With the new year comes renewed interest in creating new resolutions, from getting in shape to losing weight. A destination race can help you meet those health and fitness resolutions, and also be the centerpiece of a family vacation. What better way to stay on track with training and exercise than with the incentive of an enticing event in an exotic and inspiring location? And if you think running competitions are just for elite athletes, think again. Many races offer multiple distances and beginner-friendly runs. If you want to take in captivating backdrops in far-flung retreats, read on to start planning your next jaunt.
Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Series
Going on 20 years running, Competitor Group's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series has combined miles, music and medals since 1998. Capturing the energy of a rock concert throughout their courses, you can find everything from a 5K in California to a marathon in Madrid. There are 30 races in all (as well as a virtual run) between Jan. 14 and Dec. 2, 2017, across the U.S. Mexico, Canada and Europe. Each event promises live bands nearly every mile and a headliner concert at the finish line. Destination races held in San Diego, Dublin, Ireland and Las Vegas are especially worth planning a trip around.
If you're a Disney enthusiast, consider participating in one of runDisney's series of races for plenty of photo ops with Mickey and other beloved costumed characters. The Disney races particularly cater to novice runners with generous time limits to complete courses that wind through theme parks. Take your pick from a Star Wars half marathon, 10K or 5K, a Super Heroes half marathon, Tinker Bell half marathon and more. The runDisney season begins in January and continues through November with races at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. And what better way to get the kids outside and moving than with a little Disney magic?
National Park Half Marathon Series
Prefer a national park to a theme park? Consider joining the Vacation Races national park half marathon series. Launched with the Zion Half Marathon, Vacation Races is an official partner of the National Parks Service and has 11 half marathons in or near many of the country's iconic national parks including Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains in addition to Zion. To minimize their impact on the environment, Vacation Races keeps entrants low, uses no cups on the course (instead giving every runner a refillable pouch) and a portion of the registration fee goes to the National Parks Foundation. Also, to encourage runners to stay and enjoy the area after a race, Vacation Races offers additional park-related challenges (think: hiking, climbing, swimming and boating) for a prize or a discounted registration rate for a future race.
Women's Running Races
Over half of all race finishers are women, and event organizers are catering more and more to female fitness enthusiasts with women-centric routes. The aforementioned runDisney series features two women-only events: the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend in Florida and Tinker Bell Half Marathon in California. In 2016, Nike sponsored the NikeWomen Victory Tour with half marathons around the world in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Sydney and many world-class cities. And there are plenty of Iron Girl, See Jane Run and Divas Half Marathon and 5K series races across the country that offer ample opportunities for mother-daughter bonding.
Stand-Alone Destination Races
Whatever your dream vacation involves, chances are there's an event to serve as the focal point of the trip. Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and Europe all host outstanding destination races. Dream of going to Hawaii? December's Honolulu Marathon is the fourth-largest marathon in the country with over 30,000 entrants each year. The Honolulu Marathon has no cut-off time to finish, meaning it is particularly walker-friendly and affords participants as much time as needed to complete the race.
Meanwhile, the Anchorage Mayor's Marathon is held on the longest day of the year, and attracts runners from all over the world. With Canada celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, perhaps Canada's oldest and largest race, the BMO Vancouver Marathon is an ideal active vacation. Called a bucket-list race for international runners, Vancouver is known for its scenic course and family-friendly outdoor attractions. Finally, over 1 million runners have crossed the Tower Bridge, around the final corner in front of Buckingham Palace and on to the finish line of the London Marathon. What better way to see a world-class city than on foot? After the race, London's a perfect city for a family getaway thanks to its winning combination of history, culture and Harry Potter.
Dave Parfitt is a reformed academic with a PhD in neuroscience, and began writing about his family travel adventures after surviving a trip to Walt Disney World as father of two budding princesses. As owner and editor of AdventuresbyDaddy.com, Dave offers family travel advice and escapist fun from Dad's point of view. You can follow Dave on Twitter @AdventuresByDad, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.