Is there a better combo than traveling and racing? Whether you’re looking to PR with the family in tow or use the race as a way to explore a new city, there’s no shortage of marathons to anchor a long weekend. Our one tip: Do the race first and then save some time for touring after, when the race anxiety is behind you. To help you prepare for your next—or your first—destination marathon, former professional skier, mountain bike racer, and lifelong runner Jen Hudak shares five tips on running faster.
Big Sur Marathon
California’s Big Sur Marathon, held each April along scenic Highway 1, is arguably the US’s most scenic road race. The course is point-to-point from Big Sur to Carmel and offers up views of the rocky coastline, ancient redwoods, and the Bixby Bridge, where a pianist entertains on a baby grand.
New York City Marathon
Held the first weekend in November each year, the TCS New York City Marathon is perhaps the mack daddy of destination races. At 50,000 participants, it’s the largest marathon in the world, and it takes runners on a tour of all five boroughs. Once the race is over, hit up Broadway, Gotham’s plethora of museums, and some of the world’s best restaurants for that all-important post-race meal.
Walt Disney World Marathon
Got kids? Each January, thousands of runners run 26 miles through the iconic Disney park in Orlando. Characters line the course for photo ops, and it’s hard to find a better location for family fun once the race is finished. Note: There are also several shorter races—from kids’ races to a half-marathon—if that further entices your clan.
Mount Desert Island Marathon
Taking place in October during peak fall colors in Bar Harbor, Maine, this smaller race (fewer than 1,000 participants) offers up all the highlights of the state’s scenic coast. The weekend includes kids’ races, a half marathon, and a team relay for those looking for something shorter than a full. Afterwards, camp, hike, and take in the sights at Acadia National Park.
Asheville, North Carolina, just might be the Southeast’s coolest mountain town. You’ve got the mountains, the craft breweries, and a funky little town with plenty to see and do. The March marathon affords a unique racecourse located entirely within the famous Biltmore estate. Runners experience a mixture of paved and dirt roads and, with a cap of 1,525 entrants, it’s just the right size for a PR.
When in Rome … the early April race begins at the 2,000-year-old Colosseum and winds through the city’s most famous sites—St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps among them. With uneven cobblestones on several stretches and narrow streets, don’t plan on your fastest time—but do plan on your best sightseeing.
Considered one of the fastest courses in the country, Chicago brings in a top-notch elite field every year. The course makes its way through 29 neighborhoods, and the streets are lined with nearly two million spectators to cheer you on. Once you’ve crossed the finish line in Grant Park, plan to take in Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Shedd Aquarium, and the famous Art Institute of Chicago.
Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Cultured and cosmopolitan, Toronto is bigger, livelier, and more fun to visit than most people realize—and its annual October marathon usually delivers ideal temperatures. The course itself is flat and fast, and the city has all the amenities a well-traveled runner could want, from restaurants to theater and cultural attractions.
Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas
If you’ve never run a marathon at night, Las Vegas is your ticket. The race organizers shut down the famous Strip for this November race. Runners take to the streets, shuffling past the town’s landmark casinos and hotels. Cheer teams and a band at each mile marker help keep spirits high every step of the way.
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