Photo: Robert Daly, Getty Images.
Marathons are a great way to explore new cities and achieve athletic goals all at once. A 26.2 mile course not only burns mad calories, it’s a perfect preview of where you’ll want to wander after crossing the finish line. Of course, you know not to plan any sight-seeing activities for pre-race days, right? (You’ll wear out your legs.) Arrive the day before the race, go straight to the expo to pick up your bib and a swag bag, then head back to your hotel. No gallivanting. No drinking. No gut-busting pasta dinners. On race day: set an alarm, run, then rest. With your PR out of the way, you’ll be free to enjoy all the fun and indulgent food your race city has to offer.
Photo: Big Sur International Marathon.
Veterans of this race gush about the gorgeousness of its scenery. From Big Sur to Carmel, you’ll be wowed by the lush hills and the Pacific coastline that the Highway 1 route is known for. You’ll need some recovery time after all those inclines and the fresh ocean air, but make sure to schedule a stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a hot tourist spot featuring over 100 exotic underwater creatures. Then dine on Angry Prawns, fried calamari, or clam chowder in a bread bowl at Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar while soaking up the bay view in the city once known as “The Sardine Capital of the World.”
Race Date: April 30, 2017
Photo: @lamarathon on Instagram.
For those who prefer the urban landscape of California, this race will let you see L.A. as few do: in the wee hours of the morning and sans traffic! Runners convene at Dodgers Stadium before pounding the pavement through ‘hoods like Chinatown, Los Feliz, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, and Brentwood. The course ends at the Santa Monica Pier. Post-race, grab some grub at the Griddle Cafe, where breakfast is served all day and includes insane menu items like a red velvet pancake, Nutella-stuffed French toast, or the huevos rancheros-inspired Tequila Sunrise. Later, unwind at the Getty Center’s Central Garden, check out the sweet rides at the Petersen Automotive Museum, or stroll the boardwalk at Venice Beach.
Race Date: March 19, 2017
The Windy City’s marathon is one of the flattest courses around, making it ideal for novices or those aiming for a quick finish. During your leisure time, take a selfie by “the bean” sculpture, meander through the Art Institute of Chicago, or tour Wrigley Field. Of course you’re going to eat at the acclaimed Alinea, where food isn’t just fuel; it’s an art form, gustatory science experiment, and sensory adventure all rolled into one. Stay an extra day so you can devour Au Cheval’s infamous cheeseburger–but prepare for a potentially epic wait.
Race Date: Oct. 19, 2016 (Registration for this year is closed. Join a charity team or earmark it for 2017.)
Photo: @twincitiesinmotion on Instagram.
Touted as the “most beautiful urban marathon in America,” this race begins in downtown Minneapolis, winds past several of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, then crosses the Mississippi River for a grand finish in front of the State Capitol in St. Paul. Breathtaking fall foliage and friendly spectators will encourage you along the way. Later, kick back in the old-world charm of the luxurious Saint Paul Hotel and replenish your depleted carb levels with fried pizza, house-made pasta, and gourmet doughnuts at Mucci’s.
Race Date: Oct. 9, 2016
If majestic beaches, palm trees, and minimal inclines are your jam, Miami is the place for your next race. The course takes you in a loop alongside Biscayne Bay, past Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, across the Rickenbacker Causeway, and finishes in Bayfront Park, with 20 entertainment stations along the way. Afterwards, stop in to hole-in-the-wall Sweet Dogs for some huge hot dog action, including The Heat, a wiener topped with beef chili, cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, jalapenos, and corn chips. Wash it down with a pineapple milkshake or satisfy your sweet tooth with a slice of Crack Pie. Then spend the rest of your vacay wreaking havoc on Miami’s high-octane nightclub scene.
Race Date: Jan. 29, 2017
New York City
Photo: @nycmarathon on Instagram.
If you only run one marathon in your lifetime, NYC should be it. It’s not only the biggest and most popular marathon in the world (boasting 50,000 finishers in 2015), it’s also one of the most slickly organized and easiest to navigate. Beginning on the Verranzo-Narrows bridge (where you will bond with other runners while participating in public urination), the course takes you through five boroughs, where you will be cheered on by perhaps the most diverse cross-section of spectators of any U.S. race. You’ll finish in Central Park, and, because the city is so walk-able, might as well return on foot to your hotel. As for what to do with the remainder of your time? There’s only everything to choose from. MoMA? Double-decker bus tour? Broadway show? Empire State Building? Statue of Liberty? Whatever you do, follow it up with a New York slice…or an entire pie. You’ve earned it.
Race Date: Nov. 6, 2016 (General entry is full for this year. Join a charity team or fix your sights on 2017.)
Photo: @bostonmarathon on Instagram.
No doubt about it: running Beantown is a big deal. First, there’s the fact that you have to qualify to even register for the race. No first-time marathoners allowed. Men aged 18 to 34 must have a previous finishing time under 3:05:00 from a certified race to participate; times increase the older you get. Then, there’s the notorious difficulty of the course (they don’t call it Heartbreak Hill for nothin’). But it’s all worth it because the bragging rights last forever. Held annually on Patriot’s Day (the third Monday in April), this race starts in historic Hopkinton, passes masses of cheering Wellesley girls around the halfway point, and ends on Boylston Street in Boston. Post-race, visit Row 34 for oysters and beer, tour Fenway Park (the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball), or learn a thing or two at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Race Date: April 17, 2017