Run and sun under a palm tree at these courses for sand and shore lovers
Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon and Half Marathon
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South Carolina’s Kiawah Island took fourth behind Maui, Kauai, and the Maldives in Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 25 Islands in the World” reader’s poll. And the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Marathon and Half Marathon puts the island’s beauty on full display. Runners tour maritime forests, marshes, and quiet residential neighborhoods. A pre-race bike ride the day before lets runners preview the course and pace teams help personal best seekers hit their goals. Post-race, runners get the luxury treatment with complimentary mini-massages and a buffet spread with soup, salad, pasta and more. Race day temps in the mid-60s, five championship golf courses, an award-winning tennis center, a Forbes five-star award-winning spa, wildlife and nature tours, an oceanfront beach and other activities like fishing and paddling make the island race an ideal December getaway.
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Photo: Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Bermuda Marathon Weekend
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Lose yourself in the famed triangle with the challenging Bermuda Marathon Weekend, which dares runners to survive three races on three consecutive days: a nighttime one-mile run on Friday, a Saturday morning 10K, and either a half-marathon or full marathon on Sunday. Bermuda runners get a medal for each race and another for completing the challenge. Not up for a hat trick? Take on any one of the courses that tour runners past turquoise waters, pastel colonial towns, and verdant gardens. And when you’re not running, dive the world’s largest collection of shipwrecks, stroll pink sand beaches, and explore the oldest English settlement in the New World. Bermuda shorts required.
Photo: Bermuda Tourism Authority
Surf City USA Marathon and Half Marathon
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If you’re California dreamin’, head to the Surf City USA Marathon and Half Marathon in Huntington Beach, CA, to run the most famous stretch of sand on the West Coast. The race has become popular for its surfboard-shaped medals and surf music lining the flat and fast course along the Pacific Coast Highway and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, then over the Bolsa Chica State Beach running path paved atop the sand. Runners pass some of the most iconic sights in California’s “Surf City,” including the Huntington Beach Pier. After the race, get your drink on at the waterside Michelob Ultra Beer Garden Beach Party, where the first drink is on the house for runners 21 and older. With 20,000 runners, 2,000 volunteers, and 45,000 spectators it’s a beach bash of epic proportions.
Photo: Surf City Marathon/MKM
Great Ocean Road Marathon
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The U.S. has California’s Pacific Coast Highway. Australia has the Great Ocean Road. And the Great Ocean Road Marathon makes full use of the majestic coastal highway that strings together some of southern Australia’s most magnificent beaches. With 45K, 23K, 14K, and 6K races and a 1.5K kids run, there’s a distance for everyone. The start is just two hours outside Melbourne and the finish is beside the idyllic waters of the crescent-shaped Apollo Bay. For a truly epic road trip, drive another hour to the famous 12 Apostles rock formations. Or trek the 65 miles by foot via the Great Ocean Walk, a hiking trail that traverses Great Otway National Park. You’ll find koalas, wallabies, and more down under.
Photo: Jodie Porter
Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10K
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Channel your inner Usain Bolt at the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10K in Negril, Jamaica. The flat out-and-back courses along the island’s north coast roads were made for running fast. With $10,000 in prize money and trophies modeled after Bob Marley and Rita Marley for the male and female winners, runners can expect some fierce competition. Don’t let the balmy race morning temps of 75 degrees worry you; 25 water and aid stations line the marathon course, along with misters and iced towel wraps to cool you down. A post-race dip in the azure water at the famous Seven Mile Beach won’t hurt either. Plus, reggae music every mile, a pasta party self-dubbed “World’s Best” and fresh coconut juice at the finish line beach bash make everything irie, mon.
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Photo: Errol Anderson
Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon
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Imagine sunrise over volcanic peaks, lush tropical rain forests, and a spectacular waterfront finish. You can run it all at the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon in Hawaii. Hula dancers and Hawaiian musicians provide on-course entertainment and the pre- and post-race food spread is a luau-worthy feast. Follow it up with a free mini-massage at the finish or a luxurious post-race massage at a world-class spa. Host hotel Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is a Conde Nast Traveler Gold List “Platinum Circle” award winner as one of “The World’s Best Places To Stay,” and the property’s Anara Spa offers discounted specials for runners. Simply put, it’s paradise.
Photo: Jo Evans
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An oceanfront start and finish and a scenic course that has runners raving make the Marathon Bahamas beach racing at its best. The Sunshine Insurance Race Weekend Marathon Bahamas in the capital city of Nassau offers a distance for every runner including a 5K, half-marathon, marathon, and four-person marathon relay with legs ranging from 5.6 to 7.5 miles. The courses are flat, save a jaunt over a bridge going to and from glitzy Paradise Island, where Beyonce and Jay-Z have been spotted vacationing. And the post race party is on the beach with beer, music, and more.
Photo: Marathon Bahamas
Southernmost Marathon and Half Marathon
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The two-year-old Southernmost Marathon and Half Marathon in Key West, FL, gets its name from Mile Marker zero on U.S. Route 1, the southernmost incorporated point in the continental U.S. The flat and fast out-and-back races, which also include a 10K, take runners beside beaches and over bridges with panoramic Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico views. Weekend activities include a paddleboard race to benefit Special Olympics, food and activity discounts throughout the island, and a post-race party at Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel. It’s pure Key West: sun and fun with a laidback vibe.
Photo: Marrero/Doll Photography
Marathon International de Moorea
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Who hasn’t dreamed of visiting the islands of French Polynesia? Among them, Moorea is less traveled than Tahiti and Bora Bora, but arguably more beautiful. With a course that runs along soft sand beaches and beside jagged shark-tooth shaped mountains, the Marathon International de Moorea is a dream running vacation. The 5K, half-marathon, and marathon travel beside the turquoise waters of the South Pacific. Tahitian dancers and musicians provide entertainment along the course, and aid stations feature a spread of fresh tropical fruits: pineapple, papaya, mango and coconut. The only problem is you’ll never want to leave.
Photo: Te Moorea Club
Rock ‘n’ Roll Nice 10 Miles of Carnaval
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February may not be beach weather in the French Riviera, but with perpetual 60-degree days, the sunny climes of Nice fit well in February. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Nice 10 Miles of Carnaval serves up endless Mediterranean views along the famous Promenade des Anglais. Like all Rock ‘n’ Roll events, live bands line the course and a finish concert keeps the party going when you’re through. Throw in a Carnaval-inspired costume contest with prizes for best Carnaval, rock ‘n’ roll, unique, group and couples costumes, and you’ve got a party on the run.
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Photo: Convention and Visitors Bureau of Nice