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   18 April 1999

The Rotterdam marathon attracts runners from all over the world with it's fast course (the world's best time was set here in 1998), excellent race organisation, and strong community support. Rotterdam fills up on race weekend and the city practically closes on the day of the race. The route itself is unremarkable, although it contains a few highlights such as the Erasmus Bridge and the waterfront. Probably most appropriate for those who want to focus on running a fast time, the Rotterdam Marathon uses the Championchip which helps reduce the time lost in the narrow start.

The Rotterdam Marathon's loop course starts and finishes in front of Stadhuis (City Hall), one of the few old buildings in Central Rotterdam, on the city's main street, Coolsingel. The course heads towards the water on a slight incline, crossing the ultra-modern Erasmus Bridge which resembles a sailing ship, at 1.2k. Runners have nice views whilst crossing the bridge, old houses to the left and the very industrial port to the right. Once over the bridge at 2k, you follow the port until the 5k point. The course here is almost entirely flat and commercial until skirting densely wooded park from 6k to 11k, passing the Ahoy complex near 9k. After 11k, apartment complexes and commercial areas characterise the route passing through the park near 13k until 19k. Runners have a very slight upgrade on the out portion on the out and back on Olympiaweg, and a slight downgrade on the back portion. The route passes the stadium near 20k, rises slightly up a small bridge to 21l, and falls nicely after the peak to near the halfway point. At 22k, runners have a 0.5k rise of about 40 feet as they race through the grit to the Erasmus Bridge at 23k with downtown ahead. Upon crossing the bridge, the race heads to the right along the waterfront to 26k, passing the red Willems Bridge. After 26k, runners head away from the water towards the race hotel (Novotel Rotterdam Brainpark). The course begins circumnavigating a large, pretty park near 29k until 36k when the course retraces its steps past the race hotel, along the water, and up Coolsingel to the finish. This fairly scenic section is good as you pass fellow runners opposite you.

Rotterdam is not terribly interesting from a tourist's point of view. Bombing destroyed much of the city in World War II, and a boring modern skyline replaced the old buildings.        

 

     3 July 1999

One of the world's most unique running experiences can be found at 70° North latitude, 270 miles north of the Arctic Circle at the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromso, Norway. Run under the glow of midnight over a course that essentially consists of two separate out and backs, one along the edge of Tromsoya island, and one along the mainland shore. The steep bridge connecting the two provides a good challenge that must be conquered twice during the race. In the background rise the mountains that frame the city, known as the "Gateway to the Arctic." 

The Midnight Sun Marathon starts at 10.00pm in downtown Tromso at Kulturhuset (the Concert house) on Gronnegatan. At 0.5k, runners turn left on Strandkillet, heading toward the sea (1k). the course then runs along the water, past the harbour, until the Polar Museum at 2k. Here runners circle around to access Tromso Bridge, a steep span that should get your legs nice and warm. On top of the bridge, runners have a great view of the mountainous mainland and the new, modern Arctic Cathedral. After a blistering downhill, you reach the mainland (3k), and embark on the first out and back (you actually run on two parallel roads) down Solstrandveien. Here you have nice views of Tromsoya, the sea, and the distant mountains, turning around at 10k. You return on RV8, go under the Tromso Bridge near 16k, and make a short loop through the mainland harbour. At 20k you scramble up the bridge and scamper down to Tromsoya. You now loop around to the right, past the Polar Museum, and then back along the water in front of downtown as before. The final section consists of a U-shaped out and back, mostly along the island's perimeter (23k to 42K). The turn around loop at the airport begins near 30k. the finish line sits in Stortorget (main square) in downtown Tromso.    

 

     3 October 1999

This charming marathon should be one of the most popular tourist marathons in Europe. Most of the race follows the quays along the Danube River, separating the hilly Buda side of the city from flat Pest. In the middle, the course meanders through Margaret Island, the city's urban playground. the gorgeous riverside route highlights Budapest's famous bridges, and runs past the city's most visited monuments, Castle Hill (Várhegy), Gellért Hill, and Parliament.

The Budapest Marathon starts and finishes in Hero's Square. Runners leave Hero's Square and run along the beautiful tree lined Andrássy út passing the Hungarian  State Opera House on the right and down through the town to reach the River Danube near Parliament. The course then follows the riverside along Széchenyi rakpart  and on to Belgrád rakpart. The course then doubles back and crosses the beautiful  Chain Bridge a span of 380m (1,250 feet) built between 1839-49, to reach Buda. Here runners follow the riverside along Groza Peter rakpart and Bem rakpart passing Castle Hill and it's Royal palace and the foot of Géllert Hill, until doubling back on the loop at the Buda end of Margaret Island Bridge to retrace one's steps back along the river to Freedom Bridge where runners back across the river to Pest.

