Where should you run your next marathon?
Perhaps you’re a seasoned endurance runner who has been itching to get back out there now restrictions have been lifted, or maybe you’re yet to run your first marathon and are weighing up the different options, either way, make your next marathon memorable and consider entering an event across the channel.
Since the pandemic has made us all more health-conscious, active tourism (going on holiday to participate in sporting events) is booming. To jump on the trend, which European cities should runners book their flights to this year?
To find out, we considered the air quality, weather conditions, number of landmarks, cost of running necessities, and marathon popularity of over 60 European cities and created a tool to help you weigh up the options.
The top European destinations overall
Thanks mainly to its fresh air and rich cultural history, Spain secured the top two positions in the study. Barcelona won overall and placed in the top 10 for both its number of historical landmarks (with a whopping 756 to take in, the 3rd most in the study) and the 10th cleanest air.
Further south, runner-up Madrid also ranked in the top ten for two factors, with the 4th most landmarks (669) and the 7th driest conditions (with an average rainfall of only 24mm).
In fact, Mediterranean marathons make up the entirety of the top five: with Athens in Greece claiming bronze place, and Seville and Lisbon claiming the 4th and 5th positions.
Best marathons for culture lovers
With 26.2 miles to run, a marathon is a fantastic way to soak up the scenery and sightsee with a difference. So which cities have the most cultural landmarks to pass by on your route? Rome, London, and Paris all offer over 1,000 landmarks to explore – perfect if you want to flex your fitness with some impressive holiday snaps. Alternatively, Milan ranked in 2nd position with 960 points of interest and Barcelona came 3rd.
Best running conditions
Nobody wants to train for months on end if the big day is a complete washout. By considering each city's average rainfall, the study found that Apeldoorn in the Netherlands had the least annual average rainfall (61 mm) followed by Gran Canaria in Spain (135 mm) and Athens (366 mm).
When we run, we take deeper and more frequent breaths, meaning that we take in far more nasty toxins from the air. To keep healthy and take in the freshest air, head to Tromso in Norway, which has the lowest levels of PM 2.5 (particle pollution) in the air, followed by Galway in Ireland and Venice in Italy. Where to avoid if you have sensitive lungs? Milan, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Locarno, Switzerland have the dirtiest air.
Want to tick off one of the most famous marathons off your bucket list? One marathon extensively outpaced the others, with a 1,564% higher search rate than the study average: the London marathon. Berlin’s marathon ranked 2nd, with a search volume 1013% above average, and trailing behind in 3rd position was Stockholm, with a score 398% above average.
Running on a budget
Want to run a marathon but not out of money? Travelling abroad for an event needn’t cost the earth. We considered the price of one litre of water, one kg of bananas, and a pair of running shoes as an indicator of the most affordable places to run. The most budget-friendly city is Cordoba, Spain, where a running package will cost you just €43, narrowly beating Istanbul with a cost of €47. Placing third with an appetising cost of just €56 is Kosice, the largest city in eastern Slovakia.
Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, expand your running horizons and plan the ultimate running city break. Just make sure you keep the pina coladas to a minimum, save the Bratwurst for recovery, and keep some bottled water on tap.