Pikes Peak MarathonAug. 21, 2016; Manitou Springs, Colo. 1 of 6
If you're a glutton for steep climbs, narrow trails and unpredictable weather, the Pikes Peak Marathon might be right up your alley. Arguably one of the most difficult marathons in the country, this race is best suited for runners who crave adrenaline, rather than PRs.
The first half of the race (known as the Ascent) is a punishing 13.1-mile climb to the top of Pikes Peak. While it's only a half-marathon, it often takes runners just as long (or longer) to run as a full marathon. Once you reach the top, it's time to turn around and make the quad-pounding descent back to Manitou Springs. And although the race is held in August, it's not unusual to experience snow and freezing temperatures at the summit. Considering the conditions, finishing the Pikes Peak Marathon is a remarkable accomplishment, regardless of your time.
The 2016 race is sold out already, so be sure to mark your calendars for 2017!
Marathon du MedocSept. 10, 2016; Pauillac, France 2 of 6
If your idea of mid-race hydration is more Bordeaux than Gatorade, set your sights on French wine country for the Marathon du Medoc. For a race known as "the longest marathon in the world," it's no surprise that this might not be the day for a PR.
Runners cover the 26.2 miles by running from chateau to chateau, sampling wine and bites of oysters and steak as they go. And while the distance is no joke, the race has a decidedly fun-loving atmosphere. Each race has a theme (in 2015 it's "dressed to the nines") and many participants choose to wear costumes. If your legs can handle it, it's not unheard of for runners to break into spontaneous dance parties. For this race, the emphasis is on having a good time rather than running a personal best.
This year's event is also sold out, so be sure to register early for the 2017 race!
Southernmost MarathonOct. 8, 2016; Key West, Fla. 3 of 6
If you prefer flat, sandy beaches to the Rocky Mountains, head on down to the Florida Keys for the Southernmost Marathon. While the terrain is certainly favorable for a PR, you may want to take your time and relish the views.
Throughout the race you'll pass historic sights like mile marker 0 on U.S. Highway 1, Ernest Hemingway's former home and bridge views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. If you take it easy during the race, you'll be guaranteed to have plenty of energy left to celebrate--which is essential for a race that's sponsored by a bar called the Rum Barrel!
New York City MarathonNov. 6, 2016; New York City 4 of 6
Every year, hundreds of elite runners race each other on the streets of New York, so it's certainly possibly to PR at this race. But while the course is only moderately difficult, you may want to slow down for another reason: the experience.
One of the biggest races in the world, the New York City Marathon also has some of the best crowd support. From the cheering families in Brooklyn to the roaring crowds on 1st Avenue to the iconic finish in Central Park, this race is like no other. Make sure to smile and give out plenty of high-fives as you make your way through the city's five boroughs. It's a day you'll never forget!
Big Sur International MarathonApril 30, 2017; Carmel, Calif. 5 of 6
On a breathtakingly beautiful course that stretches from Big Sur to Carmel, Calif., runners are treated to views of ancient redwood trees, rolling ranch land and spectacular ocean vistas. This point-to-point course is known for its rolling hills and headwinds, so it's a great race to slow down and enjoy the scenery. But keep in mind, Big Sur has a strict six-hour (13:45 per mile pace) time limit; so don't spend too much time taking selfies as you cross the iconic Bixby Bridge.