The Bucket List

It’s February, the weather is cold and the roads are icy.  This winter more than any in recent memory has wreaked havoc with my training plans for spring races.  Winter’s the time to dream and plan—the time of year when research new races, those I’ll run and those dream of running.

Destination races are a chance for new experiences on different courses.  This was after I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2009 - Photo Esther Santiago

Destination races are a chance for new experiences on different courses. This was after I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2009 – Photo Esther Santiago

After much thought, I put a Bucket List together.  Some races are obvious choices—others more obscure and probably influenced by geography— I live in the Northeast.  Check out my list, let me know how many are on your Bucket List.

1-The Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of marathons.  This race run annually on Patriots Day, the third Monday in April since 1897 is the goal of many runners, and caused countless others to daydream about qualifying.  Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about running Boston.  Qualifying for Boston takes more than a dream, it takes hard work to make your Boston Qualifying (BQ) time.  Running the 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Copley Square may be the hardest to cross off this list but sometimes you have to dream big.

2-Big Sur International Marathon

The twisting course down Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel is a popular destination race.  The breathtaking views of the Pacific Coastline and a grand piano player make up for the fact the course is brutal.  The toughest stretch is the two-mile climb between miles 10-12 known as Hurricane Point. If you are looking for a personal best, this is probably not the race for you but if you are looking to run a course that resembles a picture postcard sign up as soon as registration opens.

3-Marine Corps Marathon

Esther and I enjoyed running the National Marathon in 2010.  Is returning to the DC area to run the Marine Corps Marathon in my future?

Esther and I enjoyed running the National Marathon in 2010. Is returning to the DC area to run the Marine Corps Marathon in my future?

Known as The People’s Marathon the MCM is a favorite among first-time marathoners.  Run on a scenic flat-fast course through Arlington Virginia and Washington D.C. with heavy crowd support.  The Marine presence is everywhere—leading pace teams, manning water stations and handing out encouraging runners. The race course passing many of DC’s monuments and finishing in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial and having a medal placed around your neck by a uniformed marine give this race its patriotic feel.

4-Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Named the Best Named Marathon in the country by Runner’s World Magazine, the course goes through downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.  Origins of the race’s name vary from Cincinnati once being a porkopolis to I’ll run a marathon when pigs fly.  Great crowd support, many of them wearing pig noses ease the pain of the 350 foot elevation gain from miles 6 to 9 on this brutally hilly course.  What other race has runners being hugged by a winged pig after crossing the Finish Swine?

5-Chicago Marathon

After running the New York City Marathon three times, why would I want to run Chicago?  I’ve never been to the Windy City so it ranks high on my list of destination marathons.  The flat and fast course winding through Greektown, Little Italy, Pileson (Czech) and Chinatown is host to four world records and has been called New York City without the logistical problems.  I know I won’t be setting a world record but is a personal best possible?  Hmmm.

Château Frontenac dominates Quebec City's skyline.  Photo – Quebec  City Tourism/

Château Frontenac dominates Quebec City’s skyline. Photo – Quebec City Tourism/

6-Quebec City Marathon

Another popular destination race, Quebec is as close one can get to Europe while still in North America.  This point-to-point race between Levis and Quebec City is run in conjunction with a half marathon and a 10K race.  Ferries take runners to the start of their respective races. The course run partly on bike paths along the St. Lawrence River is picture postcard material.  This is a great race to plan a long weekend around.  The downside, the course is marked in kilometer not miles.

7-Oceans to Sound Relay

I’ve recommended running this 8-person 50-mile relay run on a scenic course over Long Island’s rolling hills from Jones Beach to Oyster Bay to my teammates as a team-building exercise.  Since running my first ultra last fall, I’ve been thinking of channeling my inner Dean Karnazes and running the course solo.

The start of the Yonkers Marathon - Photo Esther Priegue

The start of the Yonkers Marathon – Photo Esther Priegue

8-Yonkers Marathon 

Yonkers is the second oldest U.S. marathon—after Boston.  Dubbed a marathoner’s marathon by two-time Olympic marathoner John Kelley, the hilly course through Hastings on Hudson and Yonkers cause many to signup for the half.  The challenging hills between miles 4-5 and 20-21 do not make this an ideal course for newbies—nor does the five-hour time limit.  After running the half four times including last year’s personal best of 1:53:43 has me thinking maybe it’s time to try the full.

9-Brooklyn Marathon

How is this small local race on my bucket list?  “Runner’s World Magazine wrote, “The Brooklyn Marathon offers small-time charm that New York’s monster marathon cannot.”   NYC Runs founder and Brooklyn native Steve Lastoe’s dream was to bring Brooklyn its first marathon since 1909.  I’ve always enjoyed racing in Brooklyn, the races have an attitude comparable to the borough that hosts them.  The current Brooklyn Marathon Course is eight loops of Prospect Park but the race’s organizers plan on taking the course onto Brooklyn’s streets—maybe as soon as this year.

10-Empire State Building Run Up

The only race on this list that’s not a road race—it’s a tower race.  This 1576-step vertical challenge replaced the spot the New York City Marathon once held.   Starting in Art Deco lobby the field of 700 winds up the building’s stairwells to the 86th floor observation deck—the view of New York City’s skyline lit up at night more than make up for their burning quads.

That’s my Bucket List.  Let me know what you think.  Use the comments field and post which races you would switch or give me your Bucket List.



  1. I love your bucket list! Boston is mine as well, which I will hopefully complete this April. After that, I am taking a break from full marathons and am going to focus on some other running goals of mine. Good luck with knocking these off your bucket list, you can totally do it!

    • Thanks Sara! I know you are going to kill Boston. I’ll have to get a little older and faster to get to Boston, but you have to aim high. Two of these races fall on the same day. So I have a decision to make.

  2. Andrew says:

    I’ve got 4 of those on my Bucket List: Boston, Chicago, Flying Pig, and Marine Corps. I’ll be really interested to hear a report if you do Quebec, because from my one visit there I remember it being pretty crazy hilly. Good luck!

  3. They are popular races. Quebec hasn’t seemed to work out for me, but I love Old Quebec so a marathon there is a dream of mine.

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