Your Half Marathon Bucket List
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The half marathon is having a serious moment. In 2015, over two million tackled the 13.1-mile distance and—get this—61 percent of those finishers were women, according to the 2015 Half Marathon Report from Running USA. (Seriously, Women Dominate the Running World, Racing Way More Than Men.) What's more, 40 percent of surveyed runners named the half marathon as their favorite race. We think they're on to something: A half marathon is challenging enough that you can pin it as a long-term training incentive, but approachable enough for the everyday runner.
This half marathon hot streak has led to an eight percent increase in race events in the last year alone, the report found. But runners increasingly want unique race experiences that stand out from the others with different and creative elements, says Scott Bush, Director of Communications for Running USA. Enter this bucket list: your guide to the country's must-try half marathons, ranging from fast, flat urban routes to high altitude, scenic climbs, from costumed runs to oenophile paradises, and everything in between. (Ready to #RunIntoShape? Try Our 30-Day Running Challenge!)
Photo: Destination Races
Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon—Orlando, FL
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You'll experience the magic of Disney first hand with the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Thanks to a start time of 5:30 a.m., the roads are all your own, save for the occasional appearance of a character. Finish with a sunrise view of Epcot that makes for a terrific photo op. Your reward for the 13.1 mile effort? A day in the park followed by exclusive access to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.
Photo: Run Disney
Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon—Indianapolis, IN
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Ironically, the Indy Mini, as it's frequently called, happens to be one of the largest races of this distance every year. But don't let that dissuade you. The Hoosiers make you feel right at home, and running miles six to eight on the actual Indianapolis 500 track gives this race a very special feel.
Photo: Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon
Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon—Las Vegas, NV
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The entire Las Vegas strip will shut down for this nighttime race. Take off under actual flames and continue to burn pavement under the bright lights and blasting music of the iconic stretch for 11 of your 13.1 miles, spotted with live entertainment that only Sin City could provide.
Photo: Ryan Bethke
Eugene Half Marathon—Eugene, FL
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If you're going to run, why not do it in TrackTown, USA at the Eugene Half Marathon? You'll start in front of Hayward Field, hallowed ground for runners everywhere, and wind your way through the trails, woods, and riversides that helped to inspire the birth of Nike. In keeping with Oregonian tradition, your finisher race medal gives you access to a local brewery beer garden. Pair your brew with the free pancakes for the ultimate recovery meal. (Will run for beer: Check out 14 Fun Beer Runs for Ale Addicts.)
Photo: University of Oregon, Geoff Thurner
Horse Capital Half Marathon—Lexington, KY
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Seabiscuit isn't the only one who can PR out here. The Horse Capital Half Marathon takes you on winding country roads through rolling hills, flanked by vast green pastures and kept cool by lush trees. It's a tough course with a hefty incline, but the impressive scenery makes it worth the extra effort on the legs. To really get in the spirit of horse country, the race starts and finishes at a historic Thoroughbred trading house, so you can even pose with the race horses once you're done.
Photo: Horse Capital Half Marathon
Airbnb Brooklyn Half—Brooklyn, NY
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This carefully crafted route shows off one of New York's best borroughs. The Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon starts at the Brooklyn Museum and ends with a memorable and unparalleled finish on the boardwalk at Coney Island. Throughout the race, you'll wind through wooded trails, pass historic Brooklyn sites, and catch breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. But last year's race sold out in 52 minutes, so sign up early!
Photo: New York Road Runners
St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville—Nashville, TN
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Nashville is all about the country music. So it makes perfect sense that Music City's take on the half marathon would bring the best country performers to cheer you on. As you run through this iconic Southern City, you'll encounter a raucous downtown, lined with live music bars, followed by hipster neighborhoods chock-full of coffee shops, and capped off with old Southern homes with wraparound porches. If that's not enough to distract you, the noonstop entertainment surely will.
Photo: Ryan Bethke
Sedona Half Marathon—Sedona, AZ
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Combine gorgeous scenery with the high altitude and this race is literally breathtaking. The Sedona Half Marathon poses a challenge—ahem, hills—but also provides a unique terrain experience thanks to a mix of gravel, paved roads, and trails. Easily one of the most naturally beautiful (read: Instagrammable) courses out there, this is a must for anyone with an eye for the outdoors. Plus, mild Arizona temps year-round make this the perfect winter tune-up. (New to running? Try one of 10 Races Perfect for People Just Beginning Running.)
Photo: The Sedona Marathon
Southernmost Half Marathon—Key West, FL
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If running on the beach is your idea of the ultimate workout, this race is for you. On the Southernmost Half Marathon course, you'll experience endless ocean and beachfront views all the while getting a little taste of the Key West flair. Fun fact: You'll even hit the southermost point of the United States. It's fast, it's flat, and there's rum waiting for you at the end. What's not to like?
Savannah Remix Weekend—Savannah, GA
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For some people, clocking in 13.1 miles on a Saturday isn't enough. To those people, we present the Savannah Remix Challenge. During this weekend for running fanatics, you'll lace up again Sunday morning and finish a 5K. If the adrenaline isn't enough to fuel you to sign up, maybe the idea of all the Southern food waiting for you is? And, yes, there will be plenty of local music pushing you to that finish line...both times.
Photo: Rock 'N' Roll Savannah
Run Wild Missoula—Missoula, MT
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Turn your next race into a vacation to Big Sky Country with the Missoula Half Marathon. Speed downhill towards some of the most picturesque rivers in the West, race through the countryside, and finish in downtown Missoula. After a mindblowingly beautiful race, sit back and revel in the small town vibes while donning your horsehoe medal. Grab a post-race brunch quick because you'll want to hit the ground hiking ASAP.
The AthHalf—Athens, GA
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Throw it back to the college days with this half marathon through Athens, home to University of Georgia. You'll encounter rowdy students cheering you on from the sidelines, catch local bands playing streetside in the classically Southern downtown, and run through the autumn-colored trees that line the campus. Scenery aside, nothing beats the surge of adrenaline you'll experience as you approach the finish line of this race, smack dab in the middle of UGA's football stadium. Don't forget to check yourself out on the jumbotron! (Peep these 12 Amazing Finish Line Moments.)
Photo: AthFest Educates
North Face Endurance Challenge Utah—Park City, UT
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This race is not for the faint of heart, but it's also worth every heavy breath and every tough stride. During North Face's Endurance Challenge in Park City, you'll hit a variety of trails, ranging from ski slopes turned mountain runs, dirt access roads, and mountain bike tracks. Try this one out if you're a seasoned vet looking for something to really push you to that next level.
Photo: Derrick Lytle
Navy Half Marathon—Washington, DC
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This may be one of the most emotionally moving races out there. Beginning and ending under the shadow of the National Mall, the Navy Half Marathon honors past and present military members. Many of these military members race side by side with the civilians they served. In addition, there's a large Wounded Warrior contingent that makes this race—already aesthetically impressive—especially powerful.
Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon—Napa Valley, CA
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The Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon is a wine with a little bit of running kind of race. Sort of—you definitely put in the full 13-plus miles, trekking across some of the most beautiful vineyards in the United States. It's surprisingly flat, so this course has become a favorite of racers looking for a good gateway race or a destination for a group trip. The best part? You'll get access to exclusive wine tasting events all weekend long, held at some of the region's most lauded wineries. This is one you won't want to miss! (Want more? These are the 10 Best Marathons to Travel the World.)
Photo: Destination Races