Runs and Places

Top Ten Winter Getaway Races

As runners, we tend to dread the winter months.  Some areas may be a little warmer than others, but in many places, winter running options are limited to either dealing with snow, ice, and bitter cold temperatures outside or being stuck inside on a treadmill.  The further north you live, the worse it can be.  Now that winter is almost upon us, I figured I would lend a hand to my fellow runners by providing this list of winter destination races that will give you an excuse to run somewhere warm while it’s cold outside back home.  These races are all between December and March.  They’re also in locations known for being almost unbearably hot during the summer, but quite mild during the winter.  I tried to include a mix of big and small races in a variety of different settings to make sure there would be something for everyone.  So take your pick based on your personal preferences and start training for your winter getaway race today.

Winter Getaway Races - Houston Marathon

10: Houston Marathon: Houston, Texas

Two words describe the Houston Marathon Course: Flat and Fast.  This is one of the fastest marathon courses in the United States and a number of marathon and half marathon records have been set here.  Houston is usually brutally hot and humid, but the race is in January when temperatures are mild.  If you’re looking for a good winter getaway race that will also give you a good shot at qualifying for Boston, this one is probably your best bet.

Winter Getaway Races - Mississippi Blues Marathon

9: Mississippi Blues Marathon: Jackson, Mississippi

This January race kicks off with a local blues guitarist playing the national anthem Jimi Hendrix style.  The course takes runners down the streets of Jackson, Mississippi and past a number of markers on the historic Mississippi Blues Trail.  Runners get guitar shaped finisher’s medals and soul food at the finish line.  Every runner also gets a wristband to use for bar hopping at all the blues clubs in downtown Jackson later that evening.  If you’re interested in music history, this is your race.

Winter Getaway Races - Rock n Roll New Orleans

8: Rock n Roll New Orleans: New Orleans, Louisiana

This Mardi Gras themed race has a flat, fast course that passes by a number of old Antebellum Era houses and buildings in and around New Orleans.  It’s timed to be the weekend before Mardi Gras each year, so it typically falls in February or March and the course overlaps with some of the parade routes.  If you run it, be prepared to see spectators standing alongside the course throwing beads.  Look for some great street musicians and beautiful architecture as well.

Winter Getaway Races - Mercedes Marathon

7: Mercedes Marathon: Birmingham, Alabama

Every February, this double-looped course takes runners through the streets of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, which is currently undergoing a major cultural revival.  Runners pass through the Civil Rights District and run by a number of parks, historic landmarks, churches, and through Birmingham’s newly renovated West Side.  Best of all, the race is sponsored by Mercedes and the medals are giant Mercedes logos.  This is possibly the best bling you’ll get at a winter race.

Winter Getaway Races - Rock n Roll Arizona

6: Rock n Roll Arizona: Phoenix, Arizona

Are you looking for somewhere warm to run after the holidays?  You won’t be able to beat Rock n Roll Arizona at the beginning of January.  This point-to-point course starts in Phoenix and heads through Scottsdale and Tempe at a time when temperatures in the area are typically in the mid 50’s to low 60’s.  The course features nice desert scenery and finishes at the Arizona State University Campus.  After the race, runners can hit up the numerous bars and restaurants in Tempe for post-race burgers and beer.

Winter Getaway Races - Myrtle Beach Marathon

5: Myrtle Beach Marathon – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This early March race has a course that brings runners past the beach just in time to see the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean.  Temperatures in Myrtle Beach are typically mild during race weekend, but since race weekend is before tourist season starts, runners pretty much have the town and the beaches to themselves and can take advantage of short lines, and small crowds.  The course is nice and flat too and the finisher’s medals are shaped like a pair of flip-flops.

Winter Getaway Races - Disney Marathon

4: Walt Disney World Marathon: Orlando, Florida

This is an ideal race for runners who want to bring their families on a winter getaway trip.  It heads through all four Walt Disney World parks and the course features Disney Character themed Finisher’s Medals.  There are a variety of races throughout the weekend and runners who really like to push themselves can sign up to do the Dopey Challenge, which consists of a 5K on Thursday, a 10K on Friday, a Half Marathon on Saturday, and a Marathon on Sunday.

Winter Getaway Races - Sedona Marathon

3: Sedona Marathon: Sedona, Arizona

This March race has been grown in popularity over the last few years, but it’s still one of the best kept secrets in Arizona.  It’s an extremely challenging course at a high elevation but the weather on race day is usually perfect and the area around Sedona is stunningly beautiful to run through.

Winter Getaway Races - Zion Half Marathon

2: Zion Canyon Half Marathon: Springdale, Utah

Every March, this point-to-point course features breathtaking scenery, a finish line at the entrance of Zion Canyon National Park, and challenge where runners can get discounts on future races if they hike to certain locations within the park and take pictures of themselves with their medal and race bib after the race.  The toughest of these is the Angel’s Landing Challenge.  Getting to Angels Landing requires a tough hike that features 1500 feet of elevation gain over 2.5 miles.  The incline is so steep during the last half mile that you have to hold onto chains to keep from falling over 1000 feet to the canyon floor.  But the view from the top is amazing.

Winter Getaway Races - Honolulu Marathon

1: Honolulu Marathon: Honolulu, Hawaii

This race starts with fireworks and features a course that brings runners along the coast of the big Island in Hawaii.  The scenery in Honolulu is beautiful and the post race party is a nighttime luau.  This is the fourth most popular race in the United States (after Boston, New York and Chicago) and it’s known for having no course time limit.  The race is held in mid-December so if you’re interested in taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to go for a run and then relax on the beach, you should give this one a look.

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