You've already set your goal to run a marathon this spring, so now comes the tough question: Which one to do? For those of you looking for a unique experience or a fabulous destination, check out this list of top U.S. spring marathons. Any one of these marathons will make all those miles run in winter weather totally worth it.
Where: Virginia Beach, Va.
When: March 22, 2015
Where: Designed to coincide with and commemorate the St. Patrick's Day festivities in this beautiful Virginia resort town, the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon offers a flat, fast course that includes a stretch along its famous beach boardwalk and past historic landmarks such as the Cape Henry Lighthouse, one of the oldest in the country. The finish line celebration offers plenty of good music, Irish stew, and of course, Yuengling Beer.
When: April 21, 2014 (third Monday in April)
Where: Boston, Massachusetts
Why do it: The granddaddy of marathons, Boston is the world's oldest annual marathon and is known as one of the most prestigious road races in the world. While other popular marathons have lotteries, you need to meet tough qualifying times or participate in one of their charity programs to get a number for Boston. The point-to-point course starts in the rural town of Hopkinton and finishes on Boylston Street in Copley Square. Although the Boston course is known for its challenging hills, hearing what feels like the entire city cheering for you makes getting to the top of Heartbreak Hill seem achievable.
When: April 26, 2014
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Why do it: You can take the ultimate tour of music city and be entertained by 50 bands on 28 stages. The course features historic sites like the Parthenon, Nashville's world-renowned Music Row and an expansive finish line festival outside the Tennessee Titans' home, LP Field, located along the Cumberland River. Country, rock, jazz, blues, swing bands -- and hundreds of high school cheerleaders -- will entertain runners on every mile of the course. For those who want to continue the party into the evening, there's a post-race concert in downtown Nashville.
When: April 27, 2014
Where: Big Sur, California
Why do it: Quite simply, Big Sur is the most scenic marathon in the country, possibly even the world (depending on whom you ask). You'll experience breath-taking vistas of the Pacific Ocean as you run along scenic Route One from Big Sur to Carmel. Featuring rolling hills, the course is challenging (you won't run a personal record here), but as you wind through the redwoods and take in the stunning views, you'll realize it's worth the effort. Besides the incredible scenery, one of the favorite traditions on the course is the musician playing classical music on a grand piano at Bixby Bridge.
When: May 4, 2014
Where: Cincinnati, Ohio
Why do it: If you've ever said you'd run a marathon "when pigs fly", this is the one to do! One of the biggest marathons in the country, the Flying Pig marathon always gets high marks from participants as a fun and well-organized race. The race course offers a diverse tour of some the best neighborhoods in the Cincinnati area, as it "flies" along the streets of Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport. Along the way, runners will find more than 25 support stations and lots of entertainment. If you're not quite ready for the full marathon, you can choose from a half-marathon, 10K, and a 5K.
When: May 25, 2014
Where: Burlington, Vermont
Why do it: With its spectacular views and limit of 3600 runners, Vermont City is the perfect small, scenic marathon. Against the backdrop of the Adirondack mountains and beautiful Lake Champlain, participants run through the charming small town of Burlington. If you don't want to take on the entire marathon by yourself, you can form a relay team of two to five people. And if the thrill of completing a marathon isn't enough for you, maybe the free Ben & Jerry's ice cream and massages at the end will push you to the finish line.
When: June 1, 2014
Where: San Diego, California
Why do it: If you're looking for a 26.2-mile long party, head to San Diego for this event. About 20,000 runners and walkers will take over the city streets, while more than 40 bands will entertain participants along the scenic 26.2 mile course. You'll pass a number of San Diego highlights including Petco Park, the historic Gaslamp Quarter, and the San Diego Harbor. Adding to the excitement are hundreds of local high school cheerleaders competing in the "Spirit on the Course" competition.
When: June 21, 2014
Where: Duluth, Minnesota
Why do it: If you're looking for a scenic, mid-size marathon (about 10,000 participants), Grandma's Marathon is a point-to-point course run along the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior. The 26.2-mile stretch begins on scenic Old Highway 61, just outside Two Harbors, and finishes in Duluth's Canal Park at Grandma's Restaurant. The race's dedicated volunteers, enthusiastic spectators, and live entertainers always garner rave reviews from participants. Marathon weekend also includes other running events including a half-marathon, two 5Ks, a 5-miler, the Minnesota Mile, and several "Whipper Snapper" races for kids under 14.
When: June 21, 2014
Where: Anchorage, Alaska
Why do it: Where else could you possibly see a moose along a marathon course? This small race is obviously not for runners who desire the big-city race experience. But if you're looking for something off the beaten path (part of the race runs on trails and bike paths), this is the one for you. You'll be rewarded with incredible scenery, including views of the Chugach Mountain Range and Cook Inlet.
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