The course then follows the loop back along Belgrád rakpart and Széchenyi rakpart past the Pest end of Margaret Bridge only to loop back after 1k to cross the bridge and enter Margaret Island. Runners then run the length of the island to head back into the city along Árpád híd. The route then follows residential area's along Dózsa Györgyút and entering the city park (Városliget) which is the home of the Museum of Fine Arts and Vajdahunyad Castle as well as the welcoming site of the finish in Hero's Square.

Budapest is clearly one of Europe's most beautiful cities, full of graceful, old buildings, charming bridges, and narrow winding streets. by far the most popular site is Castle Hill. You may want to tour the damp, cool tunnels underneath the hill that have been used by several military forces over the centuries, including Germany in WWII. Also check out the 13th Century Mattias Church (Mátyas Templom). Other popular attractions include Géllert Hill, Parliament, Great Synagogue, Hungarian National Gallery and Margaret Island. After the marathon, make liberal use of Budapest's numerous natural hot springs bath-houses.

 

  21 May 2000

The invasion of Prague begins every spring these days, only now the incursion comes largely from the West. At the end of May, runners join the fray, massing to the Prague International Marathon. The course loops through the city centre two and a half times and contains one long out and back along the Vltava River. Runners see many of Prague's most noted landmarks, the Charles Bridge, National Theatre, Jewish Quarter, Prague Castle and Old Town Square.

The marathon starts in Old Town Square past old commercial buildings and down to the Vltava River at 1k. With Prague Castle perched on the hill across the river, runners pass the statue lined Charles Bridge at about 5k Runners now commence the 30k out and back section with two turnaround points. Heading south, the route races through several kilometres of fairly unattractive commercial areas before reaching the city outskirts. This gently rolling section turns green as it passes along the Vltava River. Runners return to the city centre around 36k, and are treated to a great view of Prague Castle. The race now completes the city loop once again. The loop may prove more difficult this time since you pass the street to the finish at 37k, knowing you still have 5k to go. The race boasts a terrific finish inside the gorgeous Old Town Square.

 

 

 5 NOVEMBER 2000

 

Perhaps the most exciting marathon in the world, the New York City Marathon. Over 60,000 runners vie for the 29,000 places each year, and I have managed to get one.

Located on Staten island, the marathon's three starting lines lie at the Verrazano-Narrows Toll Plaza. Runners use both the upper and lower spans of the bridge. After going up the bridge, about a 180-foot climb, runners hit the first mile mark at its mid point and the second mile mark at the exit ramps. Miles 3 through 13 course through Brooklyn, passing Bay Bridge at mile 3, Fort Greene at mile 8, Bedford-Stuyvesant at mile 9, and Williamsburg at mile 11. The half-marathon point lies on the Pulaski Bridge (about a 40-foot incline) connecting Brooklyn and Queens (mile 13 to 15.5). The course heads through Long Island City, a manufacturing area since the industrial revolution and now the home to the Silvercup Studios, often referred to as the Hollywood of the East. At mile 15 , runners climb 130 feet up the Queensboro Bridge, spanning the East River and Roosevelt Island, bringing them to Manhatton (mile 16 to 20). North on First Avenue, you pass through the Upper East Side, known as the silk stocking district; Yorkville in the East 80's, formerly a thriving German community; and then Spanish Harlem. Just before mile 20, you encounter the challenging Willis Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River. At mile 20, you make a quick trip through the ethnically diverse Bronx before hitting the final bridge, the Madison Avenue Bridge, leading back into Manhatton. The next two miles traverse Harlem, the centre of black culture famous for its dance and music. The final miles tour rolling, challenging Central Park, one of the world's great urban retreats, finishing at Tavern on the Green. 

 

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MOSCOW MARATHON 31 AUGUST 2003

 

The course starts in the Red Square in front of one of the most beautiful and famous shrines on Earth, St Basil's  Cathedral. It runs along the Moscow River through extremely beautiful and historic parts of Moscow along the 12th Century walls of the Kremlin, past the newly restored Cathedral Christ the Saviour, Gorky Park, Peter the Great Monument and other historic monuments. Finish is in front of the Rossya Hotel in front of the magnificent domes of St Basil's Cathedral.

The course consists of three loops, one 6 miles, the remaining two being 10 miles.

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