Greece is a fascinating country where you can visit millennia-old archaeological sites, swim in majestic waters and relax on picture-perfect beaches. As the birthplace of the marathon, where better to enjoy running than in Greece? These are the best races to run in the country.
The secret paradise of the Sporades islands, the island of Skyros welcomes an annual running event in mid-September. The Skyros Half-Marathon takes you through a trail along the coastline and the verdant mountain area of the island.
Options include the half-marathon or the 5.5km (3.4mi) road race. Young runners can also participate in a 1km (0.6mi) kid race. Whether you have just started running or are a seasoned racer, this is an excellent way to discover this beautiful destination.
The hilltop villages and impressive caldera of Santorini are famous all over the world. But if you want to visit this island when the masses have fled back home, then head to the October Santorini Experience Race. This unique event, where you can enjoy breathtaking views along the caldera, features three races of 5, 10 and 15km (3.1, 6.2 and 9.3mi), with a maximum altitude of 293 metres (961.2 feet), as well as a 2.4km (1.4mi) swim. Whether you decide to stay only for the race or extend your visit for a few extra days, Santorini Experience is not to be missed.
Take part in the marathon race that gave birth to all marathons. Every year, ‘The Athens Marathon. The Authentic’ sees thousands of runners taking up the challenge to follow in the footsteps of the ancient Greek soldier Pheidippides, who ran to carry a message of victory from the battlefield of Marathonas to the city-state Athens.
As it follows a predominantly flat route, the marathon is a relatively easy race for first-time marathon runners. The path ends in the Panathinaiko Stadium, where the modern Olympic Games of 1896 took place. The event welcomes over 50,000 runners of all ages from over 100 countries from across the world, and six races are available, including an Olympics road race.
Get to know the lively city of Ioannina, the capital of Epirus, with the annual Ioannina Lake Run, which covers a distance of 30km (18.6mi) around Lake Pamvotis (Pamvotida in Greek). This flat race, which takes you around notable monuments and Ottoman landmarks, including the Aslan Pasha Mosque, is a great practice race to improve your personal best time. Arrive a few days early to appreciate this under-the-radar city and the surrounding region.
Greece’s largest island is well known for its stunning nature, rich culinary traditions, captivating archaeological sites and marvellous beaches. But few people know that the island also hosts an annual marathon, established in 2017, to raise awareness among locals and visitors on the protection and preservation of the local biodiversity. Each registration guarantees that a tree will be planted in an area affected by environmental damage. The start and end points of each of the races, which range from 2.5km (1.5mi) to a full marathon, is in Chania, home to a quaint Venetian quarter and a magnificent harbour.
Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city and home to no less than a dozen UNESCO-listed monuments, is the ultimate city-trip destination in Greece. See it under a different light at the International Thessaloniki Night Half Marathon, a unique event that takes you on a tour of this vibrant city and along its waterfront. Since the race is mainly constrained to the city, it is quite flat and presents a low degree of difficulty, making it ideal for beginners. The marathon ends at the White Tower, with the first three men and women to reach the finish line receiving awards and monetary prices. The event also includes a 5km (3.1mi) race.
The sacred site of Meteora, famous for its medieval monasteries perched atop gigantic rock formations, was once a place of refuge for Greeks during the Ottoman occupation. But today, it is a place of adventure, exploration and a major running event. The Meteora Trail Run is a 23km (14.2mi) race perfect for trail runners or anyone willing to take up the challenge. But if you don’t feel like running around hilly terrain, the event also includes a shorter, 6km (3.7mi) city trail around Kalambaka, the village at the foot of the site.
Serifos is an unassuming island in the Cyclades and is often spared from the masses of tourists every summer. But this small gem certainly deserves travellers’ attention, which is why you should look into taking part in the Serifos Sunset Race, held in September every year since 2012. The event includes both foot races (5, 10 and 20km or 3.1, 6.2 and 12.4mi) and swimming races, which take place at the stunning Avlomonas Beach.
Although fairly unknown when compared to its more popular neighbours, Kefalonia features idyllic beaches, a delicious culinary scene and magnificent landscapes worth exploring. One way to discover it is by joining the Two Capital Challenge, a race of 32km (19.8mi) starting in the capital city of Argostoli and ending in Lixouri, the capital of the island’s small peninsula of Paliki.
This race is an excellent opportunity for first-time race runners who may be intimidated by larger events. There is also a 5km (3.1mi) race in Argostoli, where all participants are invited to a huge pasta party held the night before – a fun way to get acquainted with your fellow runners and the locals while fuelling up for the race ahead.
The green Cycladic island of Andros boasts lush, forest-covered mountains, beautiful ravines, traditional villages and tranquil beaches. You’ll experience these first-hand through the Andros Trail Race, which features four races of varying lengths suitable for all levels. The main race covers 24km (14.9mi), with a maximum elevation of 1,585m (5,200ft).