Montreal is known for its rich European-inspired architecture, diverse cultural and urban landscapes and an eclectic food scene. All reasons why the city is the perfect weekend getaway, in particular for runners considering their race calendars for 2023.
With a race date in late September, the Marathon Beneva de Montreal is the perfect race for runners looking for a fall destination race, that can be a weekend or week-long vacation. Whether you’re traveling solo or bringing along your family and cheer squad, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy throughout race weekend and beyond. First held in 1979, the event features a range of distances including a 10K, 5K and kid-friendly 1-K on Saturday with the marathon and half-marathon distances on Sunday.
In the pre-dawn hours, marathon and half-marathoners make their way to the start line at Espace 67, located on Île Ste-Hélène, for an early morning start that includes a breathtaking view of the Montreal skyline. I’m grateful to be staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton, located in the heart of Quartier des Spectacles there are two subway stops close by making it easily accessible for runners and their cheering fans getting an start. Plus the hotel bistro, Bivouac features an extensive selection of craft beverages, and innovative meal offerings, perfect for post-race dining.
Hearing the conversations at the start line, its clear that for many runners, this is their first race after more than two years. The energy and excitement among the field is palpable. Between the views, the runners and spectators its a welcome energy boost everyone needs at the start of a race.
I’m running the half marathon and welcome the split that occurs as the course weaves through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal and back into Olympic Park. Overall, it is a challenging course. One that features its share of shifting inclines and cobblestone underfoot. It’s all reminiscent of the charm and character that’s synonymous with running in Paris and other European cities.
As I make my way along the course, I’m grateful that it also offers a city tour of some of the city’s most historic attractions including one of city’s most prestigious places, Place d’Armes and Notre-Dame Basilica.
The fall colours that are dotting the treeline in some of Montreal’s most prominent green spaces including Maisonneuve Park and the Botanical Garden offer views that make this event breathtakingly picturesque. And as the city awakens on a Sunday morning, it’s the crowds of runners and spectators that seem to be bringing the otherwise bustling Sainte-Catherine Street to life.
Rounding the bend into Olympic Park’s Esplanade, crowds of cheering spectators, line the path into the park. Making my way over the final incline, the stadium is a welcomed view and I take my energy from the group of local cheerleaders. Crossing the finish line, the cheering crowds of friends and family welcoming runners is electric as the celebration overflows beyond Olympic Park and onto the city streets. Race day is for celebrating and the post-race atmosphere through out neighbourhoods including Montreal’s Little Italy is just that-an ongoing celebratory spirit.
Anna Lee Boschetto is an iRun contributor and runner covering destination racing, fitness travel, food and nutrition.