Some days, like when you’re in the eastern Mediterranean and the air is alive with hyacinth and birdsong, going for a run is the easiest decision in the world. There are other times, however, when the prospect of running fills you with dread. To help provide motivation when it may be in short supply, we’ve created a runner’s “cheat sheet.” Below are popular reasons why runners like to run—and related races, trails, and tools to help you keep it up when you're feeling stale.
If your goal is to . . . RUN A FAST MARATHON:
You want to pick a course that has seen fast times. In the U.S., the obvious choice is the Chicago Marathon, whose flat course many target just to record a PR. For something less high profile, try the California International Marathon, a point-to-point speed fest whose course descends from 366’ feet to just 26 feet’ above sea level. Down to travel internationally? The Berlin Marathon should be your top destination. The last six world records were all set on this flat course with few corners. (And just think of the beer selection afterwards!)
If your goal is to . . . LOSE WEIGHT:
First things first. Your diet is always the number one factor when it comes to weight loss. If you run ten miles a day and then go home and gorge yourself on Wonder Bread and Nutella, you will not lose weight. Luckily, there are some great apps that address this issue head on. The best one, however, is the Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal, which provides you with a very comprehensible interface for monitoring your day’s workout and food intake.
If your goal is to . . . SEE THE OCEAN:
The courses for Northern California's Big Sur Marathon and Half Marathons hug the Pacific coastline and boast some of the most dramatic views of any race in the world. On the other side of the country, the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, is classic New England–lighthouses. For those who like to follow up an intense racing experience with a killer party, the Keys100 is your chance to run the Florida Keys–start in Key Largo and finish on the beach in Key West.
If your goal is to . . . PEOPLE WATCH:
Sometimes, all you need to get running is the prospect of checking out other runners. The quintessential people-watching experience goes to the glorious fusion of weirdness and hotness that is the norm on Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica. If SoCal isn’t your thing, but you still want to be by the water, the Chicago Lakefront Trail on Lake Michigan, or the Butler Trail around Austin’s Lady Bird Lake are safe bets. Everyone knows Central Park in NYC, but the 3.35-mile loop around Prospect Park in Brooklyn gives you a chance to be surrounded by fellow runners, without the hordes of gawking tourists.
If your goal is to . . . BE ALONE WITH YOUR THOUGHTS:
Not everyone wants to see people when they run, and sometimes the most desolate places are also the most beautiful. Our home-state favorite is the West Rim Trail in northern New Mexico. It’s just off US 64, but some days you’ll be entirely on your lonesome as you run along the top of 800-foot Rio Grande Gorge.
If your goal is to . . . ONE-UP YOUR FRIENDS’ TRAVEL STORIES:
You’re the kind of person who has to have the coolest story in the bar? (We don’t like you, but we’re here to help.) The Antarctica Marathon and Half Marathon on King George Island is the ultimate destination race, and often the final piece of the puzzle for those looking to run a marathon on every continent. Naturally, there’s also a North Pole Marathon–an experience that can be yours for a mere 11,900 euros (that’s $13,060). If warmer climes are more your bag, the Big Five Marathon in South Africa is a tough course the leads right through the natural habitats of elephants, rhinos, buffalos, leopards and, yes, lions. (Just don’t be the slowest runner.)