One such find is the Hotel Trastevere (hoteltrastevere.net), with rooms facing the lively Piazza San Cosimato. If you want to stay closer to the race start, consider The Hotel Colosseum (hotelcolosseum.com), which is affordable despite its stunning location atop Esquilino Hill in the center of ancient Rome.
PLAY: To avoid the crowds, take in ancient Rome during the evening. The monuments glow bright white, surreal against the night sky. Strolling past the Colosseum, you're likely to encounter bridal parties having their wedding pictures done against this enchanted backdrop. Visit italiantourism.com for more info.
Beijing International Marathon, Half, 10k and Kids' Mini
Beijing, China | October 2010 | beijing-marathon.com
RUN: Starting at historic Tiananmen Square, the Beijing International Marathon follows some of the same course as the 2008 Olympic marathon, with ample views of the ancient city's opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates.
EAT: For local flavor, try the Grand Hyatt's Made in China (beijing.grand.hyatt.com). They've been doing the town's best version of Peking duck for years. Other notable menu items include zhajiang mian (wheat noodles with black bean mince) and foie gras with a sesame pancake.
For something a little less traditional, try The Courtyard, an eclectic restaurant owned by a Chinese-American lawyer. Enjoy the most comprehensive wine list this side of Hong Kong, along with dishes like cashewcrusted lamb chop, black cod with tomato marmalade, and grilled chicken breast in lemongrass and coconut curry.
SLEEP: With all the new hotels that have popped up due to the Olympics, The Peninsula Beijing (peninsula.com) remains one of the best. Sleek and modern, the oversized rooms sport marble bathtubs, 42-inch plasma TVs and free wireless internet. Its location in the city center puts you right near the race start, and off-season pricing makes it more reasonable for a five-star hotel.
If you're looking for the best bargain in the city center ($6 per night), and you don't mind a community bathroom or paying in cash, head to the Saga Youth Hostel (hostelworld.com).
PLAY: Stroll along the Great Wall at Mutianyu, located about 40 miles from downtown Beijing. The hike will take about two and a half hours. Tired from the run? Consider taking the cable car, chair lift or slideway (toboggan). For tours and bus information, visit tour-beijing.com/great_wall/mutianyu.php.
Glitnir Reykjavik Marathon & Half
Reykjavik, Iceland | Aug. 22, 2010 | marathon.is
RUN: The northernmost capital in the world, Reykjavik is not as far as it seems--five and a half hours from New York City by plane. And the city boasts some of the cleanest air on earth, along with ideal 50-degree F race temperatures in August. The marathon starts and finishes in the picturesque city center and follows the pristine coastline of the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula.
EAT: Don't be surprised to come across unique menu options such as Hr?tspungar (ram testicles), Svi<eth> (half a sheep's head) and H?karl (raw, putrefied Greenlandic shark). Play it safe with vegetarian at ? N?stu Gr?sum, pleasantly perched above Laugavegur. All dishes and combo plates come with unlimited hummus, date chutney, and yeast- and sugar-free bread.
Or go for fusion-style food at the trendy Ap?tek, serving meals like seared scallops with warm asparagus salad, tomato comfit and nut emulsion; or pan-fried arctic char with cauliflower, chorizo and beet-root sauce.
SLEEP: For a memorable stay, book at the Icelandica Luxury Suites (icelandica.com), a stately "captain's mansion" set among delicate gardens, only a five-minute walk from the city center. Choose from one of six suites, most including kitchens and oversized bathrooms with Jacuzzis.
For a traditional experience, try the CenterHotel Kl?pp (centerhotels.com) in the middle of the city's action. Ask for a room on the fourth or fifth floor for views of Mt. Esja and to put yourself above the late-night revelry on the streets below.