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Toni running

If you know me at all, you probably know I’m a runner. I’ve run all over the world, in Singapore, The Netherlands, in Mexico & Colombia, and I’ve done some of the best destination races in the US, from Utah to Florida to Maine.  My next upcoming road race, which was supposed to take place in September in Hawaii has officially been cancelled due to COVID. No one is surprised, but since I was looking forward to it and the news is fresh, I wanted to focus a little on one of my favorite “hobbies” and highlight my Top 5 Favorite Races.

Running is my zen. It’s my meditation, it’s my chill. It feels like, in a life where I’m constantly multitasking—checking emails on the bus ride to work, facebooking while I brush my teeth, squeezing in a few minutes to write while I’m on the plane working, doing homework by the pool on a layover—running is the only time I’m able to Just. Do. One. Thing. Headphones in, music on, alone in my head for miles.

Of course, things have changed a bit. I’m out of work due to COVID, I’ve slowed way down. Maybe it is because of having so much downtime in which to “zen”, that I have not been running as much, opting for 2-3 mile jaunts rather than 8 or 10 or 15-mile training runs. It is ironic because the months of April & May were marked by everyone and their brother becoming runners, desperate for some time outside of the house. Meanwhile, I curled up on the couch and focused on writing. Found my zen in carefully placed words that join together to perk the ears and attention.

I keep telling myself that I’ll start running more distance, and I will eventually. But this time of low and slow has been such a great reset for my creativity & mental health. Once I go back to work, once I have to begin the art of multi-tasking again, I’m sure I will crave those longer, hypnotic, zone-out runs that I have come to love.

In thinking about this, I decided to put together a little homage to running. My top 5 favorite races. So here they are:

Top 5 Favorite Races, from a World-Traveling Runner

Airline Road Race Team, Victoria BC

Victoria, BC

Zion Half Marathon, Springvale, UT

5. World Airline Road Race 2017, Singapore

The World Airline Road Race, or WARR, is one of my favorite events of the year and SUCH a cool perk to being an airline employee.

Every year, airline employees from around the world meet up at a different city around the world to meet, mingle, and race. It is SO much fun. I’ve attended WARR in Singapore, Victoria British Columbia, and Amsterdam. The 2020 race was set to be in Hawaii, and we are all just HOPING 2021 will be a big year for this org.

Singapore makes my Top Destination Races more for the travel element than the actual race. It was the first WARR I attended, and while the course was a bit boring (The 10k was just the 5k course twice, and I ran both races for a total of three times seeing the same things.) it was an awesome excuse to visit Singapore, somewhere that had never been “on my list” before. The food was a combo of “regular” race foods—bagels, bananas—and local ethnic hot and spicy dishes. It was a trip that got me more involved with work & my industry, and took me to a far away place I might have never seen otherwise.

Best destination race- Singapore!

Group shot, WARR, Singapore

Post road race, Portland, ME

Portland, ME. A great after-party race.

4. Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon, Portland, Maine (run in 2018)

This half is right in New England and takes you around the cute, coastal city of Portland. It makes my Top 5 Races because besides being set in New England in the summer, which is a true delight, the after-party for the race is killer. Craft beer, pizza and ice cream await your return to the finish line, and the atmosphere is like a little block party. I’m a runner that judges a race by what happened when it’s over.

Phoenix desert landscape

Scenes from marathon-running in Phoenix

Best destination races- Singapore!

Marina Bay, Singapore

3. Run to Remember, Boston, MA (run in 2017)

The Run to Remember is a tribute to fallen first responders and supports a number of charities in the Boston area. What the race lacks in an after party (not a beer or slice in sight) it more than makes up for with views and the opportunity to run in the footsteps of the world’s greatest runners.

The setting is what puts this half marathon in my Top 5 Best Races list.

There is just something about running through the City of Boston, in the quiet chill of the morning, watching the sun glint over buildings, bathe the Charles River in gold. There is something about knowing that a small section of the course is shared by the famous Boston Marathon. That each step you take, could have been taken before by an elite, world-class runner earning a title. Could have been taken by a regular runner like myself. One who had raised thousands of dollars for the opportunity to run and had completed the 26.2 miles in their own personal best. If you are a runner, running this race is weirdly magical.

That time we ALMOST won.

running buddies with trophies

World Airline Road Race, Victoria, BC. 2nd & 3rd place in our division.

2. Key West Half Marathon (run in 2017)

This was my first ever half marathon and every single aspect of this race BROUGHT IT. Running along the coast, the southernmost tip of the US, watching the sun rise over the ocean was incredible. Since I knew nothing about pacing at this early point in my running career, I was nearly dead by mile 8. The last mile of the race has a series of turns in town, and I swear I only held on because I thought each one was the final turn before the finish. Somehow, I made it through, and my running buddy Meagaan and I both had REALLY good race times.

It was a huge accomplishment, something I’d been wanting to do forever but waited until I was 30. After the race, in true Key West fashion, it was a PAR-TAY. Kegs, food and a band kept us hanging out in our running gear a good four hours after the run had ended. We made friends, we danced, and after a night on the town, we were rocked to sleep by the ocean, below the deck in our rented boathouse. This is one of my all-time favorite running memories. And is consistently rated one of the best US destination races.

holding medals at Key West half marathon

Key West- First half marathon!

BEST run squad

1. 2019 Sprouts Mesa Marathon, Phoenix-Mesa Arizona.

This has to be my number one Favorite Race because it was Meagaan’s and my first full marathon.

The accomplishment of having completed it at all would have been enough to put this race on the list. But it also was one of my best days running EVER. The course was beautiful, running through the cool blue pre-dawn desert, watching sun rise over cacti and red rocks and land that stretched far into the distance. The temperature crept up to the 60s over the course of the run, for perfect dry running conditions. There were designated cheering spots along the way that had been decorated in theme by volunteers who were there to keep us going and in good spirits. And I got to run side by side with my best running coach & friend the whole way.

In this race I got to experience for the first time, that elusive “Runner’s high” I had heard so much about, and I finished the race with negative splits and the BIGGEST smile on my face. I was on a high for a week after the marathon, and to date, the accomplishment of checking off my biggest bucketlist item remains one of my proudest moments. You can read more about the PHX Mesa Marathon & our experience here.

A Boston Marathon qualifier, this race is pretty quick. So be warned. But I’d still highly recommend the PHX marathon. The weather and landscape make it one of my BEST destination races.

Running is better together <3

no holds barred. BEST day.

These are just 5 of my favorites in an ever-growing list of races run around the U.S. and around the world. Some of the best destination races. I’ve run in national parks (Zion) and on islands (Spectacle Island). I’ve run in hot humidity and cool, dry desert. 5ks to full marathons. Most of these runs have been alongside my running buddy, Meagaan. Thinking about how my job has opened these doors for me, not only allowing for free travel to races anywhere and everywhere, but to finding this incredible running buddy in the first place, makes me a little less sad about going back to work in August.

It’s a weird time for runners. One of virtual races. It’s become more of a solo sport than ever. But eventually, we will all be out there again, together, pounding the pavement. And that feeling of crossing a finish line, especially in a far-away land, is sure something to look forward to.

What is your favorite destination race? Let me know in the comments below, we are always looking for new suggestions!

airplane logo from awheelinthesky.com

Comments:

  • Meagaan

    July 16, 2020

    This makes me miss racing so much! Hopefully we’ll be able to get back to travel and races soon.

    reply...
  • Rae

    July 19, 2020

    Ugh. This makes me miss races so, so badly.
    And girl you know my favorite running destination, good ol NYC. Make the NYC marathon your next bucket list item!! I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines.

    reply...

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