Back in the "Old days" of road racing, in the late '70's and early '80's, big races were few and far between. Many were "No-frill" events. Race expos and race goodies were non-existent.
Today, both major and small cities offer excellent races, virtually every weekend. Destination races have become quite popular, so, in this blog, I would like to offer my top ten list of "Destination," or "Bucket List" races, based on my experience.
The criteria I have included takes into consideration the race course itself, course beauty, crowd support, community support, amenities, and local charm. I have limited the list to North American destinations, and to distances of 9 miles or above (although most races include 5K events in their race weekends)
So, here goes. My top ten North American destinations every runner should include on their list.
10. The Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K in Tampa, Florida-Celebrating Tampa's pirate-history, this magnificent flat, fast race course is run along the Tampa Bay and features great crown support. Mid-February is a perfect time to get out of the winter cold and participate in this running festival.
9. The Bermuda Marathon and 10K-Back in the 80's I ran this race. The course is hilly, and, even in mid-January it was humid. But if you want to visit a beautiful, elegant island, Bermuda is the place. Pink sand and crystal-clear water. Don't worry about your race time; go to Bermuda to have a good time.
8. Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach-I confess to a couple of biases here. First, I'm Irish, which means my DNA prevents me from missing a St. Paddy's Day celebration of any kind, and Yuengling Beer, America's Oldest Brewery, is located in my hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. They simply brew good beer. The course is fast, the crowds are enthusiastic, and the post-race tent is about as big as Texas Stadium, with plenty of food and Yuengling beer for race finishers. The party is worth finishing for.
7. Niagara Falls International Marathon-The opportunity to start a marathon in one country and finish in another, as well as seeing one of the true natural wonders of the earth, make this a marathon worth running.
6. Pittsburgh Marathon-Beautiful city, great crowds, challenging course. This is a very nice race.
5. Myrtle Beach Marathon-It's fast, it's scenic, with fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean. The volunteers are superb. Get this: It was cold at the start of this year's race, so the Grand Strand Running Club of Myrtle Beach provided a drop box at mile four so runners could shed clothing. It was provided for all runners and they could claim their clothing at the GSRC tent near the finish line.
The post-race festivities at the Myrtle Beach Marathon are fantastic.
4. Miami Marathon-Miami in January is a place most of us want to be. An enormous field for one of the most scenic courses I've ever run. Giant cruise ships, water vistas, an urban finish. Miami has it all.
3. Berwick's Run for the Diamonds-A 9-mile race, contested on Thanksgiving Day, since 1908. Nestled in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, the course is brutal, but the tradition is rich. Olympians have participated in this race for over a century. For the people of the small town of Berwick, this race is a Thanksgiving tradition. Packet pick up is held at the Elks Lodge, and Diamonds are awarded to top finishers. You cannot let your running days slip by without running Berwick's Run for the Diamonds.
2. Philadelphia Marathon-A terrific course. The Mayor sticks around for the entire race, high-fiving finishers. The Art Museum, the Rocky statue, Independence Hall, running along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, a beer stand for runners near Manayunk. I could go on and on, but this is one fine race. The course is scenic, the crowds are raucous, and the finish, downhill, along the Ben Franklin Parkway, is iconic. Run this race. You'll love it.
1. Sixteen times for me is still not enough. It is, and always will be my favorite race. There is only one Boston Marathon. Run it, not so much for yourself, but to experience the unbelievable crowds. I've had more goose bumps than an entire flock of geese thanks to the Boston crowds. In every town, building up to a crescendo in the city itself, each runner is treated like an Olympic champion. Waitresses/waiters, police, folks on the street regard the marathon runners as rock stars. Sure you have to qualify, but perhaps you can raise money for a charity and gain entry into the race. There are all the others, then there's Boston. It is, in my estimation, the greatest footrace on the planet.
Of course, these races reflect my experiences.
What are yours?
Let me know, on this blog, or on my website: www.muldowneyrunning.com
Tell me about your favorite races.