A spring race is like an inspirational light at the end of a long, cold winter tunnel. So, keep yourself motivated and moving through the next few months by securing a spot at one of the following 14 sensationally scenic spring races. Rock 'n' Roll USA Mini Marathon 5K, Washington, D.C.: For runners who aren't quite ready to tackle the marathon distance but still want in on all of the patriotic fun of the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon and Half races, this spring the Run Rock 'n' Roll series is introducing their inaugural Rock 'n' Roll USA Mini Marathon 5K. Mini Marathon participants get all the same perks as marathon and half-marathon runners, including a finisher medal, gear bag, t-shirt and access to all post-race celebrations.
Lilac Bloomsday 12K, Spokane, Wash.: Maybe the distance of this spring race in Spokane can't compare to the 26.2 miles of a full marathon, but its staggering number of participants certainly packs a powerful punch. An ongoing tradition since 1977, the Lilac Bloomsday Run has hosted as many as 61,298 runners in the past and in 2012 over 48,000 runners crossed the finish line -- nearly as many as this year's record-breaking New York City Marathon. It's really no wonder why so many road racers are keen to register for this iconic race, though. With historic ties to the beginning of the 1970s running boom, a course that loops around the scenic Spokane River, and a fun-filled post-race festival, it really doesn't sound like a bad way to spend a Sunday in the springtime.
BolderBoulder 10K, Boulder, Colo.: Runner's World named this race "America's All-Time Best 10K," and that's because the BolderBoulder is so much more than just a 6.2-mile trot through the city's charming and hip downtown area. An all-out Memorial Day celebration, as of 2012 it is the third largest timed road race in the country, complete with an entertainment-lined course that features everything from live music and belly dancers to slip 'n' slides and surprise beer-and-bacon stops. And as if all the goodies and games along the way weren't enough, lunch, refreshments and free massages await runners at the Folsom Field finish line, too.
Brooklyn Half Marathon, Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Brooklyn Half is one of the Big Apple's most popular races. But with a course that offers a true taste of the entire borough, it's really no surprise. Beginning at the Brooklyn Museum, you'll make your way towards Prospect Park, passing the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Grand Army Plaza along the way. You'll then make a run for the beach down Ocean Parkway until finally finishing in the fun and famed Coney Island. Last year the Brooklyn Half attracted more than 20,000 runners and registration reached capacity just a few hours after opening.
Canyonlands Half Marathon, Moab, Utah: There are a handful of ways for travelers to explore Utah's Arches National Park, but none quite like racing 13.1 miles down Highway 128 alongside the Colorado River. In fact, you'll run the majority of the race next to the exquisite body of water before turning east at Highway 191 and crossing the finish line at Swanny City Park in downtown Moab. The first Canyonlands Half Marathon in 1976 saw a mere 22 runners cross its finish line, but these days thousands of road racers participate in the event each year. In previous years registration was conducted via a lottery system, but this year it will be held on a first-come, first-served basis and will cap off at 5,000 participants.
Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Cleveland: A flat and fast course, the Cleveland Marathon presents runners with an exciting 26.2-mile tour of America's rock-and-roll capital. With a course designed to showcase the city's most notable landmarks, marathoners race past the Lake Erie shoreway, the Great Lakes Science Center, Ohio City and of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This year will mark the race's 37th anniversary, and in addition to the marathon runners have the option to race a half marathon, 10K or 5K distance. The finish line is host to the race's Rock Party, where runners can celebrate their accomplishments with live music, food, beer and more.
Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon
Cooper River Bridge Run 10K, Charleston, S.C.: What better way to kick off the spring running season than with a 10K race that will lead you across the stunning Cooper River Bridge and straight into the heart of South Carolina's oldest and arguably most charming city? Dating back to 1978, the Cooper River Bridge Run is a race rich with culture and history, much like the city it's held in. Not only is it one of the largest and most storied 10K races in America, but it's also one of the most musical. Last year organizers set up live music at every quarter-mile mark (yes, they even had bands on the bridge), making it the race with the most music per square mile in the entire country.
Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, Louisville: The Kentucky Derby Festival, which begins with its historic "Thunder" fireworks show each year, is a three-week long Louisville celebration leading up to the start of the famed "Run for the Roses." During the festival's second weekend the culture-rich city lends its roads to full- and half-marathon racers, inviting tens of thousands of runners to race amongst the exciting, carnival-like atmosphere. The half marathon race, which the festival calls the "miniMarathon," is ranked in the nation's top 100 races by USA Track and Field, and the full marathon race, which debuted not long ago in 2002, is growing in size and popularity every year. One of the race's biggest highlights: a unique course which offers racers a glimpse of derby horses as they stride through Churchill Downs.
Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon and Half, Cincinnati: Dubbed the "best named" marathon in the country by Runner's World, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon and Half is a must-run Midwest spring race for fun-loving runners. The Flying Pig presents pristine views of the Ohio River at both the start and finish of the race. And in between, as you make your way through a diverse collection of the city's neighborhoods, you'll be greeted by plenty of cheering spectators. Organizers welcome runners of all levels, but racers be warned: the course can get quite hilly at times. Willing yourself over each ascent isn't without reward, though. "... Every climb reveals a breathtaking view," writes one Marathonguide.com reviewer.
Wisconsin Marathon, Kenosha, Wis.: This flat-coursed race is all about enjoying unspoiled views of Lake Michigan while experiencing the cheerful atmosphere created by the camaraderie of a large group of fun-loving runners. Few race routes can compare with the Badger State's lakefront landscapes, and when the scenic journey comes to an end runners are awarded with a Big Cheese medal and invited to a post-race party featuring live music and best of all, a free brat and beer.
Kalamazoo Marathon, Kalamazoo, Mich.: A unique race that takes place in the heart of the commonly-referenced Michigan city, the Kalamazoo Marathon offers runners an exciting tour through the area's parks, trails, neighborhoods and downtown mall. The biggest draw, though: a chance to "earn your mittens." Runners who complete the Wisconsin Marathon on May 3 and then the nearby Kalamazoo Marathon on May 4 are presented with a special "mittens" medal. It may not keep your hands warm but it will sure look good hanging next to your other two newly earned awards.
St. Jude's Country Music Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, Nashville: At least once, every runner should make their marathon mark in the Music City. Springtime weather in Nashville is typically mild, making it the perfect time of year to take on the marathon or half-marathon distance through a course designed to highlight some of the city's most famous sites. All runners are welcomed to a post-race Finish Line Festival and Concert, and afterwards you can keep the party going at one of the city's top honky tonks and live music venues.
Ukrop's Avenue Monument 10K, Richmond, Va.: With the help of Runner's World chief running officer Bart Yasso, USA TODAY included this 10K in their list of 10 great American road races, and for good reason too. The 6.2-mile course leads runners along Richmond's gorgeously historic Monument Avenue, offering an exhilarating, fast-paced tour of the River City. With more than 33,000 participants in 2012, it currently ranks within the top 10 largest timed races in the country, which, as race organizers put it quite simply, makes for one "ridiculously awesome race experience."
BMO Vancouver International Marathon, Half & 8K, Vancouver, B.C.: With a course that boasts 70% shoreline views, six public beaches and three major parks during a season that decorates the iconic city with cherry blossoms and snow-covered mountaintops, you'll hardly have time to realize you're taking on the crazy challenge of tackling 26.2 miles. One of the oldest races in Canada, the Vancouver International Marathon also offers runners a half-marathon or 8K race distance. When you reach the finish -- no matter what distance you choose to run -- you'll be received by a bustling street festival complete with food, entertainment and endless amounts of fun activities.
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