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Jan. 24 2010 - 3:28 pm | 1,410 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

10 races to run before you die

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As dedicated runners, we’re fitter, faster, and likely to live longer than the average person, but we’re certainly not immortal. It’s up to us to maximize our running years and make sure we experience all that this great sport has to offer. Sure, you could spend your days running the same 4th of July 5K, but why not branch out and check some “must-do” races off your list?

Here’s our list of the top 10 races (or really, types of races) every runner should do before crossing life’s finish line.

The big-city race: Atlanta Peachtree 10K - Since the late 1970’s, the Peachtree road race has been one of the world’s largest 10K’s. The 2009 race boasted 55,000 runners and sold out in mere hours. This road race may be crowded, but it’s popular for a reason. Big-name runners such as Jeff Galloway, Martin Lel, and Lornah Kiplagat are past winners and the crowd support is huge (150,000+ on average).

The stunningly beautiful race: Big Sur Marathon and Half Marathon – If it’s good enough for Bart Yasso, it’s good enough for us: the legendary runner and writer claims that if he could run only one marathon his entire life, Big Sur would be it.  The point-to-point route along Highway One features mountains, valleys, bridges, wildlife, views of the Pacific Ocean, and of course, the famous piano player at Hurricane Point.

26.2 in a small town: Steamtown Marathon - Every October, runners line up under the beautiful Pennsylvania foliage to run a flat and fast marathon in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This race is the perfect opportunity to qualify for Boston – there’s nearly a 1000 foot drop in elevation! The course also features a few miles on trails overlooking the Susquehanna River – something your feet will definitely appreciate after so many miles of pounding. And I [Megan] will admit, I’m partial to this race because I grew up 20 minutes away in nearby Wilkes-Barre!

The party in the streets: The Rock ‘n Roll San Diego Marathon and Half Marathon – Sure, they’re expensive and crowded.  But by providing a party-like atmosphere with live music at every mile, the Rock ‘n Roll races have forever changed the face of marathoning in America.  In addition to San Diego, they now take place in thirteen other cities across the country.  With huge numbers of spectators, local cheering groups along the routes, and generally flat courses, Rock ‘n Roll marathons are perfect for first-timers or anyone just looking for a good “time.”

A World Marathon Major: The Boston Marathon (or New York, Chicago, Berlin, or London) – Running a marathon offers plenty of exhilaration on its own.  Add to that massive crowds, an elite field of competitors, and all the tradition and mystique you could ask for, and you have yourself a life-transforming experience.  Several of the majors have qualifying standards, which makes running them all the more rewarding, but more laid-back runners can get in through fundraising or other special exemptions.

A race for fun: New Year’s Eve 4-miler in Central Park Although this race takes place 20+ blocks from the Times Square festivities, the atmosphere is no less celebratory. A pre-race costume parade kicks off the night, followed by fireworks and a champagne toast. What better way to get a start on your New Year’s resolutions than a brisk 4-mile run? It’s certainly one of the healthier ways you could spend the night of December 31st!

The masochistic ultra: Badwater Ultramarathon – Billed as the world’s toughest footrace, the 135-mile trek through Death Valley at temperatures reaching 130 degrees isn’t for everyone.  In fact, the stringent qualification process limits the field to ninety of the world’s toughest runners.  But for the less-gifted (or simply the sane) among us, there are hundreds of ultramarathons — races longer than 26.2 miles, often on trails — that allow us to push the pain envelope when the marathon just doesn’t cut it.

The indulgent race: Nike San Francisco Marathon - With a Ghiradelli chocolate mile, Tiffany’s finisher necklace, and hunky guys at mile 26.2, this is a dream race for ladies. Sure, the San Fran hills are tough, but a little blue box from a tux-attired firemen might be all the motivation you need to get to the finish line.

The legendary race: A track meet at Hayward Field - Even if you can’t personally lace up your spikes for a race around Pre’s favorite oval, there are plenty of opportunities for you to experience the magic of Hayward Field in “Tracktown, USA”. The 2011 Outdoor Track & Field championships will be held at the University of Oregon facility as well as the 2012 Olympic Track & Field Trials. Sit back, give your legs a rest, and enjoy the view from the bleachers at Hayward Field.

The international marathon: Rome Marathon – With all the big United States marathons, it’s easy to forget that we didn’t invent the race distance.  International cities offer thousands of years of history, distances measured in kilometers, and plenty more that you won’t find in your own backyard.  The Rome Marathon offers runners a good-luck wish from none other than the Pope, but if religion isn’t your thing, Rome’s trattorias can at least promise you the most heavenly pre-race pasta you’ve ever had.


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Running Shorts is a part of the True/Slant network specializing in Running News, Trends, Insights and Perspectives. This blog is maintained by Megan Kretz (megan [dot] kretz [at] gmail [dot] com) and Geoff Decker (geoffreydecker [at] gmail [dot] com). Email either us with tips, suggestions or feedback. And thanks for reading!

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