The last post I did like this listed the five most scenic races I’ve done. So for this one, I thought I’d list my five favorite big city races. I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage with this post because I haven’t done the New York or Boston Marathons. Maybe those would both be on this list if I had, but based on the races that I have done, these were my favorites:
The course starts and ends at the space needle and goes through parts of downtown Seattle and along sections of Puget Sound. You’ll see a nice mix of cityscape and natural beauty during the run and the weather in Seattle in June is pretty mild. There’s plenty to see and do around town while you’re there and Seattle is another city with public transportation that’s so excellent that you’ll probably be able to skip the rental car if you don’t want to worry about driving. You’ll also be hard pressed to beat the seafood you can get in some of the restaurants around town.
Being from Chicago, I’m usually expected to hate Detroit. There are huge rivalries between all of our sports teams and most Chicagoans generally perceive the city itself to be a disgusting, dirty wasteland of urban decay. Truthfully though, the Detroit Marathon is probably one of the coolest races in North America. The course starts in downtown Detroit, crosses over the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor, Ontario, heads through the streets of Windsor for several miles and then heads back into the United States through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. It’s the only North American race that crosses international borders twice. It’s also held during mid-October when the leaves are changing and the temperature is nice and moderate. Regardless of what you may have heard about Detroit, you shouldn’t miss this race.
Philadelphia is a world class city and also one of the most historic places to visit in the United States. This race is well organised, with a flat, fast course that goes through downtown Philadelphia, passes by the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the Philadelphia City Hall along with a number of other historic locations before heading past Boathouse Row and along the Schuylkill River Trail and finishing in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A lot of runners also like to run up the art museum steps after crossing the finish line the way Sylvester Stallone did in the first Rocky movie.
This is one of the hilliest courses I’ve done but it was so beautiful that I barely even noticed the hills until I finished the race and realized that my quads felt like they were on fire. The biggest attraction of this course is the fact that it crosses the Golden Gate Bridge (twice, in fact – once in each direction). There are dozens of other things to love about it though. It also heads down the Embarcadero, past Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Presidio, through Golden Gate Park, through Haight Ashbury, and under the Bay Bridge. If you’re not from San Francisco, this race will bring you past all of the best, most scenic areas of the city in a big 26.2 mile loop.
This shouldn’t be a big surprise coming from me. The Chicago Marathon is an amazing race that brings close to 50,000 runners from all over the world to Chicago every fall. It has a flat, fast course that goes through 30 different Chicago neighborhoods and has amazing crowd support throughout the entire course. It’s also one of the World Marathon Majors, and Chicago itself is an amazing city. If you only travel to Chicago for one running event during your entire life, this should be it.
So that’s my list. Maybe you’ve done some other big city races that you thought should have been included. If you have, I’d love to hear about them so feel free to let me know!