From races in huge metropolitan cities (Brussels, Paris, Rome) to ultra marathons in scenic terrain (Tenerife, Menorca, Lake Balaton) to races focused on fun and festivities (Dam tot Damloop, Giulietta & Romeo Half Marathon), the most epic marathons and races in Europe have something memorable to offer for all types of runners!
The marathon was born 2,500 years ago in Greece and annually in November, the Athens Marathon strives to recreate the spirit of the original run. Runners start the marathon course in the nearby town of Marathon at the ancient battlefield and finish at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. This scenic course allows 50,000 runners to follow in the footsteps of ancient Greek heroes and legends.
The Tenerife Bluetrail is known as being one of the hardest trail races in Europe. Regardless, the race continues to be incredibly popular and sells out every year. Runners begin at sea level, then ascend 3,500 meters to run across stunning volcanic landscapes until reaching the top of Mount Teide, the highest mountain peak in Spain. Additionally, there is a distance for everyone during race weekend, from a 97 kilometer ultra to a four kilometer run for athletes with reduced mobility. Whether you run the ultra, the marathon, or the half marathon, make sure to train on hills as the Tenerife Bluetrail features quite challenging elevation changes throughout.
The Maratona di Roma boasts more than 500 monuments throughout the route in the very center of The Eternal City. In 2016, runners traveled from 115 different countries to participate in this spectacular race. In April of 2018, the race will be in its 24th year of existence, and is quickly growing to more than 15,000 participants per year. You’ll certainly indulge in some of the best carb-loading of your life at an Italian trattoria before the race, then eat your weight in pasta after crossing the finish line. You’ll pass plenty of iconic Roman attractions, such as the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican, which will make the race fly by! The race begins and ends at the Colosseum, the great Roman symbol of athleticism.
If you need an excuse to travel to Amsterdam, plan your trip during the Dam tot Damloop weekend. Fifty thousand runners are allowed to participate in the 10 English mile run from Amsterdam’s city center, through the IJTunnel and to the finish line in Zaandam. The night before, the Damloop by night allows 15,000 runners to cover a five mile distance in the dark, through the festively lit streets of Zaandam. Many runners choose to compete in both races, taking in the very best views of the historic architecture and picturesque Dutch canals along the route.
The city of love serves up the most romantic Valentine’s Day plans for athletic couples, a half marathon through the picturesque cobblestone streets of Verona. Don’t want to run the full half marathon distance? The duo marathon also makes it possible for a team of two (lovers, companions, or even friends) to split the distance into two legs; the first runner completes 10 kilometers and the second runner finishes the final 11 kilometers. The course takes runners through all of the most lovely areas in Verona, finishing in the gorgeous Piazza Bra. Stop by Juliet’s house and drop a letter with your love questions, the nonprofit Juliet Society will write you back with advice and mail their response to anywhere in the world.
Unlike most marathons which take place in large cities, the Plitvice Lakes Marathon shows one of the most beautiful national parks in Croatia to thousands of runners every year. The 16 terraced lakes in the park are joined together by several waterfalls, and wooden boardwalks allow visitors to gaze down into the pristine blue waters. You’ll likely want to stop and photograph the gently cascading waterfalls and quaint small towns you run past during this rural marathon.
The Sarajevo Half Marathon was launched in 2007 and with more than 1,000 participants this year, is quickly becoming a destination race worth bragging about. The Sarajevo half leads runners along a fast and flat course through the most scenic areas of Sarajevo. The capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina also offers several fascinating history museums which you can’t miss before or after the run.
The most attractive event of the Lake Balaton Supermarathon weekend is the four day 196 kilometer ultra-marathon around Hungary’s largest lake, which can be run individually, or in divided sections between two, three, or even four runners. There is also the half super-marathon, a two day, 94.9 kilometer race, as well as a standard marathon. Lake Balaton is so large, it is often referred to as the “Hungarian Sea”. Runners will enjoy traversing cycle paths and small local roads as they race around the entire lake, taking in beautiful lakeside scenery throughout.
The Route du Vin is one of the most famous races in one of the most the tiny European countries, Luxembourg. Runners follow a fast course along the River Moselle, which starts and finishes in picturesque Remich. It isn’t called the Route du Vin for nothing, as the small town of Remich is situated right in the heart of a fabulous wine region with vineyards all around.
Looking for an epic race to run during the winter? Escape the cold and head to the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, Portugal’s Madeira island. Annually at the end of January, several thousand runners flock to Funchal to participate in a flat and fast course along the island’s coastline. This race presents an epic mental toughness challenge in that runners must complete the first path three times and do four laps of the second path in order to finish the 42 kilometers.
This scenic 16 kilometer race allows 25,000 runners to dash past lovely Parisian landmarks and grand boulevards, then along the Seine River to the impressive palace at Versailles. Now in its 40th edition, the race routinely sells out three months before the race date in September. Sign up for the Paris –Versailles race to capture amazing memories from the start line near the Eiffel Tower through the finish line in front of the grand palace of Versailles.
This epic trail run of 156 kilometers is divided into three stages; each one passes through a different stretch of coastal and inland Menorca (one of Spain’s Balearic islands in the Mediterranean Sea). Menorca is considered to be the most laid back of these islands, with miles upon miles of pristine sandy beaches. Runners have the opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous terrain and the after the run is over, there is a swimming pool or an ocean cove perfect for a relaxing post-race swim.
This 20 kilometer race through the charming city of Brussels follows a loop intersecting through several of the city’s parks and passing by many of its most remarkable buildings. Join almost 40,000 runners on the last Sunday in May to participate in one of Belgium’s largest running events. Afterwards, refill your tank with Belgian fries, chocolates, and beers!
100 Miles of Istria is the largest trail race organized in Croatia. The race was launched in 2013 with only 237 competitors, but already boasts more than 1,000 runners per year. The 100 mile course is beautiful, but extremely difficult as it crosses the highest mountain in Istria. During the race, participants pass through the certified smallest town in the world, Hum, as well as through several other towns with well preserved medieval cores. Now in addition to the 100 mile race, runners can also select a shorter 110 kilometer route, a 69 kilometer route, or a 42 kilometer route.
Transylvania is known for its large population of wild bears and wolves. We hope you don’t encounter one as you compete in the Transylvania 100k. The start and end point for this adventurous run is the historic Bran castle… better known as “Dracula’s castle.” You need to be in really great shape to participate in this epic mountain run as you are required to traverse several mountains on the course, with an elevation gain of 6,486 meters throughout the race. Even though the race is held in May, runners frequently encounter snow on the highest mountain peaks on the course!
The Paris Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the world, with 57,000 participants from more than 145 countries. Annually in April, runners enjoy sprinting along the regal Champs Elysees, and the two largest parks in the city center; the Bois de Vincennes and the former royal hunting grounds of the Bois de Boulogne. You’ll have plenty to do and see before and after the run!