Three Countries, One Race – The Former Monaco Marathon
With so many marathons organised each year and each one vying for participation from the world’s best long-distance runners, they all need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Some, like London and New York, lean on their history and prestige; others, like the Great Wall Marathon in China, present a unique challenge; while some, like Ireland’s Dingle Marathon, serve up spectacular views to their runners.
While each one has its own attributes that set it apart from the rest, the reality is that most major countries have marathons that fall into each of these categories. So runners looking for a new and unique challenge or a race that they can brag about to their friends need to find something a little different.
Until recently, the tiny principality of Monaco had stepped up to the plate to create an epic race that was on every runner’s bucket list. Sadly, it’s been shrunk down in more recent years but is still a unique and fun event to take part in.
Monaco’s Other Race
Of course, Monaco is most famous for its other race, the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. This annual car race has been held on the streets of Monte Carlo since 1929 and attracts many of the world’s rich and famous every year.
However, the tiny microstate on the Meditterenan Sea is not a one-trick pony as it hosts a programme of different sporting events each year including the Monte-Carlo Masters, a prestigious event on the ATP Tour Masters 1000 series that attracts many of the best tennis players from around the world.
Another big event is the annual EPT Monte Carlo, one of the most popular stops on the European Poker Tour. This tournament, which is held at the historic Monte-Carlo Casino, takes place each spring and usually features around 50 events on its jam-packed schedule. In 2023, it ran from 26th April to 6th May and saw the joint-biggest field sign-up for its main event.
The Monaco Run
Among these other sporting events is the Monaco Run, a selection of running races ranging from 5km up to 12km. Originally, the race was known as the Monaco Marathon because it covered a full distance but it has been shortened several times over the last 12 years due to a range of factors.
Even a 5km race around Monaco may seem a little odd given that the entire country measures just 1.98km², but this is part of what makes it so unique.
The Original Monaco Marathon
The original Monaco Marathon saw runners race from the principality into neighbouring France, across to Italy, and then back, giving the participants the chance to say they raced in three countries in a single day.
Sadly, due to local road restrictions in France, the event was shortened to a half-marathon in 2011 but further restrictions introduced in 2018 meant runners had to stay inside Monaco. Naturally, this required a name change, so the organisers dropped the word ‘Marathon’ and replaced it with ‘Run’.
The majority of the current routes start near the area used for the Formula 1 pit garages and see runners race along the waterfront up to the border with France, before turning around and heading back along the same route.
The original Monaco Marathon had runners continue on, racing through Cape Martin and Menton in France and into Italy at Ponte San Ludovico. As running routes go, this was a spectacular prospect as it offered beautiful and varied scenery as the architecture shifted in style and the language hopped back and forth, all set to the backdrop of the blue water of the Mediterranean Sea.
Sadly, there is no longer an official race that allows runners to follow this path. That said, thanks to the freedom of movement offered by the European Union’s Schengen Area, you can still cross the two borders in both directions and run the full distance yourself, enjoying the same scenery in the process.