, mark the centenary of Bauhaus in 2019 at Weimar’s inaugural Bauhaus Marathon (April 28, 100-jahrebauhaus-marathon.de).
5. ON SONG IN PRAGUE
Medieval Prague wasn’t designed for a mass marathon — but with the help of Czech legend Emil Zátopek, runners have raced the city’s narrow streets since 1995. This year’s race takes place today, and an accompanying music festival means runners set off from the Old Town Square to strains of Smetana. The course then crisscrosses the Vltava, with bands belting out en route. Stay on for more music: the Prague Spring International Music Festival begins on May 12 (festival.cz).
6. SYDNEY SPECTACLES
Sydney’s spectacular marathon is the public legacy of the 2000 Summer Games — the race originally followed the Olympic course, though it has since been tweaked for speed and scenery.
Those taking part on September 16 this year will begin their run with a privileged traffic-free crossing of the Harbour Bridge before circling Centennial Park, passing Sydney Cricket Ground and crawling barlined Darling Harbour to finish beneath the Opera House sails.
● (sydneyrunningfestival.com.au/events/ marathon). There is a reason the Athens marathon is called the authentic marathon. Not because some wily travel company registered the domain name first, but for the more salutary reason that you literally run the original course. You follow the ancient footsteps of the original marathon runner — the Athenian foot-soldier Pheidippides, who ran from the battlefield in Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to deliver the message of Athenian victory over the Persians.
Having now myself run the same course, which has 32km of consistent uphill, I understood why the poor fellow expired after delivering his message of “Niki” — as in “Victory”.
The last 10km wend their way into Athens itself and conclude rather majestically at the ancient stadium. I took my time on this particular marathon — did I mention the elevation? — and enjoyed the crazy spirit of the race: groups of runners running in formation like an original Athenian army and children handing out olive branches. ●
7. ATHENS: THE ORIGINAL MARATHON
WHEN IN ROME Runners taking part in the 23rd Rome Marathon passing the front of the altar of the homeland — the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, king of Italy.
CZECH MATES Prague’s marathon course is also the seventh fastest and has been voted one of the most beautiful in the world.