Running can take you to places you've never dreamed possible. Literally. Here are six destination races worth traveling for.
Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon (56k), Half & 5k
Cape Town, South Africa | April 3, 2010 | twooceansmarathon.org.za
RUN: An institution since 1970, Two Oceans is an ultra marathon under the assumption you can't get enough of Cape Town, a city that's been named one of the most beautiful on earth. The race begins in lush Newlands against the backdrop of the sandstone bulk of Table Mountain, then loops through coastal villages and across Chapman's Peak Drive before it finishes at the University of Cape Town.
The half marathon starts and ends in the same place, but doesn't make it all the way out to the seaside. A relatively flat course for the first six miles, be prepared for some rolling hills during the second half.
EAT: Designated "the best city in the world to eat out" by Frommer's Travel Guide, Cape Town cuisine combines local ingredients with elements of Portuguese, Dutch, French, German, English, Indian and Malaysian influences that make up the city's multicultural past. For authentic South African fusion, head to Salt (ambassador.co.za), which serves dishes like slow roasted pork belly with braised Spanish black beans and apple compote. Ask for a window seat for the best ocean views in town.
SLEEP: For easy access to the race start, sights, top restaurants and beaches, stay in the area known as the City Bowl, which includes the city center and the residential suburbs on the slopes of Table Mountain.
We love the idea of renting an apartment with your favorite training partners instead of a hotel. C?t?-Sud Apartments (cotesud.co.za) has tasteful two-bedrooms on popular Kloof Street, the city's best dining zone. If you want an apartment in one of the city's hippest urban suburbs, try Village & Life (villageandlife.com) in Camps Bay.
PLAY: Treat yourself to a post-race reward in the Winelands, an hour outside the city, where you can stay amid some of the best preserved examples of Cape Dutch architecture and sample award-winning wines. Try the idyllic Dieu Donn? Guest Farm (dieudonne.co.za), situated on a vineyard, just four minutes from Franschhoek village. For general info, visit tourismcapetown.co.za.
Rome, Italy | March 21, 2010 | maratonadiroma.it
RUN: Starting and finishing in the shadow of the ancient Colosseum, the Rome Marathon boasts a fast, flat course with rich sightseeing opportunities. From Vatican City to Bernini's Fountain in Piazza Navona, the race winds its way through the historic streets of the Eternal City, following the serpentine Tiber River.
Thanks to ideal weather conditions, with average temperatures of 60 degrees F, Rome has been dubbed Europe's best spring marathon.
EAT: There's no such thing as bad food in Rome. But there is overpriced food. So when in Rome, do as the Romans do and head to a neighborhood trattoria. Dozens of these little restaurants exist, such as Vecchia Roma, known for their frutti de mare (seafood). The pastas and risottos are savory, including linguine alla marinara with calamari and risotto with red cabbage and the seafood of the day.
SLEEP: Stay in trendy Trastevere, in the southwest corner of town across the Tiber. You'll find more charm in one narrow alley than in Rome's more touristy areas. Best of all, the area hasn't burgeoned into a major hotel district, so rooms are reasonably priced.