Pack your pumps and earn your piña colada by combining an international running race with a holiday. Racecations are all the rage, innit.
1. Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10k
December 2016 (exact date TBC)
THE RACE: As much a massive party as it is a race, the annual Reggae Marathon (or half, or 10k) follows a mostly flat route along Jamaica’s paradise-like north coast. The atmosphere is perhaps the happiest and most electrifying of any race in the world, with music and torchlights (it starts at 5.15am) throughout, and the almighty Finish Line Beach Bash at the end. Even the ‘pasta party’ the day before (at which runners load up on gourmet carbs) is the stuff of legend.
The event becomes increasingly popular with every passing year (2015’s race will be the 15th), with registration filling up 28% swifter this year than last. So if you’re going to sign up (an’ ting) don’t leave it too late (mon). (Sorry.)
THE PLACE: Negril is basically what you see in your head when you picture an idyllic beach holiday. The town’s Seven Mile Beach has white sands and calm, shallow waters, and is lined with bars and restaurants that, come nightfall, burst into life with reggae and dancehall music. There’s also a Sandals resort located there, if all-inclusive and swanky is your thing.
2. Big Sur International Marathon
24 April 2016
Big Sur, California, US
THE RACE: The US of America is filled with scenic roads that make drivers feel like they’re in the closing credits of a movie, being soundtracked by a fist-pumping Springsteen song. Perhaps the most iconic of these drives is the one along California’s Highway One from Big Sur to Carmel, offering jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean – and that’s the route that the Big Sur International Marathon follows. Dreeeamy.
The route offers jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean
There are serious climbs and strong headwinds, so this isn’t ideal for nervous first-time marathoners – but if you’ve already got one or two under your belt and you fancy something challenging but OMG spectacular, this is for you.
THE PLACE: A mind-expanding mixture of wide, wide open spaces, guaranteed sunshine and rugged coastline, Big Sur has been a mecca for artists, writers and space cadets since the early ’60s. If you’re into surfing, there are amazing waves to be had, although they’re pretty bad-ass – again, not for nervous first-timers.
There’s not a great deal to see, however, so unless you want to sign up for a few days at a local yoghurt-knitting retreat, you may want to keep heading along the highway to drop in at San Jose, San Francisco or, in the other direction, Los Angeles.
14 August 2016
THE RACE: You may not have heard of it, but with 80,000 participants this 14km (8.7 miles) race is currently the largest running event in the world. It’s not a particularly seriousface race: it’s billed as a fun run, and many participants walk the entire route, which travels from the centre of Sydney, through the suburbs and out to beautiful Bondi Beach (hence the name of the race, obvz).
With 80,000 participants this is the largest running event in the world
Running in Australia may sound worryingly hot, but temperatures in Sydney during August only average around 18°C, so you’re not going to perish from heat exhaustion. It’s not all shits’n’giggles, however: there’s a steep 2km ascent at the halfway point that’s been nicknamed Heartbreak Hill…
THE PLACE: Obviously, Australia is a bit of a faff to get to from the UK, so you’re unlikely to want to travel all the way out there just to run 8.7 miles, regardless of how pretty they are. But if you were planning to head Down Under next year anyway, you won’t regret shifting your dates around to accomodate this race.
4. SeaWheeze Half Marathon
August 2016 (exact date TBC)
THE RACE: Like the Reggae Marathon above, the SeaWheeze Half Marathon entails far more than just the race itself. A weekend-long event built around running, yoga and dancing like no-one’s watching, it culminates in the Sunset Festival outdoor party, set amongst towering pines and views of the Pacific Ocean.
If this race were an item of clothing, it’d be a satin Versace dress
The half marathon itself starts in well-to-do downtown Vancouver and travels around the edge of the city’s lush Stanley Park, hugging the Pacific at all times to keep those cooling breezes washing over you. If this race were an item of clothing, it’d be a bespoke satin Versace dress. With massive sweaty pit-stains.
THE PLACE: The most affluent (and expensive) of Canada’s major cities, Vancouver opens onto the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by epic mountains and dense forests, so there are a wealth of activities to throw yourself into if you’re an outdoorsy type. More of a culcha vulcha? There are strong music, theatre and art scenes to stroke your chin over.
5. Rio Marathon, Half Marathon & 6k
29 May 2016
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
THE RACE: One of the most visually appealing city races on the planet, the Rio Half Marathon takes you along Rio’s gorgeous coastline, through the boulevards backing onto the famous Ipanema and Copacabana Leblon beaches, and finishes up in Flamengo Park, with its Instagram-friendly views across to Sugarloaf Mountain. Expect large, lively crowds at the finish line.
One of the most visually appealing city races on the planet
It’s Brazil and it’s May, so it’s going to be hot, but not insanely so – 27°C is the average. Bit sweaty, yes, but not murderous.
THE PLACE: Sand. Samba. Beautiful people. Football as religion. The 32km² Tijuca National Park, the world’s largest urban forest with its spectacular 100ft waterfall. The massive Christ the Redeemer statue. Surfing at Copacabana beach. The headily vibrant nightlife of the Lapa neighbourhood. Ipanema, arguably the best beach in the world. Cable cars up to the 400m summit of Sugarloaf Mountain.