I’ve been a runner for about two years. I love my city (Houston) but it’s crazy hot here, and the mosquitoes fly faster than I can outrun them. So our “racing season” is limited to a few short months between the first cold front in October and the last cold front in February. What’s a runner to do between March and August? Run outside!? Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve been participating in races in other cities in Texas and have even started travelling to other states specifically for races. Destination racing has become another excuse to travel…not that I needed any more excuses. It’s a great way to sight-see a destination at about 5 miles per hour. And the mutual people watching is fun as well – who’s watching who: the spectators or the runners?
Any Houston runner worth their salt has run along Allen Parkway just west of Downtown Houston. I’ve seen that particular stretch on many many many races, especially the homestretch of the Aramco Half Marathon (or Chevron Houston Marathon) every January. In fact, our only elevation changes occur on that stretch…in the form of overpasses. Hey, it’s Houston, it’s flat here.
For a less scenic but more beverage focused race, there are several races that start and finish at Saint Arnold’s Brewery just north of Downtown Houston (such as Santo de Mayo 5k). Will run for beer (or wine, clearly).
Galveston is a short driving distances from Houston, so it’s easy for us Houstonians to participate in races on the island, and we can enjoy our time on the island as tourists or locals. Divas Half Marathon & 5k is a fun themed race that starts and finishes in the Historic Strand District of Galveston (with shirtless firemen and champagne at the finish line!). Tutus encouraged.
A fun but windy race also located in Galveston is the Champagne 5k that kicks off Galveston Food and Wine Festival. This small race runs up and down the Seawall, with a clear view of the Gulf of Mexico along the course. And you guessed it, there’s champagne at the finish line.
A short(ish) drive northwest from Houston into cooler climates are several races in and around Bryan/College Station (home of Texas A&M University). The terrain is slightly hilly and more shaded than races in Houston. And one doesn’t have to be an Aggie to appreciate the charm of this college town. The BCS Marathon runs through the town and campus and has a liberal time limit.
The Texas Hill Country is even more hilly than Houston and Bryan/College Station, but it is beautiful. San Antonio is one of my favorite cities to visit, so I don’t need much arm twisting to plan a trip there. Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series San Antonio is a fun course that runs through Downtown San Antonio (yes, by the Alamo), up to the San Antonio Zoo, and back down to the Alamo Dome. Usually the weather is cooperative there, though it does heat up fast.
Outside of town near New Braunfels is Natural Bridge Caverns, a limestone cave system open to the public commercially. Natural Bridge Caverns Trail Runs (5k, 10k, and half marathon) actually starts IN the belly of the cave, with the rest of the course around the gorgeous and rugged property. This race was strenuous but so much fun, and the medals are geode slices!
Also in the area of Natural Bridge Caverns is Masquerade Half Marathon (and relay) race at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. This scenic race runs around the resort, most of which is along the golf course. It gave us an excuse to to stay (and relax) at the resort.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series New Orleans is another rocking (pun intended) race that starts in the heart of Downtown New Orleans, runs through the Garden District and French Quarter, and finishes up by the lake. This was one of my favorite races with all the beautiful architecture and people watching.
As much as I travel, I hadn’t been to Disney World in over 20 years when I ran Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. I just couldn’t put off a visit any longer, and I loved that we ran through Animal Kingdom and Epcot. And since we were in town for the race, we also visited Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, and went back to Epcot for Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Because why not?!
By far my favorite destination races to date are the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a playground for big kids like me. The shut down the Strip to traffic and the street becomes the race course. Having the Las Vegas Strip all to myself (and tens of thousands of other runners) at night is fantastic. No traffic, live bands every few miles, so much people watching, and a front row view of every behemoth hotel from Mandalay Bay all the way up to Fremont Street. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? Except for picture proof of me wearing an 80’s prom dress during the 5k warm up run.
I’m looking forward to running the Strip again this coming November. And I may resurrect the prom dresses…
So…if you could run a race anywhere in the world, where would it be?