Among the various sports represented at the Olympics, athletics has always been considered the queen discipline, both the history that has its roots in ancient Greece and because it tests basic athletic skills (running, endurance, jumping, and so on). And yet within athletics, a place of honor belongs to the marathon, the most demanding of all the tests. It is also for this reason that today we want to talk to you about the main marathons in Italy.
In fact, in our country, there is a beautiful and important tradition as regards running, which has often involved great athletes and willing amateurs. In fact, in this discipline we have collected various Olympic medals, starting with Dorando Pietri, who won in 1908 even if he was later disqualified, up to Gelindo Bordin and Stefano Baldini.
In addition, our country offers fantastic landscapes, which are a pleasure to walk, even if with difficulty. This is why our marathons often see a large influx of foreign athletes, who want to come and compete on the streets of our extraordinary cities.
On the other hand, the phenomenon of running is growing everywhere. In fact, the global figures speak of an increasing interest in marathons all over the world. In the United States, for example, the number of people who finished a marathon has grown from 25,000 in 1976 to 507,000 in 2016. And in Europe the trend is similar.
But what are the five most important Italian marathons? We have prepared a list that takes into account the history and tradition of the main events in our country, but also their international fame. So here are the five races that you should keep an eye on if you want to dedicate yourself to the marathon.
1. Rome Marathon
Let’s start with what is undoubtedly the most famous and important marathon in Italy, that of Rome. This race, which takes place in April, is considered one of the most prestigious in the world and is often included among those recommended for both professional and amateur runners.
On the other hand, the mild climate of central Italy and the historical beauties of Rome are not just an attraction for those who practice the marathon for pure pleasure. It is no coincidence that this race is, among other things, very old.
Already at the beginning of the 20th century, it was run, and in 1906 it was even won by Dorando Pietri, the marathon runner we have already mentioned at the beginning, author in London, two years later, of a legendary (albeit unfortunate) feat.
A marathon with an international flavor
In 1995 the event was however reorganized and assumed its current shape and appearance. Since then, the number of participants has grown steadily from year to year. Last year, 16,000 runners took part, about three-quarters of the male.
The most interesting data, however, concerned the origin of the athletes. 45% – that is almost 7,300 – were in fact from abroad and 131 different nationalities were represented.
In short, the Rome marathon has a strong international dimension that will probably be respected also in the next editions. And even the winners, in recent years, have all been foreigners, in particular Ethiopians or Kenyans.
The last male winners not from these two countries were two Italians, Ruggero Pertile in 2004 and Alberico Di Cecco in 2005. On the women’s side, the last Italian winner was Ornella Ferrara, also in 2004, while the last non-African to triumph was the Russian Galina Bogomolova in 2008.
Finally, two words about the journey. The Rome marathon has a regulation length of 42 kilometers and 195 meters. It starts from via dei Fori Imperiali, passes in front of the Vittoriano, and then goes down to the Mouth of Truth.
Then go up along Viale Aventino, skirt the Testaccio district and then the Tiber, crossing Ponte Cavour. You then come to skirt Castel Sant’Angelo and pass in front of San Pietro. After a long stretch that also crosses the Tangenziale Est and the Mosque, you return to the historic center around kilometer 27.
From there on you pass through all the most famous and important areas of Rome. Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, via del Corso, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, the Circus Maximus are all flanked by the mass of runners.
Finally, a quick trip to the Basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura, a path along via Ostiense, and then the passage next to the Colosseum before reaching the Forums again for the grand finale.
2. Venice Marathon
Let’s now move on to a marathon that takes place in October, in the fall. This is the Venice race, for some years also called Venicemarathon, in English, with the special sponsorship of Huawei, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer.
Also in this case the length is regulation, of 42.195 kilometers. In fact, we start from Stra, near Padua, pass various towns of the Riviera del Brenta (Fiesso d’Artico, Dolo, Mira), and then arrive in Mestre. From there you cross the Ponte della Libertà and arrive in Venice.
There you take a nice ride along the canals, up to the Grand Canal, finally arriving in Riva dei Sette Martiri. Obviously, the setting is memorable and is much appreciated by runners from all over the world: it is not every day that you can run between the Venetian bridges!
