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Article: 6 marathons to run one of your fastest races

6 marathons en Europe pour réaliser une performance
Marathons

6 marathons to run one of your fastest races

If you're looking to set a personal record or achieve one of your best marathon performances, choosing the right destination is part of the winning cocktail beyond meticulous preparation and great sensations on race day.

For a fast race, a marathon needs to have certain characteristics, such as a course that's as flat as possible, with big turns rather than tight corners, favourable weather with temperatures ideally around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius, moderate humidity and preferably no wind or rain on race-day.

To set a personal best or one of your best marathon performances, one of the secrets beyond the course for a very fast race is what is described in English as a 'negative split'. This involves running the second half marathon faster than the first half marathon. It's extremely difficult to achieve for three reasons: firstly, because you have to know yourself very well to define the optimum pace that you can maintain for 42 kilometres without dropping off the pace; secondly, because it's very difficult not to get carried away during the first 10 or 15 kilometres when your legs are still relatively fresh; and thirdly, because you have to grit your teeth and be really well trained not to drop off the pace during the last 5 or 10 kilometres of the race.

To come back to the choice of a destination conducive to a great performance with courses favourable to a personal best, we have drawn up a list of 6 marathons to choose from in Europe.  These 6 cities are also great European destinations to discover. We've grouped them below into three possible choices.

Looking for a personal best in a major capital? Choose Berlin or London.

Berlin Marathon

At the very top of the list of marathons in Europe for setting a personal best or achieving a great performance, is the Berlin Marathon. The difference in altitude is only around 20 metres over the entire marathon distance. Many marathon world records have been set in Berlin. The men's marathon world record has been broken 12 times in Berlin, and the women's record has been broken 4 times. The record for the event is 2 hours 1 minute and 9 seconds. This record dates to 2022 and was set by the famous Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge. It is the second-best performance of all time. The women's record dates to 2023 and was set by Tigsit Assefa in 2 hours 11 minutes and 53 seconds. This is the women's marathon world record to date.

London Marathon

The other option among European capitals is to run the London Marathon. The start of the course is on a long downhill false flat, which is the ideal way to start your race on the big day. The records for the event are close to those for the Berlin Marathon. For the men, the record is 2 hours 1 minute and 25 seconds with just a 16 seconds difference between the London marathon record and  the Berlin marathon record. It dates from 2020 and was also set by Eliud Kipchoge. It is the 3rd best world performance of all time. The women's record is a little older, dating back to 2003. It was set by the famous English runner Paula Radcliffe. It stands at 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds.

Berlin or London? You can choose between two European capitals, or perhaps you might even like to run both of them. Be aware, however, that these are very popular marathons and that you may have to go through a draw unless you already have a very good marathon time to your name, which will make registration easier.

Heading for Northern Europe? Choose Rotterdam or Amsterdam.

If you're more interested in Northern Europe, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see two marathons run in the Netherlands that are among the best places to set a personal best or achieve a great performance. The country's geography lends itself particularly well to these two major Dutch cities, located close to the sea in flat, featureless regions: Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The difference in altitude in the Rotterdam marathon, for example, does not exceed 100 m over the entire course.

The Rotterdam Marathon

The course follows the shape of a double loop. The start is at the foot of the Erasmus Bridge, which you cross before completing a long loop that takes you past the stadium of the local football team, Feyenoord. After passing the half-marathon, you will return a second time towards the Erasmus bridge, which you will cross again, but this time in the opposite direction. For the last 15 kilometres, you'll run another, smaller loop before reaching the finish in the centre of Rotterdam. Three world records have been set on this marathon in the past. The record for the event is 2 hours 3 minutes and 36 seconds for men and 2 hours 18 minutes and 58 seconds for women.

The Amsterdam Marathon

One of the special features of the Amsterdam marathon is that it finishes in the city's Olympic stadium, which hosted the Olympic Games in 1928. You can feel like an Olympian entering an Olympic stadium before reaching the finish line of the marathon. The route follows the River Amstel to the south of the city for almost 12 kilometres. From the 13th to the 25th kilometre, you will follow the river before returning to the city. Towards the very end of the marathon route, you pass through one of Amsterdam's most famous parks, Vondelpark, before reaching the Olympic stadium. The route is very smooth. The only slight difficulty, if you can call it one, is the crossing of the large bridge over the Amstel, but this time in the centre of the city at around the 36th kilometre. The race record for the men is 2 hours 3 minutes and 39 seconds and for the women 2 hours 17 minutes and 19 seconds.

Do you prefer the south and Spain? Choose Valencia or Seville.

If it's the south that appeals to you, we suggest you head for Spain and even the south of Spain to run the Valencia or Seville marathons.

The Valencia Marathon

The Valencia Marathon takes place in December and the temperature at this time of year in Valencia is around 15 degrees (between 12 and 17 degrees), ideal for running a marathon. As well as the temperature, the course is also perfect for a performance, with the bonus of a section of the course running alongside the Mediterranean. The record for the men's race is 2 hours 1 minute and 48 seconds. It was set in 2023 and is currently the 4th best world performance of all time. The women's record is 2 hours 14 minutes and 58 seconds, the 5th best in the world.

The Seville Marathon

The Seville Marathon is run in February, which normally means mild conditions for a winter month, with temperatures of around 15 degrees. This marathon is ideal for a performance because, in addition to the mild temperatures, it is also one of the flattest courses in Europe, with less than 50 metres of ascent. The record for this marathon was set in 2024 for the men, with a time of 2 hours 3 minutes and 27 seconds. The women's record is 2 hours 18 minutes and 51 seconds, set in 2022.

To sum up, if you want to achieve one of your best marathon performances and take advantage of the opportunity to travel around Europe, you're spoilt for choice with these 6 possible destinations: Berlin or London to visit a major European capital, Amsterdam or Rotterdam to visit the Netherlands and finally Valencia or Seville to discover southern Spain.

Good luck and may the force be with you for a speedy marathon on race-day!

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