It’s that time of year — so many races, so little time! Whether you’re looking to map out your 2019 race schedule or simply add the finishing touches, you’re in the right place. From picturesque training runs to dialed-in goal races, we’re here to help you jump-start your New Year’s resolutions and keep your eyes on the prize, with nine events highly recommended by our trusted RaceRaves community.
Red Rock Canyon – Las Vegas, NV
(Feb 23; marathon, half marathon, 5K)
Located 30 minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a stunning oasis in the Mojave Desert. It’s also home to one of the West’s most unsung winter races. Now in its 12th year, Red Rock Canyon’s “always magnificent” views of colorful sandstone formations and unique desert flora help to distract from its challenging, hilly course. And “Tortoise Xing” signs along the road offer a fitting reminder that while you may not win, slow and steady is the best way to appreciate this race.
Zion Half Marathon – Virgin, UT
(Feb 23; half marathon)
The overwhelming consensus among runners is that you can’t go wrong with Vacation Races. So it speaks volumes that Zion has emerged as one of the company’s most beloved events, as evidenced by its reviews and the fact it sells out quickly (so plan ahead for 2020). Finishers rave about the sunrise start as well as the “amazing scenery” and “spectacular views” in a — wait for it — “bea-UTAH-ful location.” And though this year’s edition is full, don’t dismay — VR offers similarly scenic half marathon events at National Parks across the country.
Catalina Island Marathon – Avalon, CA
(Mar 9; marathon, 10K, 5K)
If we say “Run among the bison with Pacific Ocean views on all sides,” you say…? The Catalina Island Marathon, of course! Situated off the coast of Long Beach, idyllic Catalina Island is home to the state’s oldest trail marathon and its most popular residents, a free-ranging herd of 150 bison. With its “truly gorgeous and very challenging” course on “nicely graded dirt roads,” the other CIM is a hidden gem that’s “not to be missed.” And for those who prefer their marathons half as long, the island also hosts a 13.1-mile race in November. (Use RACERAVES10 to save 10% on any 2019 CIM event!)
Hatfield McCoy Marathon – South Williamson, KY
(Jun 8; marathon, double half marathon, River Road Half Marathon, Blackberry Mountain Half Marathon, 5K)
Expect “No Feudin’, Just Runnin’ ” at this laid-back favorite in the heart of Appalachia. The charming course starts in Kentucky and finishes in West Virginia, following wooded backroads and tranquil countryside dotted with colonial-style homes and patrolled by the Tug Fork River. With “amazing” volunteers, personalized signs to welcome back returning runners, and rifle-toting characters waiting to greet every finisher, it’s no wonder first-timers and 50 Staters alike call HMM an “incredible experience” and a “must-do event!”
Akron Marathon – Akron, OH
(Sep 28; marathon, marathon relay, half marathon)
It’s safe to say the birthplace of NBA superstars LeBron James and Stephen Curry knows something about greatness. And Rubber City’s hometown marathon delivers, from its high-energy expo to its finish on the field at Canal Park. Ohioan @haleyruns10 calls Akron “the most underrated marathon in the US” and @lchristensen44 adds, “Everything about the race production is top notch.” Boasting tremendous community support that ensures “you are never really running alone,” Akron is a “complete and positive experience.”
Clarence DeMar Marathon – Gilsum, NH
(Sep 29; marathon, half marathon)
Run in the footsteps of a legend! Established in 1978 to honor the former Keene resident and 7-time Boston Marathon champion, Clarence DeMar is a small-town race with big-city heart. The “awesome point-to-point” courses wind their way through the New England countryside in the company of babbling brooks and early fall foliage, highlighted by a visit to picturesque Surry Mountain Lake (where the half starts). And race organizers go the extra mile to recognize every runner who crosses the finish line at Keene State College.
Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Weekend – Minneapolis, MN
(Oct 5–6; marathon, 10 miler, 10K, 5K)
Double your pleasure at this “A+ fall marathon” featuring “peak fall colors throughout two beautiful cities.” From its start outside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to its finish on the State Capitol grounds in St. Paul, Twin Cities earns high praise from finishers such as 144-time marathoner and 50 States finisher @AllanHoltz, who calls it “the most scenic urban marathon.” And if spectator support is your jam, @stefanyraemeade raves that the crowds “filled my heart with an energy that causes me to tear up just thinking about it.”
Monterey Bay Half Marathon – Monterey, CA
(Nov 9–10; half marathon, 5K, 3K)
Whales and otters and seals, oh my! Follow the sound of the surf to this gorgeous fall offering from the organizers of the Big Sur International Marathon. Like its iconic sibling, finishers laud MBHM as a “bucket list race” with its flat, fast course that runs along the rocky shoreline of Pacific Grove, home to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium. With crashing waves and aquatic wildlife as your backdrop, it’s tough to argue with @cdmauger’s claim that “You won’t find a better half marathon.”
VCU Health Richmond Marathon – Richmond, VA
(Nov 16; marathon, half marathon, 8K)
“America’s Friendliest Marathon” blends scenery with history, passing through diverse neighborhoods and along the James River in the full flush of fall. And while the fast course is a perennial Boston Qualifying favorite, the ultimate compliment may come from @RunnerMeg, who notes Richmond “feels like a much larger event than it really is” thanks to energetic volunteers and outstanding community support including several Party Zones. For a fall race that goes the extra mile and has fun doing it, look no further than Richmond.
Our quick picks are only the beginning! Search for races by state/city or month, and try our handy Find a Race tool to search for events by name, date range, distance, location, terrain & more. Then sign up for a free account to build your wish list and start coloring in your 50 States Map!
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Other RaceRaves articles you’ll enjoy (trust us!):
Runners Choice: Best Marathons in the U.S.
Introducing your (smart) 50 States Map
Getting to know the Abbott World Marathon Majors
Best Bets for Boston Marathon Qualifying Races
Toughest Road Marathons in North America
5 Half Marathon Series worth a full look
8 Trail Running Tips: How to get started
Unconventional Races that dare to be different
And for more helpful articles, check out our blog!