Thinking about taking on your first marathon next year? or in need of a tip for a trickier course to test yourself further?
There are plenty of options out there.. maybe a flat and fast or hard and hilly 26 miles? a hot and humid or a challenging trail blast? a holiday marathon or a course with amazing support? Below are a few of my reccomendations.
Flat & fast – Dusseldorf, Germany. April (Second option – Reykjavik, Iceland. Aug)
I must say this race ticked all the boxes. No marathon is easy but if your seeking a flat course with a great climate, solid support on the streets, guaranteed and cheap entry, this may be for you. There’s a great mix of different European runners in a pleasant city with very good access. Dusseldorf will be one of your marathon highlights, especially crossing the finish line with a new PB and a beer and bratwurst sausage waiting for you!
Hard & hilly – Tenby, Wales. July (Second option, If your up for a trip – Asuncion, Paraguay. Aug)
A very challenging course set in beautiful Pembrokeshire will test you to the core and a bit more. A hilly first half is followed by a hilly second in unpredictable conditions which will leave you asking yourself why.. In and amongst those standard negative doubts you will pull yourself together, concur the many rolling hills and rise to the top of Tenby’s majestic little town, cheered on by the amazing Welsh public (I’m slightly biased) and enjoy the best final kilometer and finish line of your running career to date.
Hot & humid – Rio de Janerio, Brazil. Aug (Second option – Bali, Indonesia. June)
You will need to travel afar for this one, but wow what a place. The course works it’s way from out of town Rio along the magical coastline in very humid conditions not made for a Brit. Around the 30km mark you will be feeling the effects of the heat, dehydrated and ready to fall apart, luckily at this point Ipanema will be on the horizon, with beautiful views and passionate local support inspiring a second wind. Before you know it you’ve moved onto Copacabana and can smell the finish line in Botafogo. There will be no keeping you from the samba clubs of Lapa after this brutal outing, the caipirinha’s will ease the pain.
Trail – Thames meander, London. Aug (Second option – Snowdonia, Wales. July)
I didn’t quite realize how tough a trail marathon really was until I ran the Thames meander. Even on a technically flat route you will be working your way across uneven grounds, your feet pounding large stones with your biomechanics operating a little differently to usual. You’ll be in a different place of pain, with the soles of your feet and hips crying out. Concurring all that, you will enjoy this more low key event, meeting great people on an ‘out and back’ course, moving past quaint little towns along the Thames. Weather can be hit or miss, if it’s hot, you’ll be in for a tough day.
Great support – London, England. April (Second option – Stockholm, Sweden. May)
A biggy. Was my first and is still unrivaled in terms of support. I have not run a marathon with crowds quite literally along the entire 26.2 mile course since. A huge event from start to finish taking in London town’s incredible sights and sounds. When you roll into St James Park and approach the Mall you will be hit by a wall of noise, inspiring you to a turn of pace you didn’t realize you had left in your locker. A day you will never forget. As entry isn’t straight forward for London, Stockholm is another cracking option – the Scandinavian’s love to run.
Personal favorites – Barcelona, Spain. March (Second option – Paris, France. April)
For weekend breaks away it’s hard to beat Barcelona, uniquely located between the coast, mountains and river, with Gaudi inspired architecture, tremendous tapas and a pretty decent marathon to go with it. Flat in most parts with just a few inclines to negotiate, fantastic support, amazing scenery and pretty good weather, i’d recommend Barca all day long. This one kicks off at 8:30am and starts to get very warm in the second half, so get as far as you can before the temperature rises!
Test yourself and achieve something extraordinary.