There are so many classic races in Europe this top 10 list hardly scratches the surface. There are the Arctic marathons in Greenland and Norway, historic routes to follow in Athens and London, and some classic triathlons in France and Switzerland. Don’t consider this the ultimate list though: Berlin, Venice, Rome and Amsterdam are just some of the other locations to consider.
- Polar Circle Marathon, Greenland
This is the ultimate in marathon adventure and for real “no guts no glory” competitors. This September race is held just a short distance north of the Arctic Circle and takes runners on to the ice sheet itself as well as on tundra, frozen lakes and through the Arctic desert. It is very hilly with a range of surfaces underfoot and fluctuating temperatures. Best described as extreme with breathtaking scenery.
- Athens Marathon, Greece
Return to the home of the original Marathon recreating the incredible run that started nearly 2500 years ago. A real lesson in history plus a challenge for the human body.
- Ironman France, Nice, France
This June event on the magnificent Côte d’Azur, attracts athletes from 50 countries each year and offers 50 slots for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. It’s a little more on the elite scale of things but the popular long distance triathlon has a fabulous atmosphere along the Mediterranean Sea.
- Midnight Sun Marathon, Tromsø, Norway
This is definitely one of the more unusual marathons in the world, held at 70 degrees North. Using unofficial and temporary courses and measured by GPS, it has the additional special feature of running in the midnight sun.
- Paris Marathon, France
This 26.2 mile route in March takes you past sweet Pari’s most famous sights including the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees and the Louvre with some 250,000 spectators looking on. Bon chance!
- London Marathon, England
Huge running fields and enthusiastic crowds draw people to London year after year in April. The point-to-point route starts in Blackheath and Greenwich Park in South-East London and finishes beside St James’s Park on the Mall. It takes a route past many of the city’s famous historic sights including the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.
- Dublin Marathon, Ireland
You’ll definitely need a Guinness or two to recover from this event in late October in the Irish capital. This race is known as the ‘Friendly Marathon’ thanks to the cheering spectators lining the streets to support exhausted marathoners. The course is a classic city loop with start and finish lines in the center near the famed Trinity College. A number of green parks and squares form part of the course and finishes at Merrion Square where celebrated writers Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats once resided.
- Lochness Marathon, Scotland
If you have the energy to keep an eye out for the famed monster along the shores of the beautiful Loch Ness you’ll be doing well. This October race goes through stunning Highland scenery and in around the city of Inverness.
- Ironman Switzerland, Zurich
This July race is arguably one of the most beautiful in Europe. You can swim in the clean waters of Lake Zurich, ride in the Swiss countryside and run the flat course along the lakeshore with over 80 000 spectators. Beauty, culture and history everywhere you look.
- Inferno Triathlon, Switzerland
This August triathlon with a 1800-foot ascent is one of the hardest in the world and is considered one of the classics. The location in the Bernese Alps provides some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, if you can enjoy it while huffing or puffing by bike, water or foot.