A marathon start line is always an exciting place to be and once again it has been difficult to choose our favourites. On another day they might well have been different but today these are the ones that have made the cut for a combination of spectacular settings, emotional music and silly outfits!
Barcelona Marathon – Freddy Mercury’s Barcelona (listen here)
Barcelona is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe and the start of the marathon is very much in keeping with this vibe. The marathon itself is held in March, usually under blue skies, and starts and finishes at the Place d’Espanya at the foot of Montjuic. Just under 20,000 runners set off in time-waves in a real carnival atmosphere with confetti canons, and best of all the sound of Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe singing their duet of “Barcelona”.
Athens (Authentic) Marathon – Marathon Town
The Athens marathon is a point to point race and the most amazing thing about it is actually starts in the town of Marathon. It follows the route (supposedly) run by Pheidippides, the Ancient Greek messenger, when he delivered the news to Athens that the Greeks had defeated the Persians in the battle of Marathon. It first became a marathon course in 1896 for the revival of the Olympic Games and was established as the Athens Classic Marathon in 1972. Competitors are bussed out to Marathon prior to the race and everywhere there are reminders of the historic nature of the location. The start is marked with fireworks and there is a real buzz as thousands of runners set off in Pheidippides’ foot-steps.
New York City Marathon – Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge
New York City is another point to point marathon and there is a huge logistical operation on the morning of the race as over 40,000 runners are transported to the race village on Staten Island. Some people complain about the early start and waiting around but we have found it a really enjoyable part of the race – spending time collecting our Dunkin’ Donuts hats, having breakfast and chatting to other runners while waiting for our number to be called. Then the best bit – standing at the entrance of the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge, hearing the USA anthem sung and finally starting the journey through the five buroughs. What a magnificent sight it must be to see the runners streaming over the two tier bridge but even better to be running across it.
Comrades Marathon –The Shosholoza
Anyone who knows us will also know that The Comrades Marathon is our favourite race. Everything about it is brilliant but the start is magical. 5:30 a.m. on the dark streets of either Durban or Pietermaritzburg (depending on whether it is an up or down run) 20,000 runners from many nations stand side by side and sing the South African National Anthem followed by the Shosholoza. Chariots of Fire is next. Then they wait, the air filled with suspense, for the cock to crow announcing the start of their journey of almost 90K through the Valley of 1000 hills. This has to be experienced – if not in person – then watch the video.
Florence Marathon – Just for the photo!
Ok so the Florence marathon, as it happens, has quite an impressive start at the Piazza Duomo in the heart of the historic city centre. The square contains the amazing Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral – which apparently was the largest building in medieval Europe – alongside other notable sights. But it is not for this that it has been included here – we just loved the Italian designer Mylar outfits that were handed out at the expo and were dutifully worn to the race start.