The Dream 26! The Best and Most Unique Marathons In America
Running a marathon is no easy feat. People train all year to improve their stamina and endurance for the 26.2 mile courses, which can flat or hilly, passing by fields and through forests. The more famous marathons, in places like Boston and New York, are likely the ones that come to mind, but runners can be found participating in marathons all across the country and the world.
They do it to challenge themselves, to say they can and then prove it. Proudly wearing their numbers and being cheered on by their friends or by friendly local residents, marathon runners are a unique bunch, strong willed and strong limbed and not without a sense of humor as some marathons incorporate offbeat traditions and celebrations and take place over fun packed weekends designed to get runners of all ages and skill levels involved.
Marathons cover a lot of ground, affording scenery as diverse as the Hawaiian shoreline, an Alaskan forest or downtown Memphis, Tennessee. We've found 26 fun, challenging and some off the beaten path marathons to check into. Ready, set, go!
Choose from an assortment of marathons and half marathons when you register for the 'run Disney' event at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in January. Most of the activities are geared toward families and members who make the trek to see the mouse a yearly must. Run for fun or make every step count for a cause, thanks to the all-star line-up of charity partners and participating groups.
The 26.2 mile marathon in Honolulu, Hawaii - known as a run in paradise - welcomes runners the second weekend in December every year. As a course eager for beginners, it attracts nearly 30,000 participants, some who take advantage of the lack of an end time to walk the route. It's the fourth largest marathon in the US and one of the friendliest. Mahalo!
This easy to ease into marathon welcomes runners from all over the world just as easily as it passes through all five boroughs, but that's not the reason they compete. It's the biggest race in the world, for one. All eyes are on the New York Marathon and three cheers for the international runners and all who compete!
A Beer Mile is a race that combines running with drinking. Chugging a beer to be precise. Beerathons have been held in a few major cities and are not well organized events, consisting of runners taking a 26 mile route through a city, where 26 bars along the way have been designated to hand out beers. As you might imagine, not everyone ends up caring about claiming their medal. Many variations of the sport exist, like the Female 3-Beer Mile, The Lite Beer Mile or the Beer Half Marathon, in which participants are required to drink 13 beers over the course of 13 miles. The FloTrack Beer Mile World Championships is an emerging event, taking place in Austin, Texas, with a time to beat and a world title and prize purse to take away.
Pucker up! The Little Rock Marathon in Arkansas offers runners a chance to check their look at a lipstick station located at mile 26, so your friends can snap a photo of you as your cross the finish line and upload it immediately to instagram! Plus, for all of those who cross the finish line, there's a Mr. T-sized medal to commemorate your effort.
It's tough, it's fun ”just like holidays with the in-laws, which is fitting for a marathon with a theme meant to keep the old Hatfield and McCoy feud alive. Choose from a full, a half, a double half or a 5K, most with no time limit. It's a weekend-long event that you're invited to as if you were a member of the family. Just remember to mind your manners. Or else.
Registration is open for the run in Buffalo, New York, that treats runners to a tour of art, architecture and historical landmarks along the way and you get 10% back on your registration fee when you refer a friend, so don't run alone. Anyone training for the Boston marathon will be pleased to know the Buffalo Marathon claims "one of the highest Boston qualifying percentages in the country." Take advantage of tips from coaches and inspiration from featured runners on their website.
Voted "best destination marathon," it must be the breathtaking views that keep people motivated to participate each year. Runners have this one on their bucket list and their companions are happy to weave the effort into a West Coast trip.
You'll have to bring your own water, which may save you from a Krameresque episode of being handed hot tea, because Jackson Hole has banned cups. Never mind, you'll have the amazing scenery to occupy your mind. The course passes through some of the most scenic in the US, with the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone nearby.
Run along the Extra Terrestrial Highway, near Area 51 under a full moon and share tales of alien abductions with other conspiracy theorists. The route claims to be prime for UFO sightings, so bring your courage along with your canteen. All runners are required to wear reflective clothing or head lamps, though glow necklaces will be provided.
The Chicago Marathon takes the needs of spectators into account. As one of the most famous and picturesque cities in the world, it's a great place to watch the race and follow your favorite runners. Cheering zones are set up, so fans can band together to make a joyful sound and a charity block party is arranged to thank those running to raise money for important causes. Run local. Think global.
Boston residents and visitors celebrate Patriots' Day by watching the runners in the Boston Marathon glide by. You need to qualify to participate in this race, but that will only make finishing the course sweeter. The folks at the Boston Athletic Association will tell you as much as you need to know, but they can't help you get up 'Heartbreak Hill,' so practice hard!
