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The Biggest International Marathons in Europe

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Marathon running isn’t just a sport, it’s a global phenomenon. It’s a test of mental strength and physical endurance, bringing together people from all walks of life.

Elite-level marathon racing showcases runners with the best stamina and durability over the 26-mile, 385-yard distance. The biggest marathons in Europe are usually covered by the major online sportsbooks. Although running betting markets aren’t overly common, bet365 provides a preview of this famous road race in its bet365 News portal. The Stoke-on-Trent-based brand is highly regarded by oddsChecker.com for its data-led experience for bettors, as well as its market leading promotions for new and existing users.

It's not just elite-grade runners who enjoy high-profile marathons, either. In fact, tens of thousands of amateur runners enter the biggest marathons in Europe each year, some of whom run in aid of charitable organizations or simply to push themselves to the limit.

If you’re a club runner in the Oxfordshire region who's tempted to see what your own limits may be, we’ve put together a guide to the five most popular marathons across Europe, as well as a nod to a hugely successful half-marathon.

Berlin Marathon - Germany's Fast and Flat Showcase

Berlin, the German capital, is not only steeped in history, but also hosts one of the most popular marathons globally - the Berlin Marathon. Renowned for its flat and fast course, this marathon is a favourite among elite athletes aiming for personal bests. The route takes runners past iconic landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate and through the vibrant neighbourhoods of Berlin.

Held annually in September, the Berlin Marathon is a major event on the World Marathon Majors circuit, attracting top-tier athletes and enthusiasts alike.

London Marathon - Royalty and Resilience on Display

The London Marathon stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of runners. Set against the backdrop of the city's historic landmarks, including Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, the course showcases London's rich heritage. The event, typically held in April, draws both pro runners and charity fundraisers. There’s also elite-level wheelchair races for both men and women, followed by a ‘mini’ London Marathon for athletes aged under 17, which is just three miles.

What sets London apart is its unique atmosphere; the streets are lined with cheering crowds, creating an unparalleled sense of camaraderie. The London Marathon is not just a race; it's a celebration of human spirit and accomplishment.

Paris Marathon - A Scenic Tour of the City of Lights

For those seeking a blend of athletic challenge and breathtaking scenery, the Paris Marathon delivers both in abundance. Starting at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe and finishing near the iconic Avenue Foch, this marathon takes runners on a mesmerizing journey through the heart of Paris.

The course meanders along the Seine River, offering views of landmarks like Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. With its picturesque route and an electric atmosphere, the Paris Marathon, usually held in April, has become a must-do for marathon enthusiasts worldwide.

Athens Marathon - The Authentic Journey to Marathon's Roots

The Athens Marathon holds a special place in the hearts of runners, as it retraces the very steps of the legendary Pheidippides. Legend has it that Pheidippides ran from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon, giving birth to the marathon distance.

The Athens Marathon, also known as the Authentic Marathon, offers a challenging route with steep ascents and descents, providing runners with a sense of the historic journey. Held annually in November, the event is a pilgrimage for those seeking to connect with the roots of the sport.

Rome Marathon - Run through Millennia of History

The Rome Marathon allows runners to embark on a journey through time, traversing millennia of history and culture. Starting and finishing near the Colosseum, the course takes participants past iconic landmarks like St. Peter's Basilica, the Roman Forum, and the Trevi Fountain.

The marathon, usually held in April, offers a unique blend of athletic challenge and the enchanting allure of Rome's ancient and modern marvels. As runners pound the cobblestone streets, they absorb the rich cultural heritage that surrounds them, creating an unforgettable marathon experience.

Honourable Mentions: Berlin Half Marathon and the Great North Run

While not a full marathon, the Berlin Half Marathon deserves an honourable mention for its significance in the running calendar. Held in April, this event attracts a diverse range of participants, from seasoned athletes to those tackling their first half marathon. The course winds its way through Berlin's city centre, showcasing some of the landmarks featured in the full marathon. For those looking to experience the vibrant atmosphere of Berlin's running community on a slightly shorter scale, the Berlin Half Marathon is an excellent choice.

The Great North Run, meanwhile, happens to be the biggest half marathon on the planet. Launched in 1981, the event attracted 12,000 runners to the city of Newcastle in its debut year. By the time of its 30th anniversary, that figure had soared to 54,000 runners. Like the Berlin Half Marathon, the race course is the same for both elite-level and amateur runners. Originally founded to be a “fun run” for locals, it has since evolved into a huge long-distance event for elite and amateur runners alike, including legends like Mo Farah, who set a new record when the Brit won six Great North Runs in consecutive years. The event managed to attract BUPA as its primary sponsor during the 1990s. before relinquishing the role in 2014. In 2023, ajbell.co.uk penned a five-year deal to become primary sponsor, replacing Simplyhealth.

Europe, with its diverse landscapes and rich history, offers a myriad of running adventures for marathon enthusiasts. Whether pounding the pavements of Berlin, soaking in the majesty of London, embracing the authenticity of Athens, marvelling at Rome's ancient wonders, or savouring the scenic beauty of Paris, each marathon provides a unique and unforgettable experience. Lace up your shoes, set your sights on the horizon, and embark on a running journey that spans borders and cultures - the best international marathons in Europe await.

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