Taking in Europe's marvelous sights at a run
Admiring architecture, sampling street foods and watching street artists perform are just a few of the many activities that naturally combine with taking in the sights of a new town. Those who look at running not as just a fleeting fancy but rather a way of life have at their disposal another means of conquering new horizons. Let’s lace up our running shoes and tour some very special corners of Europe by means of fast feet.
Epic waterfrontsDiscover Hamburg, Germany’s largest port city, by means of a route running alongside the Elbe River, one of Central Europe’s major waterways. A run along the 11-mile stretch between the Elbphilharmonie/Baumwall U-bahn stop in Hamburg and the western suburb of Wedel provides a glimpse of the constant comings and goings of vast container ships. The tour passes by the famous St. Pauli Fish Market and through the upscale Altona neighborhood. The view from the park high upon a bluff, known as the balcony, reveals cranes, gas tanks and endless stacks of shipping containers. From there, the scenery gives way to elegant old sea-captains’ homes, a harbor filled with historical sailing vessels, and the Blankenese neighborhood, an area of winding alleys and hidden staircases. If your timing’s right, you might be able to return to the city aboard the Liinsand catamaran; otherwise the S1 commuter train will whisk you back to the city center in no time.
The Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, is a four-mile stretch of coast lapped by the crystal waters of the Côte d'Azur. Along the palm-studded, multi-purpose trail, runners are treated to views of pebbly beaches and yacht-filled harbors. As the space is shared with skateboarders, Segway-riders and pedestrians in no particular hurry, tackling the route early can be the wise strategy. Waves kissed pink by the rising sun are the early-bird’s reward. From the city center, runners can board tram line number 2 out to the airport terminal and run back along the promenade. Exertions can be concluded with a restorative smoothie from a shop in Nice’s ochre-façaded Old Town.
Runs through timeThe ancient Appian Way, whose construction began in 312 B.C., once linked up Rome with Brindisi, an important port city on southeast Italy’s Adriatic Sea. A 16-mile circular route proposed in Runner’s World magazine removes runners far from the snarl of traffic and toxic fumes that can mar a jog through the Eternal City. The run commences in front of the Appian Way Park Authority info point, just steps away from the Domine Quo Vadis church. Fittingly, the church’s marble stone footprints represent a pagan votive request for a successful journey. The route passes the catacombs of San Callisto, which hold the remains of 16 popes, and those of San Sebastiano, named for a Roman martyr, as well as the remains of a stadium in which chariot races were once staged. Another highlight is the tomb of Cecilia Metella, a rotunda festooned with bulls’ heads. As basalt stones scarred by centuries of carriage traffic don’t offer the safest of footing, the dirt paths flanking the route make for a safer option. The Archeobus, departing hourly from the Termini main railway station, offers convenient access the area and makes several stops within the park itself. Online: tinyurl.com/pc4fvjy4
You’ll be training your eyes to the lofty heights with a run along the left-hand bank of the UNESCO-listed Upper Middle Rhine Valley, an area so littered with castles and romantic ruins it inspired countless artists and poets. By starting a run at the confluence of the Rhine and the Nahe river by Bingen and heading north for some 10 miles along the Rheinradweg cycling path, you’ll view such iconic landmarks as the Niederwald Monument commemorating the formation of the German Empire; the Mouse Tower, prettily perched on an island; Burg Rheinstein, a 13th-century toll castle; and the Stahlberg, a castle-turned-hostel. From Bacharach, board a regional train for a quick ride back to your starting point.
Guided runsGuided running tours taking advantage of knowledgeable and fit local guides are widely available throughout Europe. Go Running Tours is just one such company specializing in this type of outing. The company’s six-mile “In Fair Verona” tour harks to the opening lines of a Shakespeare play and develops the theme by passing Romeo’s house and Juliet’s famous balcony. Other sights encompassing 2,000 years of history include a perfectly-preserved amphitheater, gothic monuments, hills planted with olive and cypress trees and the mighty Adige River. A private tour costs between 66 and 33 euros per person, depending on the number of participants. Online: gorunningtours.com/run/in-fair-verona-10k
Trace trail routes any timeWhile it can be problematic to follow the course of a city marathon without the road closures put in place on race day itself, trail runners might find the routes of some of their famous challenges accessible throughout the warm months of the year. The Swissalpine series of running events held high in the Grison Alps region surrounding Davos, Switzerland, is a case in point. Each year since 1986, hundreds of amateur and elite athletes alike have taken part in races ranging from an “easy” 6-mile trail to a grueling 42-mile run with an 8550-foot change in elevation. Should Coronavirus regulations allow the races to go forward in 2021, they will take place July 23-25. But even in the event of cancellation of the official races, detailed route information for each route can be downloaded from the event website and solitary runs undertaken accordingly. Online: swissalpine.ch/en
A virtual race staged round the worldThe Wings for Life is an annual road race staged in several countries around the world at the same exact time. Organized by a charity foundation supporting the treatment and cure of spinal cord injuries, the format of the race is such that participants pit themselves against a “catcher car” moving at an ever-increasing speed. Once this vehicle has overtaken them, their race is over. Slower participants might cover just three miles or so, while the speediest of runners won’t be caught until they’ve covered close to 40 miles. As so many other races have done over the past year, this race too is going virtual. The race gets underway at 11 a.m. UTC time on May 9 — and the course is wherever you decide to make it. Downloading the app enabling participation costs 20 euros, the entirety of which funds spinal cord research. Online: wingsforlifeworldrun.com/en