For those in the heartland looking for a run that promises 'small town friendliness and big time fun,' head to the Marathon to Marathon in Marathon, Iowa! A local resident put his heart into bringing this event to life and his neighbors honor his memory and welcome runners near and far with love and pride. Called a USA Heartland Classic, the course is Track and Field Certified and Sanctioned and is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
The Prince of Wales Island Marathon starts at sea level, but climbs to 400 feet in elevation and at times cuts through the mountains and woodlands to reveal the pristine beauty of Southeast Alaska. The race welcomes both runners and walkers, many nature lovers and photographers among them and there is a "dash and splash" at the City of Craig's pool complex (with a sauna). After your run and your soak, enjoy the ice cream buffet before the awards are handed out.
The Running Chicken Track Club is the scratching force behind the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon. Two simultaneous races take place with runners doing a double-loop on a course that is 'flat and fast'. The race starts and ends at the Baton Rouge Beach with water, fruits and drinks left for you to peck on along the way. Everyone who registers gets a T-shirt, but if you run the full marathon you're treated to a pair of Running Chicken Track Club Socks.
Grandma said there would be days like this, but she didn't say anything about running a marathon! Grandma's Marathon is only one of the many events that take place over a 'gram-packed' weekend with races, parties, bands in the big tent, a health expo and a spaghetti dinner!
The Fargo Marathon claims to have something for everyone, including the largest kids race. It takes place at the end of May when all the snow is gone and steers clear of wood chippers (don't believe everything you see in the movies, anyway). Musicians and DJs are expected to take part in "Bands on the Run" adding a musical accompaniment to the sound of your feet pounding the pavement.
The rallying cry for the Flying Pig Marathon is "Get Oinked For Life," we guess because once you've participated in their version of a Pig Party you'll be hooked, kinda like the first time you had maple basted bacon. The marathon is just part of the action taking place over the weekend, including a Queen Bee Half Marathon, a 5K, a 10K, a Kids Marathon and a 4-Way Challenge with Extra Cheese!?
The St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is a popular event with runners and friends who line the streets to cheer everyone on - especially St. Jude Heroes, those running to raise money for the kids of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The newly introduced 10K, 5K and Kids Marathon are another way to turn your run into a family affair. The course starts and finishes in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.
Many of the runners in the Green Bay Marathon participate in the 'Run for a Reason' program, which allows them to forego their entry fee by raising money for the participating charities. In the past, the race has generated more than $1 million dollars for local charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters, which encourages children to participate in sports. A Health & Fitness Expo is happening at the same time to grab your enthusiasm for training and channel it into shopping.
The Marine Corps Marathon is another weekend-long event that features a Turkey Trot and Turkey Trot Mile with a "finish line petting zoo that includes live turkeys!" The weekend is filled with pep rallies and festivals, including the Crystal City Family Festival with colorful flags and face paintings. Wheelchair riders are welcomed, cheered and honored.
It's a long weekend extravaganza, as you would expect from Las Vegas. It starts out with a sexy call to action: Run the Las Vegas Strip at Night and doesn't back down from there. Bring your shades and grab your goodie bags, cause there's a huge health expo going on at the same time. If you make it to the finish line, you'll have Las Vegas Blvd to yourself. For a few seconds at least. If you're thinking of getting married or renewing your vows, you can register for the Run Thru Wedding after you've registered for the full or half marathon. There's no little chapel or Elvis, but your body is your temple, right?
The Silver Comet Marathon is named after the train called the Silver Comet that would ferry people from Atlanta to Anniston, Alabama. The course affords some of the same views of those early train travelers and while you don't have to travel as fast as the Silver Comet did, you are expected to complete the marathon within 5:30 hours. Costumes are encouraged, since the race takes place on or near Halloween.
Run Woodstock is called a "mellow" marathon, but you are still expected to do some running, even with race names like the Hippie Half, the Hallucination 100M and the Flower Power 5 Mile. What's odd is that all this doesn't take place in the town famous for the 60s rock fest, but in Pinckney, Michigan. Like Woodstock, though, it promises to be a weekend of music, yoga, peace, love, running and some tie dye.
You don't actually run with a glass when you participate in the Wineglass Marathon (that would be dangerous), but you can pick up some gorgeous stemware nearby and toast to your success. You can also toast to the work of Wineglass Charities that takes the monies raised and pours it into local organizations. Runners themselves can chose to support one of three organizations, such as Girls on the Run, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier and the Wineglass Marathon Scholarship Fund, benefitting three local high schools. Raise a glass and two feet and head to Corning for next year's event.
The Run Thru Time could end up being the run from hell as the rugged terrain and "highly unpredictable weather" add to the physical challenges of the course. The race starts at the aptly named Tenderfoot Mountain with trails through the forest, but watch your footing on those dirt roads and don't forget your water bottle as there won't be any pit stops in the forest, unless you meet a witch with a shiny apple or some friendly woodland elves.