When I ran my first marathon in 1999, I was single and not really looking for a “better half.” But, as I passed mile marker after mile marker I found myself staring at the throngs of mothers and fathers standing on the sidelines with kids in hand waving signs and cheering for their respective spouses and parents. It tugged at my heart and I envisioned a day that my own spouse would be standing at mile 16 with our child on his shoulders shouting words of encouragement as I raced towards the finish line. That was seven years ago and since then I have completed three more marathons, got married, and had a baby. So how does this all fit into a blog about travel? Currently, I am preparing to fulfill my dream of running a marathon (post-baby) and when I do I want to turn it into a family vacation. Marathons are great family events, so why not choose to race in a place where the entire family can have fun together.
Here are my suggestions for “destination marathons,” fit for the entire family.
The Walt Disney World Marathon and Half-Marathon. These are the only running events that travel through Walt Disney World. Both events wind through backstage areas normally off-limits to park guests, and the full goes through all four theme parks. Spectators are allowed access to key areas along the course to cheer runners along. In addition, Disney characters pose for snapshots at various spots along the course. The race takes place in January. Florida in January, need I say more?
The Honolulu Marathon. If you needed a reason to visit “paradise” then this is a good one. The 26.2-mile course is a virtual sightseeing tour in and of itself. The marathon starts at Ala Moana Beach Park, a local recreation area encompassing over 100 acres of park, beaches, swimming and surfing spots. From there you run through downtown Honolulu and past Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil. The course proceeds through famed Waikiki and around the foot of Diamond Head and takes you past Koko Head, a volcanic crater eroded on one side by the ocean. The amazing sights that the marathon uses as a backdrop can be explored as part of your family vacation prior to or after race day. Think about it, where else would you rather be than Hawaii… in December?
The Chicago Marathon. This is a race that is near and dear to my heart. It was where I completed my first marathon. More than 1.5 million spectators line the 26.2-mile course that starts and finishes in Grant Park on Columbus Drive, near Buckingham Fountain. The race takes place in October, a great time of the year to explore the city of Chicago. The marathon itself winds through Little Italy, Chinatown, the magnificent mile and Lincoln Park, all great places to visit with your family, before or after race day.
There are dozens of marathons that take place in cities around the country. However, the ones I have highlighted allow for easy access to family fun. The attractions in each place are kid-friendly and the time of year each is held is attractive as well. Here’s hoping your next marathon will be an event the entire family will remember for years to come.