You know what’s a great way to stay fit? Running. You know what you need to do to run? Get fit. If you enjoy running marathons and races, it’s important that you train accordingly. And now there’s an even better reason to do so.
The world has finally reopened for travel and the global racing scene is returning. It’s been a while since you can freely travel nearly everywhere. So it is time you started planning for races that you have always wanted to run but couldn’t in the last two years.
While the world’s major marathons are likely to be your top choice, you probably already know that getting a guaranteed entry into those six races — Boston, New York City, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo marathons — is next to impossible. The qualification timings for London and New York City marathons are even tougher than the Boston qualification requirements. So here are four alternative races that you are more likely to find a guaranteed entry into. They are as much fun as the world majors, and you still get to travel the world!
The Space Coast Marathon; 27 November; Cocoa, Florida, USA: It is called the Space Coast Marathon because you literally run at Cocoa village, which is just a few minutes’ drive from the Nasa and SpaceX launching sites in Cape Canaveral. The race is held along a picturesque route along the Indian river and the course is divided into two: the north and south halves.
If you are running the half marathon you can choose either one. While one is more fun because of more people cheering on, the other is prettier. There’s also a lot to do after the run including hanging at the Cocoa Beach, where you could get a post-race Bloody Mary at Hunkerdown’s for just $8 or eat brunch at Southern Charm Café, which is truly charming with its caring waitresses and excellent food (America-sized portions of course).
The closest big airport is Orlando, which means a trip to Sea World theme park and Disneyland can also be worked into your itinerary. And best of all, these days they launch a space rocket almost every second week, so you could even catch a rocket launch from the Cape Canaveral beach.
TCS Amsterdam Marathon; 16 October; Amsterdam; The Netherlands: This is one of the most fun marathons in the world and also one of the most convenient for Indians as there are plenty of direct flights to Amsterdam. The race starts and ends at the Olympic Stadium and the feeling of running the last few metres inside the stadium with people cheering you on from the stands is guaranteed to give you goosebumps.
The weather in Amsterdam in October is great and you run around lakes (where you can see rowers pushing their boats out) and along the Amstel river, passing through the beautiful Vondelpark. This is as good as race as any to try and get your BQ (Boston Qualification).
In the past, the race organisers used to have free massages for any participant who wanted it. Now, in the new scheme of things after covid-19 hit us, let’s see if that returns. Apart from the running, Amsterdam would offer you loads of great museums and shows and its famous Red Light district in the city centre. You could also squeeze in a trip to Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Brugges and Paris—all accessible by train and all under four hours of travel time.
Budapest Marathon; 9 October; Budapest, Hungary: Autumn is marathon season across most of the world and Hungary wasn’t going to be left out. The Budapest Marathon is ideal for anyone eager to check out places other than the regular ones we tend to go to in Western Europe and the UK. The twin cities of Buda and Pest have a lot of history, beautiful European edifices and the river Danube runs right through it.
The race begins at Hosok Tere or Heroes Square, and route runs along both sides of the Danube, crossing over dreamy bridges before ending back at Hosok Tere. Immediately after the race you could head to the Szechenyi Baths, a natural thermal bath with proper facilities created for use by all people. It has various pools with waters at different temperatures, an Olympic sized outdoor pool and even cold baths, which would be great idea after a marathon. The night life in Budapest is great and you cannot leave the city without visiting ruin bars. You could easily make a holiday out of this by adding a trip to Prague, Vienna and Bratislava, all connected by train, bus and road and nothing over 3.5 hours away.
The Cambridge Half Marathon; 6 November; Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Everyone dreams about running a race in Boston but only a handful ever make the cut for that oldest and most prestigious of races. However, don’t lose heart because even if you don’t run the Boston Marathon, you could still run a race in Boston. And it is a very good race too, running through the Harvard University campus and the lovely town of Cambridge.
The race attracts big crowds, including students who love to hand out beers, candies, chocolates and pretzels to the runners, apart from all the encouragement and cheer. The Cambridge Half Marathon is a relatively new race but it has grown in popularity, especially after a 9-year-old Caleb Barnes set a record for running the half marathon in just a shade over 94 minutes in 2016. Post-race, go university hopping or just hang around at the Boston harbour, weather permitting. Downtown Boston is also pretty cool, and you should take a jog through Heartbreak Hill, where Boston Marathon runners suffer the most.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.