For the love of the road: destination marathons

It was this time last year that I ended up at the Budapest Marathon. If only I had trained for it.

By chance, I was in the spa city for a few days and found that my guidebook-recommended itinerary crisscrossed the marathon route. The runners were following a tour of their own, from Pest’s City Park, up the Danube, across four of the city’s seven classic bridges, and skirting Buda’s old city — one that covered more ground than my limited radius of central sights.

As a runner, I’ve long thought that a marathon (or other footrace) would be the best way to see a city for the first time. The route is already plotted, usually along the most picturesque landmarks, and you’re engaged in the most universal of exercises — running — alongside others with whom you might not otherwise have an obvious connection. The excitement of a new city meets the comforting familiarity of foot on pavement.

If you start your 6-month training now, you might choose an April/May 2008 race, which gives you enough time to train and also sort out your airline tickets and passport. Consider April’s Paris International Marathon, where 35,000 runners from 95 countries pass many of the city’s landmarks in one fell swoop, from the Champs-Elysées to Bois de Vincennes and back to the Eiffel Tower. Or May’s Great Wall Marathon, which combines road running with climbing 3,700 of the wall’s stone steps.

Or else, if you’d prefer the camaraderie without breaking a sweat, consider the possibility of volunteering at an event. Passing out water bottles or cheering from the sidelines is likely to win a smile or a good story from appreciative locals or other sports-minded travelers. In Budapest, I even found the noisy crowd at the 7-kilometer marker to be more festive than bystanders at races back home.

For other race ideas, check out:
http://www.marathonguide.com/races/races.cfm?place=intl

Posted by | Comments Off on For the love of the road: destination marathons  | September 25, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

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