Perhaps also, for this reason, the Venetian marathon was the first to be recognized, in Italy, by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races and to be included in the IAAF calendar.
Racing and solidarity
The first edition of the event was in 1986, so it is now more than thirty years that this marathon has conquered the public runners. It is no coincidence that, after initial Italian domination, starting from the end of the 90s, African athletes also emerged here.
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Since 2009, for both males and females, the first place has always been grabbed by an Ethiopian or Kenyan athlete. The only exception to what now seems to be a rule came in 2017, when the Venetian marathon was won by Eyob Faniel, Eritrean by birth but now an Italian citizen.
Finally, it should be noted that the Venicemarathon supports a series of charitable activities through the so-called Gift Network, which supports various projects in Africa. One of the most interesting in recent years has been the “Run for water, run for life” campaign, which aims to build wells in Uganda.
3. Florence Marathon
The international dimension of the Tuscan marathon
Also in autumn, and to be precise at the end of November, the Florence Marathon is also run, which has been held continuously since 1984. This too has a certain international reputation, which is also based on the beauty of the city that hosts it.
The route, in fact, starts and ends in Piazza Duomo, passing through all the symbolic places of the city. And then, here is Piazza Della Signoria, the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Santa Croce, Piazza Pitti, and so on. The route is all asphalted and regulated, of 42 kilometers and 195 meters.
All this has allowed, over the years, the Firenze Marathon to acquire a great international reputation, so much so that today it is among the 20 with the largest number of participants in the world. Obviously, it is AIMS certified and recognized by the IAAF.
Here, too, in recent years it has been mainly Africans who have dominated. The last time the Italian flag distinguished the winner of the Florentine marathon was in 2008 when our Giovanna Volpato finished at the top of the women’s category. For the boys, however, the last Italian success dates back to 2003 with Angelo Carosi.
4. Padua Marathon
Up to Prato della Valle
Until recently it was known as the Maratona di Sant’Antonio, but since 2016 it has taken on a more international name. This is the Padua Marathon, the second Venetian marathon of our five, but as famous and followed internationally as the Venetian one.
However, the Paduan event takes place in spring, in April, and sees a route that crosses not only the city of Padua but also some neighboring municipalities. In the past, the start was for a long time located in Vedelago, in the province of Treviso. Then it was moved to Campodarsego.
More recently, both the start and the finish line have been positioned in Padua, to be precise at the Euganeo Stadium and in Prato Della Valle, the famous and gigantic square of the city. Along the way, however, we also move to Rubano, Selvazzano Dentro, Teolo and Abano Terme.
Although here too Ethiopians and Kenyans have collected important victories, the Italians have defended themselves with honor in recent years. For example, in 2016 the race was won, both for men and women, by two of our athletes, Ruggero Pertile and Federica Dal Rì. In 2017, the Italian-Moroccan Fatna Maraoui dominated the women.
5. Tuscany Crossing
The ultramarathon of the Val d’Orcia
We conclude with what is not a real marathon in the traditional sense of the term, but which at the same time is one of the most popular Italian races abroad: the Tuscany Crossing. This race is in fact an ultramarathon  of 103 kilometers which is run every year in April in Val d’Orcia.
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Also, in this case, the strong point of the event is the landscape. In fact, in Val d’Orcia there are some of the most beautiful Tuscan hills and various places that are part of the Unesco world heritage. Hence the idea of allowing athletes from all over the world to cross these places and at the same time test themselves in a very demanding race.
The route designed by the organizers passes through woods, vineyards, and the Orcia river itself, climbing up to Pienza, the famous ideal city of the Renaissance, designed by Pope Pius II. Then you pass through San Quirico d’Orcia, Campiglia d’Orcia up to the Rocca d’Orcia.
In fact, in addition to the complete 103-kilometer route, you can also sign up for two shortened versions of the ultramarathon: the 53-kilometer one and the more affordable 15-kilometer one.
So far the longest version has always been won by Italians. In particular, the performances of Massimo Tagliaferri, winner three consecutive times among men, and Simona Morbelli, also three times before – but not consecutively – among women, should be noted.
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