GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL: RUNNING LOCATIONS
The morning after I landed in Rome, I got in a cab and headed to the stadium at the Baths of Caracalla to compete in the Roma Urbs Mundi 10K event. Tourists and Romans alike shouted for me as I ran through the coliseum, where I was likely the only non-native runner in sight.
After walking for a few minutes on the crooked cobblestones, I looked up and saw “the typewriter,” the memorial to Victor Emanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. As the day drew to a close and we began to climb one of Rome’s seven hills, another woman and I locked eyes and silently communicated, “this is going to be hard.”
I finished the race, and then went back to the stadium stairs for a break. After noticing that I wasn’t carrying any liquids, the little son of a runner shyly offered me his cold bottle of frizzante. The unexpected act of kindness made me feel valued and successful.
It only took one morning out of my weeklong vacation, but I got to see parts of Rome that tourists seldom see. Even though I don’t understand Italian, participating in a race put on by locals made me feel like a native. All I had to do was get up and put on my shoes.
The same may be said of other tourists and runners from all around the world. There are links to events hosted in practically every corner of the planet, including Antarctica; last year, more than 87,000 people from around the world applied to the New York City Marathon alone.
There has been an uptick in the number of travelers who take up running as a means to explore the world. Listed below are five races from five different continents, ordered by increasing difficulty. By using one, you can experience your trip as if you were a native for a while.
Harbour Day Run (3.1 miles; 5K), Hong Kong, China
Victoria Harbor is one of the busiest and most admired ports in the world, therefore last year Hong Kong held its first Harbour Day festival to honor it. Three hundred to four hundred runners are anticipated to participate in the races this November at the Oriental Golf City driving range and golf course. Previously used as the runway for Kai Tak Airport, Oriental Golf City can be found on the Kowloon Peninsula.
Views from the course include the rocky mountains, the bay, and the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island. The Hong Kong orchid tree, featured on Hong Kong’s flag and coinage, is only one example of the beautiful flora that blooms in November, when the weather is mild and hotel prices are at their lowest.
Runners will be pumped up with music played before and after the races, and those who sign up will receive free swag including T-shirts and meals. The festival also has competitions in golf, rugby, rowing, windsurfing, and sailing.
Adidas Run for the Parks (4 miles; 6.4 k), New York City, USA.
This is a family-friendly race, and if you want to walk it, you’ll blend right in with the city’s many other pedestrians. The event is held in April, when Central Park in Manhattan is a lovely 60–70 degrees Fahrenheit (15–21 degrees Celsius).
Beginning at Bethesda Terrace, where the iconic Angel of the Waters fountain looks out over Central Park’s lake, the route passes by John Lennon’s much-loved Strawberry Fields, the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Cat Hill (where you can try to spot the predator cat sculpture).
The New York Road Runners Club, in conjunction with Niketown and the City Parks Foundation, hosts this annual race and provides runners with a plethora of post-race swag. There will be a DJ and free food and drinks like water, bagels, bananas, and apples.
Don’t overdo it on the bagel before the marathon, as there are many of excellent eateries within walking distance of the finish line in and around Columbus Circle.
Roma Urbs Mundi (6.2 miles; 10K), Rome, Italy
The marathon will be held on October 15 this year, which is an excellent opportunity to visit Italy. The mountains, countryside, and seaside villages of central Italy are blanketed in a vibrant display of autumnal hues, while the temperature rarely rises over 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). In addition, the summer tourist high season is winding down in October, so visitors won’t have to fight for hotel rooms or stand in long queues at popular attractions like they would during the summer months.
The celebration kicks off at the Baths of Caracalla stadium, a popular gathering place for Romans in the third century, and continues along the perimeter of the Imperial Forum, Campidoglio (designed by Michelangelo), the Colosseum, and the San Saba Church (where Antipope Constantine II was held prisoner in the eighth century).
The first part of the race takes place on relatively flat ground, but the second half features a lot of hills, so be prepared. Participants are provided with water and snacks like croissants and yogurt after the race. You can also do what the Romans do and gulp water straight from the city’s public spigots.
Corrida de São Silvestre(9.3 miles; 15K), São Paulo, Brazil
In Brazil, even runners know how to have a good time. Compete in the New Year’s Day race in Sao Paulo among 15,000 other enthusiastic runners. Many regular Brazilians and runners from other nations line up to celebrate the event, which attracts professional athletes from as far away as Kenya, Korea, and Serbia and Montenegro.
Every year on Saint Silvestre’s Day, a day honoring the saint who served as pope between the years 314 and 335, there is a race that is widely regarded as one of the most important sports competitions in all of Latin America. In 1924, Brazilian media magnate Cásper Lbero hosted the inaugural race to publicize the launch of his sports newspaper.
Many participants still carry on the custom by racing while adorned with bells, capes, horns, and other accoutrements. Meanwhile, spectators show their support for the competitors with cheers, chants, and even pyrotechnics. The course is challenging despite the relaxed atmosphere.
Summers may be very hot and muggy, and the terrain is hilly. However, if you’re up to the challenge, you’ll have a real Brazilian love affair on your hands
Grape Run/Half Marathon (13.1 miles; 21 k), Cape Town, South Africa
The roads that make up Cape Town’s Grape Run are normally only traveled by vineyard owners. However, at the end of October, the Constantia Valley’s vineyards and the Varsity Old Boys Running Club open their gates to runners to enjoy the estates’ picturesque scenery, centuries-old Dutch heritage, tangled slave histories, and, of course, world-famous wines.
Beautiful as the properties in Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, and Constantia Uitsig are, the race is not without its challenges. For instance, early morning runners who make it across the starting line get to see the sun rising over the valley’s agriculture, which is framed by sienna-colored dirt roads and spiky green hills.
The race is long (13 miles), steep, and potentially hot (70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius) after that distance. About a thousand athletes of varying ages competed last year, and everyone who registered were given free wine glasses.