What makes you push yourself to cross that finish line and beat that personal best? Whether it’s a meet and greet with Jasmine and Elsa, or the promise of some post-race bourbon, the Old South is plenty eclectic when it comes to its marathon events.
From New Mexico to Kentucky, there are many races to choose from if you’re looking to qualify for a major marathon, or run your first 26.2 miles. These are our favorites.
Where: South Williamson, Kentucky
The feud is still on, but the Hatfields and McCoys manage to come together long enough to bring you a fun, unique marathon. That being said, this race is not feud-free! Racers are randomly split into two teams, the Hatfields and the McCoys. Whichever team has the lowest overall time wins the feud — for the rest of the day, at least.
Make sure to plan enough time to take in the fun and historic landmarks, including a tour of the feud sites and an ATV ride through the trails. You will also probably be able to find a little taste of moonshine in some secret spots along the way.
Where: Orlando, Florida
There’s bound to be a princess hiding inside some marathoners. Spot your favorite Disney characters in the crowd as you run the 13.1-mile race through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks. In true Disney fashion, the fun doesn’t stop at the end of the race. Be sure to join the other racers, family, and friends for the “Happily Ever After Party” held at Disney Springs. In addition to the fun and excitement of Disney, your registration will help support the Children’s Miracle Network. The weekend event also includes a 10K, 5K, and kids’ fun run.
Where: Houston, Texas
Flat and fast, this race is famous for getting many marathoners qualified for the Boston event, and the number of fellow racers grows every year. Pass the greenery of Buffalo Bayou Park and Memorial Park, as well as the Galleria before finishing in the streets of downtown Houston. In a state where everything is bigger, their post-race celebration will not disappoint.
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
This is the perfect race for runners who love music. The route is a running tour of the historic streets of Nashville’s music scene, taking you past the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Tennessee State Capitol, Bicentennial Mall, and more as you race for the finish. Live bands and cheer squads are scattered along the route, and the Nashville party atmosphere really kicks into high gear once you cross the finish line, with beer and more bands. All runners get tickets to a post-race concert that night.
Where: Austin, Texas
Plan a destination race weekend and enjoy the history of Austin, Texas. Both the marathon and half marathon run right through the streets of downtown Austin where you will pass a number of historic sites. These include the Texas State Capitol, Lady Bird Lake, Hyde Park, and the University of Texas campus. The race is within walking distance of great hotels and restaurants as well as the active Austin nightlife. With so many sites and activities to see in Austin, you will have plenty to do in the days before and after the race itself.
Where: Apache Junction, Arizona
This race leads you along the base of Superstition Mountain, where the hidden goldmine known as the Lost Dutchman is believed to be. It begins before dawn, with much of the course lit by campfires. The breathtaking scenery of Arizona is everywhere and beckons to be explored, so be prepared to spend some extra time there before or after the race. This event is a Boston Marathon qualifier.
Where: Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia
This is a must run marathon for Civil War enthusiasts. This marathon runs through the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, starting and finishing at the Sixth Cavalry museum. The race begins with the boom of a 19th century canon to add to the Civil War feel. Then, you will pass by monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers as you battle for the finish.
Where: Lexington, Kentucky
If you love Kentucky bourbon, then it’s time to get together your relay team for the Bourbon Chase. This is not a traditional marathon, but a 200-mile relay race across the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It all begins at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, and ends in historic Lexington. Along the way, racers will pass historic distilleries, scenic horse farms, and beautiful countryside landscapes. After the race, stay behind to enjoy a fun festival filled with music, food, and bourbon!
Where: Jackson, Mississippi
This race is all about celebrating the history and rich heritage of Blues music. Enjoy live blues music along the race course, as well as the additional live bands at both the start and finish lines. See downtown Jackson as you run through its streets with excited fans cheering you on! Enjoy your stay in Jackson by checking out their many live music venues where you can get a feel for real Blues music.
Where: White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
This is not your average marathon. The event was created to honor the WWII soldiers who defended the Philippines and were forced to endure the Bataan Death March. The course, set in the White Sands Missile Range, features a deep sand area known as “the sand pit.” This marathon welcomes both military and civilian participants, with divisions labeled “heavy” and “light.” Runners in the heavy group carry a 35-pound pack, while those in the latter wear standard running gear.