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Big Sur Marathon, scenic California coastline

Big SurThe Big Sur Marathon is 26.2 miles of the most beautiful coastline in the world – and, for runners, the most challenging. It was established in 1986 and attracts about 4,500 participants annually. This year, the event will be held on April 25th, 2010. The athletes who participate in the Big Sur International Marathon draw inspiration from the spectacular views, but it takes major discipline to conquer the hills of Highway One on the way to the finish line.

Named “Best Marathon in North America” by The Ultimate Guide to Marathons, the Big Sur International Marathon continues to sell out earlier and earlier each year and, as a major destination marathon, draws entrants from all over the world. On their way from Big Sur to Carmel’s Rio Road, runners wind through majestic redwoods and past Pacific Ocean views.

Related marathon-day events include a 21-mile power walk, 5K run, 9-mile walk, 10.6-mile walk, and marathon relay. An expansive sports expo takes place for the two days before the run at the Monterey Conference Center. Each year, the non-profit marathon board of directors donates over $150,000 to local charities. For more information, please visit the Big Sur International Marathon website.

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London Marathon along the River Thames

LondonThe city of London got its first marathon in 1981, after former Olympic champion Chris Brasher returned from the New York Marathon wanting to make the same event happen in his home town. This year, the popular marathon will be held on April 25th, 2010.

London is the city where the current marathon distance was set. In the 1908 Olympics, King Edward VII wanted the marathon to start in the courtyard of Windsor Castle and end in front of the Royal Box at White City Stadium for the queen to see. This distance was 42.195 km as opposed to the original distance of 39.90 km in the first modern Olympics in Athens. The king’s command has been reality ever since. You can find more about the history of the London marathon at the marathon website.

The course of the London Marathon runs along the River Thames and is fast and flat. The marathoners will pass a number of famous London landmarks, including the Tower of London, the London Eye and the 140-year-old clipper ship, Cutty Sark. Organizers describe it as ‘An Historical Jog Around London’, due to the speed and scenery of the course.

The London Marathon is part of the series World Marathon Majors along with the marathons in Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York, in which the athletes earn points according to their finish place in the participating races. Last year, more than 24,000 runners finished the race.

Fundraising plays a big role in London Marathon, and organizers claim it to be the largest annual fundraising event in the world. Since its start in 1981, the participants have raised a total of GBP 315 million for charity. Further information about the race and registration can be found at the official London Marathon site.

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Boston Marathon, The One And Only

BostonThe Boston Marathon is the oldest annual city marathon in the world, run for the first time in 1897. It was inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics. The first Boston Marathon had only 18 runners, but the number of participants has increased steadily since then. The largest field of runners so far was in 1996, when over 35,000 people finished the 100th Boston Marathon. Also, women were not allowed to enter the Boston Marathon officially until 1972.

The Boston Marathon ranks as one of the most prestigious running events in the world, one of the five members of World Marathon Majors. This honorable position is attained thanks to the long history of the race, the challenging course and the fact that you have to qualify to register as an official participant. To qualify, a runner must first complete a standard marathon course certified by a national governing body affiliated with the International Association of Athletics Federations within a certain period of time before the date of the desired Boston Marathon. Other than the Olympic trials and the Olympic marathons, Boston is the only major American marathon that requires a qualifying time. The qualifying standard is high enough to make qualifying for Boston – also known as ‘to BQ’ – quite an achievement in itself.

The legendary course of the Boston Marathon has been the same throughout most of the history of the race. The route follows 26.2 miles of winding roads from rural Hopkinton to urban Boston, and it is renowned for its level of difficulty. Shortly after the 16 mile mark, the road starts going up a series of hills, named the Newton Hills.

The last of the four hills is known as Heartbreak Hill. This hill does not, as one may think, get its name from the many runners being heartbroken from the fact that they have to conquer yet another ascent, but the name does originate in the Boston Marathon. In the 1936 race defending champion, John A. Kelley, caught up with race leader, Ellison ‘Tarzan’ Brown, giving him a consolatory pat on the shoulder as he passed him. This overbearing gesture apparently gave Tarzan supernatural strength, and he went on to win the race in front of Kelley. In the words of a local journalist, the outcome of this act of nemesis ‘broke Kelley’s heart’.

The Boston Marathon, which will be held on March 19th, 2010, offers more than just men’s and women’s running divisions. In 1975, a tradition of offering racing opportunities to those with disabilities and impairments began when one wheelchair racer decided to take the challenge and complete the entire distance of the marathon. Since then, three new divisions have emerged, including a push rim wheelchair division, a visually impaired/blind division, and a mobility impaired division. For more information, please visit the Boston Marathon website.

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Paris Marathon… a jog on the Parisian asphalt…

Eiffel TowerThe Paris Marathon is one of the most popular long-distance annual running events in Europe along with the Berlin and London marathons. Every year in April, 35,000 runners crowd the streets of Paris for Marathon de Paris – or Paris International Marathon. This year, the event is going to be held on April 11th, 2010.

The first marathon in Paris was run by 191 participants on July 19th 1896. The official distance was 40 km, but the marathon has been happening in today’s format since 1977. It is limited to 37,000 entrants, and the maximum is reached almost every year. Unlike most other marathons, but like all races in France, the Paris Marathon requires a medical certificate affirming the runner is physically fit to run a marathon.

Throughout the race, runners get a great view of the city and some of its famous sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Place de la Bastille. The course start in front of the Arc de Triomphe and continues down the famous Champs Elysées. A large part of the course runs along the calmly flowing Seine River. To keep you going, count on the 250,000 onlookers and the 70 music stages. And if that isn’t enough, you can always look forward to the red wine and cheese served at the 35th kilometer.

If you miss the chance to run the marathon but still want to live the spirit of running in a historical city, you can do the 5.2 km Breakfast Run on race day. There is also the possibility of a half marathon, if you plan your trip to Paris in March. The 1/2 marathon shares most of its course with the full marathon. For further information, check the Paris Marathon website.

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Rome Marathon… a race on the Mediterranean

Rome ColiseumIf you’re looking for the ideal combination of athletic challenge and a nice weekend of sight-seeing, the Rome Marathon is the place to go. The marathon is held annually in March and this year, it’ll be held on March 21st. Very popular with both Italian and foreign athletes, it attracts more and more runners each year. Last year’s race saw more than 11,000 runners compete.

As a participant in the Rome Marathon, you get to enjoy the city’s historic atmosphere right from the beginning. The start line is placed in front of the 2,000 year old Colosseum, and from here the course is a veritable festival of magnificent sights such Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps. The course is surprisingly flat for a city built on seven hills, but the uneven cobblestone streets may add a few extra minutes to your finish time.

According to tradition, 15 minutes after the marathoners are sent on their way, the non-competitive Stracittadina Fun Run starts. This 5km run is open to everyone and proudly proclaims itself to be “the most participated sporting event in Italy”. Get more information about the race at the Rome Marathon website.

You can figure out what you’re going to run through by watching a magnificient RAI feature, a 2-hour documentary (in Italian) which details the history of the 42,195 metres.

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