This was a tough Top 5 – as marathon runners, we are very fortunate to get to see some of the world’s top sights and attractions at close quarters, and often free from the crowds and cars that usually surround them. Running around a major city on traffic-free roads – what a brilliant way to experience what a place has to offer! Here are five of our favourite sights.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.
We first ran the Barcelona Marathon in March 2017. It is a true city course which winds its way round the main avenues, rambalas and port. At the end of the race I expressed my disappointment that the route had not passed the Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s spectacular ornate gothic and art nouveau basilica – as I had expected we would. My comments were met with astonishment from our running friends. We ran Barcelona again in 2018 and I could see why they were so surprised – the photograph shows how close to it we actually ran. How on earth could I have missed it?
Piazzo San Marco, Venice
The Venice Marathon course for the most part is pretty ordinary. Starting at the Villa Pissani, some 16 miles outside of the city, it’s not until you come to the 4km-long Liberty Bridge which links the mainland to the city centre that things get interesting. We’re now actually in Venice proper, crossing the Grand Canal on a pontoon bridge specially built for the race. But it is suddenly finding yourself in the magnificent Piazzo San Marco, with its cathedral and Palazzo Ducale, that takes your breath away. Empty of tourists – and only a few inches deep in water the year we ran it – how stunning it looks, and how privileged we marathon runners are. Hard to miss this one!
Brandenberg Gate, Berlin
It was in 2003, and for its 30th anniversary, that the course of the Berlin marathon was changed to feature the famous Brandenberg Gate. It was chosen to celebrate the reunification of Germany and to be symbolic of peace. It’s commonly accepted to be the finishing line, and on a course that generally measures long for us non-elites, how pleased we were to see the end in sight. However, the sprint finish turned out to be a bit premature as we, having passed through the gate, found that we had at least another 300m to get to the true finish line.
Tower Bridge, London
We live in London, so how could we not include the half way point of the London marathon? It is here that runners cross the not insubstantial River Thames; TV presenters stand and interview the celebrities and charity runners in their amazing costumes; and the supporters’ cheers cause the hair to rise on the back of your neck.
And yet once again – perhaps even more unbelievable than me missing the Sagrada Familia – on her first London Marathon in 2013, Cam didn’t notice it. What can I say?
Anfield Stadium, Liverpool Football Club
Some might argue that this final landmark is not quite of the same calibre of those that go before – I suppose we could have included The Pontevecchio in Florence, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, or one of the many landmarks in New York (we haven’t run the Rome or the Paris City marathons). But to lifelong Liverpool fans, leading our pace bus through the arches of the Main Stand of Anfield is hard to beat.