The day after arriving in Rome, I woke at 7:45 a.m. to take a taxi to the Baths of Caracalla and run the Roma Urbs Mundi 10K. Although I was the only foreigner to run, tourists and Romans cheered as I passed the coliseum.
I looked up at the cobblestone sidewalk for a few moments and saw that I was near “the typewriter”, the monument erected in honor of Victor Emmanuel II. He was the first king of unified Italy. As we approached one of the seven hills of Rome, I was greeted by another woman. She looked at me and said, “This is going to be difficult.”
After crossing the finish line, we returned to the stadium steps for a rest. The young boy who was running with me saw that I didn’t have any water and offered me a cold glass of frizzante. It was unexpected and it gave me a feeling of accomplishment.
Although the event was only one morning of my weeklong vacation it allowed me to see Rome in a way that most tourists don’t. Even though I don’t speak Italian, running in a local race made me feel like a resident. It was as simple as getting up at 5 am and putting on my shoes.
The idea is shared by many other runners and travelers around the globe. Over 87,000 people applied for the New York City Marathon last year. Visit Websites such as www.active.com, www.RunnersWorld.com, and www.RunThePlanet.com, and you’ll find links to races held in almost every nook and cranny of the world, even Antarctica.
Running is becoming more popular and tourists are increasingly running to travel. Below is a list of five races on five continents, rated according to difficulty. One of these races will give you a glimpse into local life at your destination.
Harbour Day Run (3.1 miles; 5K), Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong hosted its first Harbour Day celebration last year to celebrate Victoria Harbor. It is one of the most visited and busiest ports in the world. The races will be held at the Oriental Golf City driving range and golf course. 300 to 400 runners are expected. Oriental Golf City is located on the Kowloon Peninsula, where once was the Kai Tak airport runway.
The course overlooks rugged mountains, harbor waters, and Hong Kong Island’s impressive skyline. The course is flat and easy. November is also when pollution levels, temperatures, and hotel rates decrease, and plant life such as the Hong Kong orchid tree, which appears on the flag and coins of Hong Kong, blooms.
The race will feature music at the start and finish to motivate runners. Registrants will also receive T-shirts, food, and other giveaways. There will also be events for rowing, windsurfing golfing, and sailing. Visit www.harbourday.hk for more information.
Adidas Run for the Parks (6.4 miles), New York City the USA
This race is very popular with families and you will fit right in with the city of pedestrians, even if you don’t walk. The race is held in April when temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees F (15-21 degrees C). Participants will be taken through Manhattan’s Central Park.
It begins at Bethesda Terrace where the Angel of the Waters fountain overlooks Central Park’s lake. It continues past John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian wing, and down Cat Hill. (Try looking for the predator cat sculpture while you are down there) and finally back to the Bethesda Terrace.
The New York Road Runner’s Club organizes the race in partnership with Niketown, the City Parks Foundation, and gives runners lots of goodies after the race. Enjoy music, free water, bagels, and bananas, as well as T-shirts and free Tshirts.
The race finishes just a few blocks from the Tavern on the Green, as well as many other famous restaurants around Columbus Circle.
Roma Urbs Mundi (6.2 miles; 10K), Rome, Italy
The race will take place on October 15. It is a wonderful time to visit Italy. It is pleasant and mild with temperatures reaching 60 degrees (15C) and the autumn colors covering central Italy’s mountains, farms, and seaside towns. The best part is that the tourist high season closes in October. This means that tourists don’t have the same competition for hotel space and wait in long lines at tourist attractions as in summer.
The event starts at the Baths of Caracalla Stadium, where 3rd-century Romans used to socialize, relax, and then move around the Imperial Forum, Michelangelo’s Campidoglio, and the Coliseum, where Antipope Constantine II was held in prison in the 700s.
Although the first half of this race is relatively flat, the second half is mostly hilly. After the race, participants receive water and food like croissants and yogurt. You can also do what the Romans did and drink directly from the city’s public taps. For more information, visit www.romaurbsmundi.it. Photos: www.romaurbsmundi.it.
Corrida de Sao Silvestre(9.3 miles; 15K), Sao Paulo, Brazil
Brazil’s festive season is a party place for runners. Race against 15,000 enthusiastic, fun-loving runners in Sao Paulo on New Year’s Eve. This highly prestigious race attracts elite runners from all over the world, including those from Kenya, Korea, Serbia, Montenegro, and Serbia. However, every day Brazilians and runners come from other countries to enjoy the festivities.
Race is considered one of the most important athletic events in Latin America. It takes place every year on Saint Silvestre’s Day. This day is named after a saint who was pope between 314 and 335. After Casper Libero, a Brazilian media mogul, organized the race to promote his sports newspaper, the first race was held in 1924.
Many continue to run in sequined costumes, colorful capes, superhero caps, bells, and any other attire they can imagine. Crowds cheer athletes on with hoots and hollers as well as fireworks. Despite the positive mood, it is not easy.
Summer heat and humidity can make it very hot and humid. There are also hills. If you are up to the challenge, however, you will find yourself immersed in a true Brazilian affair. For more information, visit www.saosilvestre.com. Photos: www.saosilvestre.com.br/2005/galeria.
Grape Run/Half Marathon (13.1 mi; 21 km), Cape Town South Africa
Normaly, only the Grape Run’s owners make their way along the roads. The Varsity Old Boys Running Club, Constantia Valley’s Wineries, and the Varsity Old Boys Running Club welcome runners to their estates, which are known for their beautiful scenery, complex slave histories, and world-famous wineries.
These sites include Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia as well as Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig properties, and Constantia Uitsig’s properties. However, the race is difficult. To see the sun rise above the sienna-colored dirt roads, and the jagged green hills winding through the valley’s farmsland, runners must cross the finish line at 6:30 a.m.
It is long and hilly. After 13 miles, it can heat up. However, the temperature is usually no higher than 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Over 1,000 participants of all ages took part last year. All registrants were given free wine glasses. Visit www.vob.co.za for more information. Photos: www.runnersworld.co.za.