As we begin the final countdown to the Virgin Money London Marathon, hear from Kate as she talks through her best runs from around the world.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to quite a few races around the world, though like any running addict, as soon as I tick one off my bucket list, another 10 are promptly added. Never mind the hundred marathon club, I think I’d need to reach a round thousand before my running wunderlust was satisfied. Running on holiday is of course another true pleasure, but there’s something about an overseas race that really gets the heart going.
1. Tokyo Marathon
I’m in the process of ticking off all the World Marathon Majors (London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, Tokyo and Boston) and getting the mega bling that comes with that particular achievement. With all but Boston done, my favourite so far – London aside, of course – has been Tokyo. I have never had so much fun, beaming my way round, running most of it with a friend, not caring about finish times but just taking it all in and waving at the enthusiastic crowds. I genuinely had achy muscles in my face the next day from grinning so much. After the finish, once you have got your medal and goody bag, volunteers form a sort of corridor either side of all finishers, and clap them through it. It’s a truly amazing moment.
2. New Zealand
For running tourism, New Zealand is hard to beat – if only it weren’t so far from the UK! It has every type of landscape you can imagine – fjords, rainforests, beaches, lakes, volcanos – all crammed into two relatively small islands. And the national parks – oh the parks! Brilliantly signposted for walkers or runners, many have maps showing distances, suggesting routes and giving estimate times. Last year I ran through the North Island’s beautiful wine country at the Hawke’s Bay half, ending in a vineyard. All finishers get a medal and a bottle of wine grown on that very land. Now that’s my kind of rehydration … Running part of the route of the Queenstown marathon down in the south island – from Arrowtown back into Queenstown – was one of the most magical runs of my life. I’ve never stopped to take photos so often ..
3. Valencia 10k
Last November I went to Spain and took part in the Valencia 10k. This year, I might well upgrade – the race takes place at the same time as the full marathon – and it’s really a fantastic one. I mean, any race that involves being presented with a massive bag of home grown fresh oranges at the finish line gets my vote, but on top of that it’s well organised, scenic, fast and flat. Valencia is a wonderful city for running anyway – races aside – with its fabulous Turia park snaking through the city centre. It even has signposted paths just for runners!
4. Seville Marathon
Another Spanish entry into my personal overseas top five is Seville. Now, yes, it is very well organised, extremely flat, and has perfect weather conditions (12 degrees when I did it in February this year) and is a great city to relax and enjoy when your race is done. The beer is cheap. The city is beautiful. But I admit that the main reason I will forever love Seville is that I got a PB there in February and finally broke my goal of sub-3. The fact that’s also a wonderful place to visit is merely the icing on the cake.
5. Vancouver Seawheeze half marathon
A few years ago, I travelled to Vancouver for this Lululemon race. Waking up, jetlagged, at some hideously early hour, I stumbled blearily out of the hotel for a head-clearing jog. I asked the porter on the door where I should go, and he just smiled and pointed at the coastline. I ran to Stanley Park, and 15 minutes later had seen sealions, and a whale. It was a truly magical morning. Along with Tokyo, this is the only race I have ever beamed my way around – and even got a PB on that day too. There aren’t many races in the world where the organisers put mermaids* on the rocks by the side of the coastal route … *possibly people dressed as mermaids, but I’m hedging my bets nevertheless