By Rebecca Savransky
The Active Times
If you're running in a destination marathon, it should be for one of two reasons: 1) A kick-ass, top-notch course unlike any other; 2) A locale you'd want to visit no matter what. But with hundreds of marathons across the country, how do you choose?
|Slideshow: Best Marathons To Run In America|
To bring you 10 races worth traveling for, we talked to Jeff Galloway -- former Olympic runner, author of Marathon: You Can Do It and creator of the Galloway Marathon Training and AIDS Marathon programs -- and polled members of the 50 Marathon States Club and 50&DC Marathon Group -- groups that make it their mission to run a marathon in every state.
The Bataan Death March is not, as its name implies, a march to your death -- necessarily. Nor is it your typical marathon. This race -- which actually is more of a march -- commemorates the service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II. Packed with service members (who don full military garb), but also open to civilians, the course is a marathon-length trudge across sand dunes and unstable ground that's sure to challenge even the most fit. Usually in: March.
In what's consistently named one of the world's most scenic marathons, starting in Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur, this marathon follows Highway 1 through towering redwoods, blooming wildflowers and past the rocky cliffs of the California coast. Pass the Point Sur Lighthouse, then try not to get too distracted after you pump up the two-mile Hurricane Point climb and are dwarfed by a perfect view of the iconic Bixby Bridge (which you'll shortly cross while being serenaded by a tux-wearing man playing a grand piano). Finish the course running through actual strawberry fields that (thankfully) do not last forever. Usually in: April/May
Let's get straight to it -- this marathon is in Hawaii. Do you need more reason to sign up? If so, consider the fact that this Waikiki race starts and ends at the beach (a dip in the Pacific might just be the perfect cool-down) and, even if you hate hills, there's a cool factor inherent in climbing the Diamond Head 700-foot volcanic crater. Usually in: December.
Run along the Silverado Trail on the east side of scenic Napa Valley as you whiz past abundant fruit trees and drink in endless rolling vineyards and beautiful countryside. Cross the finish line in the town of Napa before you inevitably turn on your heel and head back toward world-class wineries. Usually in: March.
A trail runner's fantasy, this marathon takes you to the top of one of Colorado's 14-ers, up wild and winding dirt and gravel trails. Pushing through the 7,815 vertical feet of the course (6,000 of which occur within the first 10 miles), you're rewarded with gorgeous mountain scenery and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing an insanely challenging (or, better, straight-up insane) task. Warning: Do not expect to make good time -- winning times usually barely miss the four-hour mark. Usually in: August.