September 18 2018
Make your half-marathon or marathon debut at these beginner-friendly destination races.
Of course, we all have hometown pride. But let’s be honest: When it comes to running, there are some places with trails so perfect and races so plentiful, we can’t help our legs from experiencing wanderlust. WR started our search for the best locations for runners with a bracket of 30 and opened up the voting to readers to make this tough call—here are your results.
Population: 4.2 million
The metropolitan area comprising Tampa (where the party’s at), St. Petersburg (where the money is) and Clearwater (where the beaches are) is collectively known as Tampa Bay. It’s also one of the favored places for professional endurance athletes to call home—thanks to the abundance of bike paths and swimmable water—and the absence of winter and state income tax.
Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world, providing the platform for 4.5 miles of uninterrupted running alongside the city’s beautiful shore. The 42-mile Suncoast Trail is a go-to for those who prefer a break from the Southeast sun—the former railway is now home to a shaded, paved bike path. Across the bay, St. Petersburg’s Bayshore Drive and Pinellas Trail offer parallel delights.
Get Away From It All
Flat-as-a-pancake Central Florida isn’t known for its trails, but there are a number of packed-dirt off-roads perfect for runners. Flatwoods Park, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Moccasin Lake Park and Booker Creek are just a few ideas. Bonus (or beware!): You might see an alligator.
Held in late February, the Gasparilla Distance Classic is the hottest race in town, drawing more than 30,000 participants each year. Named after the pirate festival that is Tampa Bay’s answer to Mardi Gras, the event offers four distances over two days and serves up piping hot rice and beans at the finish line. —JS
“Not only is it in my backyard, but I love the mix of urban and waterside running Tampa offers. Plus, I ran my first marathon in the city, so it will always have a special place in my heart. You always remember your first! (Ha!)” —Kara Deschenes, WR contributor