FOR the past two weeks I’ve been very glad not to be on holiday. Like many I’ve been obsessed with the Olympics and much of the delight has come from being in this country as collectively it goes bananas.

But for thousands of supporters this Olympics has meant travel across the globe. And sport is a very good excuse to travel especially as a competitor.

It’s something I’ve done in this country but not yet further afield. But the anticipation of competition is sharpened when it involves travel to an unfamiliar place.

I’ve competed in marathons, half-marathons and triathlons in the UK. Some have involved a drive up the M4 and some have meant travel to the other side of the country.

But they have all introduced me to some very special places.

I had never seen much of the Gower, but a trail marathon across the peninsula was an introduction to this most beautiful corner of Wales.

Despite being held in December and battling driving rain and howling winds, it was a thoroughly memorable experience. The intensity of the experience means those places are etched bold in my memory and every time I go back, I remember them. The agony of the ascent to Arthur’s Stone, the gorgeous stretch of beach at Oxwich, the joy of careering down from Rhossili to the finish at Llangennith.

Similarly a triathlon in Rutland near Leicester showed me a beautiful part of the country I probably wouldn’t have visited if it were not to compete. I feel I know the vast reservoir well, having swum it and swallowed half of it and am on intimate terms with the hills that surround it, every climb, every descent.

But how much more special would it be to travel to foreign fields to compete?

I’ve wanted for some time to go to one of the great European capitals to run in their marathons.

I’m sure the first time I’d run through Berlin’s Brandenburg gate I may be too tired to appreciate it, but when it was done, I’d survey the city and bask in the knowledge that I’d ‘done’ it.

I was on a plane coming back from Sardinia once with a group of very excited Italians going to run in the London Marathon. So infectious was their enthusiasm that, even as a non-runner in those days, I envied them as they anticipated their epic challenge.

Racing with thousands of like-minded souls is an intense and often moving experience, one that would only be heightened by doing it thousands of miles from home.

One thing I will make sure of is that I race soon after arriving, as nothing could be more miserable for me (or my family) than a week on holiday, with me brooding on the looming race, unable to indulge. Far better to start the holiday with the race, then spend the rest of your time basking in glory with a beer in your hand.

Fact file

There are many races in European capitals with places still available this year. So if you fancy pounding some historic streets, take a look at some of these marathons.

• Berlin Marathon – Spetember 30, 2012 Said to be the fastest, flattest marathon of them all.This run through an historic city,which attracts thousands of runners from the UK, could give you your personal best.

• Spar Budapest International Marathon – October 7, 2012 Attracting more than 16000 runners, the course of the Budapest Marathon is a veritable sightseeing tour, taking in the Parliament building,with much of the race run along the river Danube.

• Istanbul Marathon – November 11, 2012 The only marathon to cross two continents, the Istanbul marathon starts on the Asian side of the city, crosses the Bosphorus Bridge and finishes at the historic Blue mosque on the European side.