A Guide to Running’s Underrated “SuperHalfs” Series

The circuit stomps through some of Europe's most stunning small cities

A crew of runners racing past a church in Copenhagen.
Elite runners cruising through Copenhagen this fall.
Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima

If you’re an obsessive long-distance runner, chances are you wouldn’t mind completing all six World Major Marathons: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo.

The most recent edition of the New York Marathon featured an incredible 17,000 international finishers — runners from 147 different countries comprised 33% of the finishing total. Mayor Eric Adams told runners at the starting line that the race was the “hottest ticket in town,” but it’s really one of the hottest on the planet. New York is a critical pitstop on the road to earning the Six Star Medal.

We’re all for it, assuming you have the means and the knees to knock off all of them. (And then the patience to add another to your list, when the field expands to seven. Sydney is currently in a “candidacy period” with Abbott WMM; it should earn the vaunted title by 2025.) But if chasing World Majors proves too difficult, we recommend considering the sport’s lesser-known, yet still awfully-cool race circuit: SuperHalfs.

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What Are SuperHalfs?

Launched in 2020, SuperHalfs is a circuit of five half marathons, each set in a mid-sized European city:

  • Lisbon: March 17
  • Prague: April 6
  • Copenhagen: September 15
  • Cardiff: October 6
  • Valencia: October 27

That might seem like a somewhat random cropping of cities, but each is running-crazy, with tons of clubs to their name and a lot of pride in their home road race. (Each course is either World Athletics Gold Label race or a certified World Athletics Championship course. Copenhagen and Valencia, in particular, are extremely fast and flat, so they’ve attracted elite talent for years now.)

In 2024, the series is set to expand with the addition of Berlin. The Berlin Half Marathon (April 7) is fast and flat in its own right, and has massive international appeal, so expect the series to achieve a little more name recognition Stateside in the coming months.

Two men sharing drinks watch runners race down cobblestoned streets in Lisbon, Portugal.
The European way: Lisbon is one of the SuperHalfs’ six charming races.
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

How to Earn a SuperHalf Medal

This is cool: if you run all five races in 36 months, you’re handed a SuperHalf medal (on top of the local medal) when you cross the finish line of your final race. You’re in the club.

The series operators also “stamp” your digital passport, which can be accessed/shared online. It’s a clever idea, considering most people would be proud to say they’ve visited the Czech Republic, Denmark, Portugal, Spain and Wales, anyway. Running a half in each locale is next level.

How difficult is it to pull off? Well, the logistics are way easier for SuperHalfs than World Majors — for the foreseeable future, at least. You can buy your way in at a fraction of a World Major’s fundraising expectation (though there are charity places for the SuperHalfs, too) and you don’t have to wait years to get lucky. Plus, there’s the fact that it’s a half marathon, so the training won’t push you past 10 or 12 miles at most. In marathon training, you’re looking at a month or more of running 18+ miles every Saturday morning. That can do a number on you.

The lower-stakes nature of the training also means that five races in 36 months (with the inclusion of Berlin, SuperHalfs officials plan to extend that window) is entirely doable. If you’re really looking to stay on schedule, you might just aim for one in the spring and one in the fall for three straight years. Set Google Flight trackers for the destinations; since the races take place in mild shoulder seasons, you can probably get a deal.

Why We’re Into This

One of our favorite ways to see a new city has always been to run around it. “Globe trotting” is a tradition equal-parts sexy and humbling, a chance to come to grips with everything a place has to offer from street view — down where life actually happens. Series like these unite the running community and lend extra importance to runners’ routines, essentially turning them into touring athletes. That’s a rare feeling for adults! It’s worth the extra effort to keep the habit going and the love alive.

If you’re looking to kickstart your SuperHalfs series in 2024, start researching the spring races ASAP. Fall registration isn’t up yet (though that will change by the new year). Advance congratulations to the obsessives who will inevitably finish the World Majors and the SuperHalfs by the time the decade’s through. We salute you.

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