Personal records or “PRs” can be overrated. Once you’ve conquered the fastest, flattest marathon courses around, then what? That’s when the lure of adventure begins. Here are five destination marathons that promise spectacular courses, panoramic views and lung-busting challenges.
Whiskey Row Marathon – Prescott, AZ May 4, 2019
This out-and-back course starts at 5,280 feet along Prescott’s historic Whiskey Row (a famed city block of former watering holes for Arizona cowboys and miners in the early 1900’s), and ascends up to 7,000 feet into the Prescott National Forest. Runners will traverse pavement for the first five miles, and then settle onto a dirt road for the remainder of the race. The turnaround at 13.1 miles is at 5,600 which means climbing back up and over the previously summited hill before the final descent to the finish. Participants in the 41st annual event will receive a long sleeve tech t-shirt, finisher’s medal and post-race refreshments. An early start at 5am is offered for those who anticipate a 6-hour finish. For more information, visit whiskeyrowmarathon.com
Lithia Loop Marathon – Ashland, OR Nov 2019
While Ashland is known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, it’s also revered for its amazing running trails. The Lithia Loop Marathon, put on by Rogue Valley Runners, is a 26.2-mile loop run on dirt roads and trails with a whopping 3,000 feet of climbing in the first 10 miles, and a total of 7,200 feet in elevation change. The race circumnavigates the Ashland Watershed, which is a 15,000-acre wilderness area that includes Lithia Park – the start and finish of the marathon. Not only will runners get a tech t-shirt, finisher’s medal and post-race meal with their entry fee, but they’ll experience race organizing at its best and the crisp fall weather of Ashland. For more information, visit roguevalleyrunners.com
San Francisco Marathon – San Francisco, CA July 2019
The city of San Francisco is known for its hills, so it should come as no surprise that the San Francisco Marathon has a few. Even though the starting elevation at the Embarcadaro is 27 feet, there is a total of 1,175 feet of elevation gain over 26.2 miles. This Boston Marathon Qualifier course will circle runners around San Francisco’s iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Presidio, Golden Gate Park, as well as next to AT&T Ballpark. With other iconic destinations like Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf, the sightseeing opportunities in this city by the bay are endless. Registered runners will receive a long-sleeved tech t-shirt, finisher’s medal and free photos, along with post-race refreshments. For more information, visit thesfmarathon.com.
Napa Valley Trail Marathon – Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Napa, CA Mar 16, 2019
Not to be confused with the Napa Valley Marathon, this trail marathon starts and finishes in the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Camp or rent a historic cabin or yurt, and then run through the coastal redwoods and Douglas fir trees. The marathon course is comprised mostly of single track and has 1,000 feet of elevation gain sustained in one major climb. But the views at the top are worth it. While runners can expect typical trail hurdles such as boulders, logs and steep drop-offs near the trail, most will be pleasantly surprised that this park is virtually untouched by tourists. Located just minutes from Napa’s well-known wineries and restaurants, runners can cross the finish line and head for an evening of wine tasting and fine cuisine (covered in a little dirt as a reminder of the 26.2-mile finish, of course). For more information visit: www.envirosports.com/napa-valley-trail-runs/
Cougar Mountain Trail Marathon – Bellevue, WA August 2019
For some true Pacific Northwest trail running, head up to Cougar Mountain in Bellevue, Washington. The Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series is sponsored by the Seattle Running Club, and includes a marathon distance among others. Runners will traverse the single track trails surrounding Cougar Mountain and gain 4,650 feet of elevation. Be prepared to experience dense forests, as well as sweeping views of the Cascades and Seattle’s skyline. With approximately four aid stations, participants will be able to re-fill packs and water bottles regularly. Proceeds of this series will benefit the local parks and recreation, and participants who are Seattle Running Club members will receive special discounts. For more information, visit cougar.seattlerunningclub.org/information/