European winter marathons for hard-as-nails runners

Thinking of doing something crazy?

The marathon season never ends (there’s no rest for the wicked). Europe’s packed winter running calendar has something for everyone. Go subzero this winter and choose your challenge from these top winter marathons…

Neujahrsmarathon Zürich, Switzerland

Many revellers spend New Year’s day nursing a hazy hangover, but for a select few there’s the small matter of this 42-kilometre race. Kicking off at midnight on the 31st December to an epic firework display, runners will set off with a bang, before completing four 10.5 kilometre loops along the Limmat River.

Remember a head torch for this one as it’s literally in the middle of the night.

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Mispo Winter Marathon, Estonia

Located in a little-visited corner of Eastern Europe, the Mispo Winter Marathon in Vändra really is off the beaten path.

Vändra is an untouched gem (the marathon is its main source of tourism). Take some time to absorb the snow-covered forests of the Estonian countryside and enjoy some traditional Christmas food (after the marathon, of course).  

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La Rochelle Marathon, France

La Rochelle is a city in western France and seaport on the Bay of Biscay. It’s culturally rich and holds over 1000 years of history in its streets.

Marathon runners can expect chilly weather this time of year. The course is flat, albeit on cobblestone roads, looping through the historic districts of the city and skirting the edge of the bay.

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Grizedale Forest Montane Trail, England

Heading up to the North of England, the breath-taking Grizedale Forest is home to the Montane Trail 26. The rugged route reveals some impressive views of the surrounding Lake District. Terrain varies with some road sections, but it’s certainly not flat.

The event is popular every year, and spaces fill up quickly.

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Košice Peace Marathon, Slovakia

Košice, Eastern Slovakia, hosts the oldest marathon in Europe and second oldest in the world.

Runners can expect to complete the marathon on a full asphalt surface with minimal incline.

The full course consists of 2 laps of the inner-city route. Taking place on the first Sunday in October each year, the Košice peace marathon is also unique in strictly maintaining the prescribed distance of 42.195 km.

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Der Frauenfelder, Switzerland

Another Swiss marathon, now. This time playing host to a military race. Service members from across Europe show up to complete the hilly course in full uniform. Civilians are also welcome to run the marathon and will start after the military members.

Runner should expect plenty of hilly terrain on paved ground. The Frauenfeld Marathon takes place on the original course of the Frauenfeld Military Tournament, and participants can look forward to plenty of enthusiastic bystanders to cheer them on.

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Frozen Phoenix, England

A course located on the banks of the Thames, the Frozen Phoenix welcomes runners of all abilities to challenge themselves into lap racing.

The timed event allows you to choose from 5km to ultra marathon, you can complete as many laps as you like within a 6-hour time limit. A good choice for first-time winter marathon runners as you can choose how long you want to run for on the day.

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