Falling for Niagara: the International Marathon

by : Adam Singleton

For most people, Niagara Falls is known as a thunderous wonder of the world where millions of gallons of water cascade into the deep pool which sits on the border of Canada and the USA. The waterfall is one of the biggest natural attractions in the world, drawing approximately 20 million visitors every year, but for athletes, Niagara is much more than 168,000 square meters of water pouring over the face of the falls every minute.

Every year the town hosts the renowned Niagara Falls International Marathon. The 26 mile course begins by the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo N.Y, travelling along the majestic parkways of Buffalo and then crossing the Peace Bridge into the historic town of Fort Erie, Ontario. Runners then follow the route alongside the beautiful Niagara River Parkway before crossing the finish line at the Niagara Falls themselves.

The Niagara Falls International Marathon is unique in that it's the only marathon that starts in one country and finishes in another. The course is also fairly flat and therefore fast and has hosted two USA men's Olympic trials (in 1980 and 1984) and also the World Veteran's Games marathon in 1995.

Race supporters will find plenty to do aside from cheering; to get up close and personal with the falls themselves, take a boat trip on the Maid of the Mist which brings tourists very close to the pounding waters. For those that prefer their water a little warmer, the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark offers flumes, hot springs, a plunge pool and tidal wave pool, an arcade, beach club and a Planet Hollywood restaurant.

For those who'd prefer to stay dry, the Niagara Vintage Wine Tour offers an insight into the Niagara wine region, deemed one of the best wineries in Canada and famous for its brand of "ice wine". Here a variety of tours are on offer, ranging from the three hour "Espersso" tour, to the evening "Wine and Dine tour".

Runners and supporters of the marathon can find a wide range of hotels in Niagara and the surrounding area, though it is advised that bookings are made well in advance of the event, as accommodation does fill up fast, with over 4000 runners from over 30 countries all descending on Niagara for the race.

Hundreds of volunteers also line the course to provide runners with liquid refreshment, and washroom and medical units are stationed along the route to assist anyone in need. In running circles the route is considered one of the easiest and most enjoyable marathons in North America and is a particularly good marathon for those attempting their first ever race.