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Ghent Urban Trail 2016 | Courtesy of Golazo
Ghent Urban Trail 2016 | Courtesy of Golazo
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Belgium's Most Exciting Urban Runs

Picture of Nana Van De Poel
Updated: 6 March 2017
Even dedicated couch potatoes are bound to feel the itch when seeing the scenic routes of urban runs that have been popping up all over Belgium for the past five years. Train stations, historic town halls, state-of-the-art museums, and underground tunnels – nothing is off limits. At these 10 city-central races, it’s less about the win and more about the view.

Antwerp

Antwerp Urban Trail

Antwerp has traditionally boasted some of the most spectacular runs in the Urban Trail Series, at one point granting runners access to the “Schoon Verdiep,” a particularly sumptuous wing of the historic Town Hall with limited access to the public. The pièce de résistance of the new edition coming up in March 2017 will be the passage through the eye-catching new Port House, a design by late architect Zaha Hadid. The 10,000 runners will also pass through the offices of ATV, Antwerp’s regional television channel.

2017 edition: Sunday, March 12th

The 10 Miles

The heavyweight among the Belgian city runs is The 10 Miles (a solid 16 kilometers), Antwerp’s short marathon that has its heart in the right place. Each year, ambassadors are picked to run the soul out of their bodies while representing a major charity. The challenging race is hugely popular, with the organization having to cap registrations at a maximum of 40,000 participants. Lanes in three of the city’s largest traffic tunnels are cleared for the runners, often causing frustrations among drivers but not at all dampening the merriment among the runners, who really have something to pat themselves on the back for after finishing this doozy.

2017 edition: Sunday, April 23rd

Ghent

Ghent Urban Trail

Ghent‘s inherently scenic views over the Leie river and its crisscrossing canals more than make up for its cobblestones. This year, 10 wheelchair athletes with assistance will join in on the fun and tackle steps and all. The third edition will be wrapped up in famed velodrome Het Kuipke (once the unlikely site of a Louis Armstrong concert).

2017 edition: Sunday, March 26th

Ghent Urban Trail 2016 | courtesy of Golazo Sports
Ghent Urban Trail 2016 | courtesy of Golazo Sports

Stadsloop De Gentenaar

Of course, historic Ghent with its idyllic quiet spots and plentiful bridges is savored as an urban playground, meaning that the Urban Trail is just one of many city runs in town. In fact, the Stadsloop De Gentenaar, organized by the local newspaper and often considered “the mother of all city runs,” has been exploring its most glorious scenery on foot for over 30 years. It’s not uncommon to spot a Spiderman or firefighter among your fellow participants, and wee little runners can take part in a special tour around Saint-Peter’s Square.

2017 edition: Sunday, May 21st

Brussels

Brussels Urban Trail

Big, bigger, biggest – Brussels Urban Trail mainly stands out because of the sense of grandeur one feels while sweating their way through the capital. A run traversing the spacious Mont des Arts, historic Grand-Place with its ornate guild houses and continuing into an ancient, glass-roofed shopping arcade is bound to leave you mightily impressed with the heart of Europe. The occasional brass band en route contributes to the laid-back atmosphere of the race.

2017 edition: Sunday, June 25th

Urban Trail Brussels | courtesy of Golazo Sports
Urban Trail Brussels 2016 | courtesy of Golazo Sports

Manneken Pis Corrida

This evening charity run intends to make the most of the most charitable time of the year. Between Christmas and New Year’s, a cheerful bunch of runners take to the illuminated streets of Brussels. Passing by monuments like peeing boy Manneken Pis and going straight through the capital’s sprawling Christmas markets, it’s one of the jolliest workouts imaginable.

2017 edition: date to be announced

The Color Runs

Aimed at a 20-something crowd and inspired by the traditional Hindu festival Holi, the worldwide phenomena of color runs didn’t take long to make its way to Belgium. Also dubbed “the happiest 5k on the planet,” the Ostend and Brussels Color Runs reward participants for every kilometer by letting a blast of vibrant color rain down. Once over the finish line, the celebration continues with live concerts and even more cornstarch powder turning the masses into a walking rainbow.

2017 edition: Sunday, July 2nd in Ostend, Sunday, September 3rd in Brussels

The Color Run after-party at Ostend's beach | courtesy of Golazo Sports
The Color Run after-party at Ostend’s beach | courtesy of Golazo Sports

The Santa Runs

Exactly what they sound like and about as jolly as city runs can be, a lot of Belgian cities have taken to celebrating the holidays by having hundreds – if not thousands – of male and female Santas thunder through their streets. While there’s usually no passing through historic buildings, Antwerp’s version does include a much-celebrated Dutch gin stop, and twinkly lights are always in big supply.

Bruges

Great Bruges Marathon

This fresh-faced newcomer is hosting its first edition in the fall, a season well-equipped to emphasize medieval Bruges’ extraordinary charm. A bigger affair than its Urban Trail cousin in February, the track starts in the historic center and stretches all the way to the coastal town of Zeebrugge, showcasing several picturesque towns along the way. The additional option to walk the quaint route is likely to attract a great deal of international Bruges admirers. Regaining your strength after the effort should come easy with a food market waiting at the Belfry after you finish.

2017 edition: Sunday, October 15th

Mons

Mons Urban Trail

The elevated Mons in the Belgian Ardennes is a historic city even a lot of Belgians have yet to see, and its Urban Trail presents the perfect occasion. In October, the jovial town pulls out all the stops with tons of animations and live music along the way.

2017 edition: Sunday, October 8th

Mons Urban Trail | © Alain Buyck / courtesy of Golazo Sports
Mons Urban Trail | © Alain Buyck / courtesy of Golazo Sports

More upcoming city runs can be found here and here.