6 of the best marathon venues perfect for a city break

Category: News

As summer comes to an end and the first signs of autumn appear, 40,000 runners will take to the streets of London to take part in a historic marathon.

The London Marathon has taken place every year since 1981, up until a short hiatus caused by the recent pandemic. Elite and amateur runners from around the world have competed for glory and in the name of charity.

This year’s event takes place on Sunday 2 October and will be ran in the name of The British Heart Foundation as well as individual runners’ chosen charities. 

Marathon cities around the world have increasingly become mini-break destinations, for the athletic and the philanthropic, over the past few decades.

Read on to discover six of the best marathon venues for your next city break adventure.

1. Jog alongside the River Thames at the London Marathon

If you’re looking for a city break close to home, the London Marathon is a great excuse to visit the capital. Usually taking place in April or May, the race has been held in the autumn for the last few years due to Covid. 

The race runs along the River Thames from Blackheath to the Mall and typically features not only some of the world’s best runners but also a motley crew of fancy dress competitors racing in the name of charity. 

London is a bustling city with plenty to do including iconic tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Tower of London. If you’re looking for something more off-beat then wander over to the streets of Camden or Shoreditch for some vintage shopping or independent dining. 

The city is also home to some of the world’s best cocktail bars and restaurants so there are plenty of options for your post-race day nights out.

2. Race in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer at the Rio de Janeiro Marathon

The Rio Marathon typically takes place in June each year. The marathon is one of the most picturesque in the world, taking in the luscious Brazilian coastline and cutting through the iconic Copacabana. 

While it is too late in the year to take in the pageantry of carnival, there is still plenty to do in the marvellous city. It is a great city for adventurers, whether you’re hang-gliding down to the beaches from the surrounding mountainside, hiking along the Pedra Bonita, or rock climbing up Sugar Loaf Mountain after taking a relaxing cable car journey to the peak. 

For the football fans among us, taking a trip to the iconic Maracanã stadium is a pilgrimage of sorts. 

Otherwise, head out onto the water to enjoy a range of cruises and snorkelling activities in the city’s Guanabara Bay. 

3. Dash through Manhattan at the New York Marathon

If you’re a fan of Friends, you might enjoy grabbing a coffee and taking in the finish of the New York marathon in Central Park. 

The race has taken place since 1970 and takes in large swathes of the city, starting on Staten Island and passing through Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and ending in Manhattan.

Apart from the obvious sightseeing landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, the Big Apple is probably one of the liveliest cities on the planet with a wide range of activities, shops, and dining options to choose from.

If you’re a night owl then a visit to the city that never sleeps might be perfect for you with Michelin-starred restaurants, world-renowned cocktail bars, entertainment at Madison Square Garden or a trip to the theatre on Broadway.

4. Sprint across the Normandy coast at the Mont Saint-Michel Marathon

Probably one of the most serene and historic marathon routes in the world, the Mont Saint-Michel marathon takes place in the heart of Brittany on the French Normandy coastline. 

The race takes in some gorgeous rural scenery including the magical Mont Saint-Michel abbey commune just off the shoreline. This real-life Camelot is a world heritage site that protrudes from the shallows to dominate the skyline. 

Finishing along the waterways of the Barrage du Couesnon, the marathon is a perfect excuse to soak up the French countryside while enjoying a healthy helping of cheese and wine.

5. Trot along under the midnight sun at the Tromsø Marathon

A chilly northern city in the arctic circle might not be your first thought when considering a marathon location. But Tromsø in Norway offers runners a rather unique experience. 

Taking advantage of the near-constant daylight from late May to early July each year, the marathon runs in the evening with runners usually starting the race after 8 pm.

Tromsø can feel ethereal at times, almost as if it were pulled from the pages of an old Nordic storybook. 

The city is frequently lit up by the bright colours of the northern lights, although they are clearest in the period between September and April when the nights are darkest.

During the city’s endless day period, though, there are plenty of special late-night activities including the Midnight Sun concerts at the Arctic Cathedral, which typically begin at about 11 pm.

6. Finish at the birthplace of the Olympics at the Athens Marathon

The Athens Marathon has been run since 1972 across the city that birthed the pinnacle of sporting achievement, the Olympic Games. 

The marathon race and course were inspired by the Ancient Greek legend of Pheidippides, a messenger who supposedly ran from Marathon to Athens with news of the Greek army’s victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.

Athens is a city with history carved into every stone. You can bask in the historical beauty of the Acropolis and Parthenon or take a day trip out to the Aegean Sea and enjoy the best the Mediterranean has to offer.

Use the city break as a perfect excuse to exercise the body, mind, and soul with a mix of athletics, history and serene, Ouzo-fuelled contemplation.