This guest post is by Renato, a long distance runner and a freelance journalist. He is now on a running tour of Europe: running an half marathon in every EU country is his quest for 2009-2010. With the help of a weiss beer in Munich, a cappuccino in Milan or a camembert sandwich in Paris, he hopes to somehow cross the finish line. Low cost flights, no agencies and cheap campsites are part of the deal. He has generously agreed to share his running abroad experiences with us as a way to help us think about our own running adventures. You can catch more of his adventures on RunAbroad.com.
The best way to visit Europe (for a runner) is to add a great city race to a sightseeing tour of the Old Continent: from the Louvre in Paris to the Parthenon in Athens, from the canals in Amsterdam to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, hundreds of tourist attractions are on the route of a friendly city run. Here are our seven favorite races for experiencing Europe's culture, runners, and natural wonders:
A marathon. Actually, the marathon. The real one in the place where the story began: the course is the original one used during the first modern Olympic Games (when it was still "only" 24.85 miles), as well as the Olympic course of Athens 2004. The Athens Classic Marathon takes place on the second Sunday of November, starting from the City of Marathonas and finishing in the Panathinaikon Stadium.
An unusual distance on the last Sunday of September, the Paris - Versailles "La Grande Classique" is a 16 kilometers race from the center of Paris to Versailles. Don't expect an easy and flat course, royals used to build palaces on top of hills and the Avenue de Paris seems endless. From the Eiffel Tower to the Palace of Versailles, can you possibly find any better route to enjoy the most famous landmarks in France?
The Mitja Marato de Barcelona is a brilliant half marathon taking place in the city center of the Catalan capital, starting from Passeig de Picasso and crossing the finish line at the (very appropriate) Arc de Triomf. Plaza Espana and the port are part of a great sightseeing tour in the popular and traditional destination in Spain. Join other 3K runners on the second Sunday of February.
The Lisbon Half Marathon takes place in Lisbon, with the bonus of crossing the Tagus river over the 25 de Abril bridge, the European Golden Gate Bridge. The finish line is just in front of the absolutely gorgeous Monastery of Geronimos. Fly to Portugal the last Sunday of March.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Over 20K runners from around Europe will crowd the streets of the Netherlands' capital on the third Sunday of October to run the marathon or half marathon. Amsterdam offers a superb sightseeing tour, including the Vondelpark, the Maritime Museum and many miles of the historic canals.
Zermatt is surrounded by a range of amazing peaks, it is famous worldwide for the Matterhorn (Mount Cervin) and it possibly offers the best mountain marathon in Europe: from Sunnega to Riffelalp, the views are spectacular and a pint of beer is waiting for you at the end of the challenge in Gornergrat. The first Sunday of August is the big day on the Alps to run the Zermatt Marathon.
The Nike Budapest International Half Marathon is a fast race through the most picturesque streets of the capital of Hungary, crossing two of the seven bridges on the Danube. The finish is on the Olof Palme promenade, be ready for the first Sunday of September.
Tempted? Pack "Rick Steves' Best Of Europe", a compact digital camera and a comfortable pair of running shoes: cobblestone paths are common in the historical city centers.