Vacation on the Run: Traveling for Destination Races

Is exercising on your list of New Year’s resolutions?

Now that the gluttony of the holidays is over, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to make that resolution a reality.

Traveling for a running event might be the ticket that helps you reach your fitness goals. Destination races are a great way to explore a new place and provide you with added motivation to exercise as vacation approaches.

If the thought of rigorous exercise on your vacation has you running scared, don’t despair. Destination races come in all sizes, from 5K walks to marathons. Even if you don’t feel like you were born to run, there’s a race out there that fits you and your family, from the stroller set to grandparents. Here’s the rundown of major races to check out, along with some advice on picking a race.

Fit for a Princess

Each February about 20,000 people participate in the Disneyworld Princess Half Marathon & Royal Family 5K. Every woman wants their chance to feel like a princess. So, grab your tiara, gather up your sole sisters and be queen for a day on the streets of Disneyworld. Fear not princes, men are invited to participate too!

Beer, Brats & Bands

As the world’s largest annual music festival came to a close last July, the fun for runners was just beginning. Milwaukee’s Summerfest, an 11-day extravaganza that attracts nearly a million people, hosted its inaugural half marathon and 10K last year. While the music still took center stage, a 10K run with the Milwaukee skyline as a backdrop sounded pretty sweet too. Proceeds from the run benefit Ronald McDonald House.

A Wild Adventure

Dreaming of California sunshine? How about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Run in May? It will have something for everyone: a competitive half marathon for runners, and a scenic 5K Family Fun Walk.

Soldiering On

An army of runners from around the country descend on Arizona each April to honor slain Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman. Tillman put his football career on hold to join the army in Afghanistan and was killed by friendly fire. After his tragic death in 2004, his family started the Pat Tillman Foundation, raising money and awareness for veteran’s issues. Last year 30,000 people took part in Pat’s Run, a 4.2 mile run/walk that starts and ends in Sun Devil Stadium, where Tillman wore jersey number 42 while playing for the Arizona State Sun Devils. This event is sure to be a memorable experience for any family. A poignant and powerful tribute to the sacrifices made by our armed forces, it’s also an extremely kid-friendly event. There’s a .42-mile children’s race and Kids Zone with games and inflatables. Arizona Cardinal football players also take part in the festivities, cheering runners on at the finish line.

It’s Only Rock-n-Roll

San Diego hosted the first Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 1998 with live bands lining the course. Since then, this moving block party featuring more than 50 live bands has become a huge hit and is held annually in 19 different U.S. cities.

Finding the Right Race for You

A word to the wise: Races don’t always turn out to be exactly what you planned. Make It Better’s Editor in Chief, Laura Hine, found out firsthand in December at the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll event.

Hine traveled to the gambling capital with her sisters, brother and mother, for what they thought was a sure bet. Unfortunately, there were plenty of bumps in the road. “They didn’t have enough volunteers, corral space, signs, bathrooms, medics, T-shirts or medals,” Hine says. “In 2010, they allowed 30,000 runners to enter, but in 2011 they opened it up to 44,000. It was overcrowded and there was no separation between serious runners and slow joggers/walkers.”

Would she do another destination race? “Yes, but I’d find one with strict entry limits, so they know their capacity and stick to it,” Hine says.

The advocacy group Running USA recommends checking the message boards at and for destination race comments and feedback.

A vacation “on the run” could be just the carrot you need to stick to a healthier lifestyle in 2012. Since many of the races benefit charities, you’re also helping others, as well as yourself. Find the right race and it’s a win win!

Meet the Author: Andrea Guthmann, Chicago

A freelance journalist, Andrea’s produced programs for WTTW-TV and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Parent. When she’s not behind her computer, she’s enjoying her three children.

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