3 Great European ‘Runcations’


Before we get started, I would like to thank Emily at the “Mama Runner Blog” for asking me to guest post on her blog. I read her blog and was blown away by how she is so honest with her running and her life! She discusses the good but she also highlights the challenges ranging from injuries to being a single mother. When someone opens themselves up like that, it creates a special opportunity for the reader to connect. After becoming a fan, I approached her and asked if there was any content that I could provide that would interest her readers, and she said “A lot of my readers and friends love to travel for races. We refer to them as ‘runcations’. I think it would be great to have a post about great races to travel to run in, particularly over in Europe.” What a great idea!

I’ve lived in Florence, Italy for about seven years now and I have run in Italy, England, Poland, Greece, France, the Netherlands, and Spain. It has been a truly blessed life! For this post I have chosen 3 races and will highlight the good and the not so good things about each.

The Pila Half Marathon.

Pila, Poland is a small town in the Northwest portion of Poland. I was working a lot in Poznan, Poland at the time and some work friends asked me to run in this with them. It was very well organized and quite a flat course. The turn out in regards to support was much greater than what I expected, with several thousand people in the crowd cheering. The one thing about Poland though, is that the weather can be very unpredictable. The race is in early September, and we experienced sun, rain, and sleet all within the 1 hour and 45 minutes it took to run! My suggestion would be to stay in Poznan and drive the hour to Pila because Poznan is a much larger city with a lot to do. The food in Poland is shockingly good! The specialty is roasted duck with baked apples stuffed with red cabbage. It was amazing! Then, obviously, for a post race indulgence there is the Polish vodka. It goes down very smooth, so be careful. Poznan was completely destroyed during World War II so there is plenty to see in regards to history as well.

Positives: Good food, good vodka, friendly people, a lot of history, English is not a problem, and the US Dollar goes a very long way!

Challenges: Weather is unpredictable, and road signs are in Polish only.

The Great Manchester Run.

Manchester, England is the second largest city in England and each year they hold a charity event in May to raise money for various organizations. Traditionally it has only been a 10k but they have added a half marathon as well. This event is extremely well run and has a shocking level of support. It is televised due to the elites that run in it, and tens of thousands of people are there cheering you on. It is the best atmosphere that I have ever run in. Every single kilometer had a band! In regards to weather, it is England, so cloudy with some rain is pretty normal, and temperatures are normally in the 50’s to 60’s, but can get cooler. English food leaves a lot to be desired and the best food is usually ethnic, such as Indian or Italian. There is a wonderful Chinese community in Manchester and there is some very good Chinese food in Chinatown. There are many local pubs with some very good English beers on tap for after the race. Due to the fact that Manchester is such a big city, there are plenty of options for hotels and if you stay downtown, almost everything is within walking distance.

Positives: GREAT atmosphere, GREAT beer, and a lot to do in the city center.

Challenges: It’s expensive and the dollar is weak to the pound making it more so, the weather can be bleh, and they drive on the other side of the road which can be confusing. (There are great rail systems though if you want to venture to London or some other city to explore.)

I saved the best for last, but I am definitely biased!

The Florence Marathon.

Florence, Italy is the home of the Renaissance and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Every last Sunday of November is the marathon. DuomoI have run this event twice and it is well organized and well supported. Normally there are several thousand people lined along the way cheering you as you pass some of the most breathtaking sites you will ever see. The course takes you past the Duomo, Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, and through a beautiful park called Cascine. The weather is normally 50 to 60 degrees and sunny. This course is sneaky hard so be aware, there are several small hills and the terrain goes from flat to cobblestone to dirt. Believe me, if you are not used to these slight terrain changes, you start to feel it about mile 20. After the race, you are in paradise! Stay downtown and enjoy because you can walk the entire city. You have history everywhere and the food! Oh my god, the food! I’ll list suggestions below. Obviously, you are also smack dab in the middle of wine country, so if that is your thing, you will be in heaven!

Positives: AMAZING course, weather is usually perfect, surrounded by history, the world’s best food and wine, and the entire city is accessible. In fact, with the high speed trains, you have easy access to Milan, Bologna, Rome, and Naples as well. Pisa is only a 40 minute train ride on the local train. English is not a problem.

Challenges: It can be expensive, about 25% more expensive than the USA in general. Believe me, you won’t care!


History: Duomo, Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria, San Mineato, Boboli Gardens, Palazzo Pitti, Uffizi, L’Academia (The REAL David)

Restaurants: Cinghiale Bianco, Torcicoda, Pizzaiolo, Natalino, Buca dell’Orafo

Gelato: Gelateria Neri, Gelateria Le Streghe

Sunset: Piazzale Michelangelo

I hope that you enjoyed this post and please come visit me over at joerandene.com there are a lot of tips on running, fitness, nutrition, and many inspiring stories.  Questions, e-mail me at joe.randene@joerandene.com

For behind the scenes photos and comments on my training and personal life, follow me on Instagram: joe_the_runner




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