Take advantage of near-ideal running conditions by signing up for one of these early season marathons in the South.
Louisiana Marathon 2016Jan. 15-17, 2016, Baton Rogue, La. 1 of 11
The flat and festive course of the fifth annual Louisiana Marathon offers the perfect setting for a 26.2 PR while enjoying live local bands and plenty of cheering fans. Starting in downtown Baton Rouge, this Boston Qualifier travels along University Lakes and across the Louisiana State University campus, before finishing back downtown near the State Capitol. Want to experience déjà vu? Run the quarter marathon or 5K on Saturday, and then the marathon or half marathon on Sunday to receive a Louisiana Marathon Crawfish Tray, perfect for that post-race seafood feast.
17th Annual Clearwater Distance ClassicJan. 17, 2016, Clearwater, Fla. 2 of 11
The Clearwater Distance Classic offers four distance options—including a marathon—for runners of all abilities to participate in the event together. But if you're feeling extra powerful, sign up for the Clearwater Ultra, a 50K (31.07 miles) that tacks on another 4.8 miles to the marathon course. With an average temperature in the low 60s and sandy white beaches to use for post-race rehab, Clearwater offers up the perfect setting for an unforgettable marathon experience.
Big Beach Marathon and Half MarathonJan. 31, 2016, Gulf Shores, Ala. 3 of 11
The inaugural Big Beach Marathon offers runners an oceanside course through the paved trail system of Gulf State Park next to the Gulf of Mexico. Boasting a flat course with a max elevation climb of just 56 feet, this Boston Qualifier provides the perfect opportunity to run your fastest 26.2 miles ever. Finishers receive a medal, race shirt, and access to free beer, food and live music at the post-race party.
Run Hard Columbia MarathonMarch 5, 2016, Columbia, S.C. 4 of 11
Taking place in the South Carolina capital city, the Columbia Marathon follows a two-lap loop through the downtown area, along the edge of Lake Katharine and finishing at the State House. Upon completion, not only can you cross an item off your bucket list, but you can also feel good about your participation. This race helps provide scholarships to the "Run Hard" running program that focuses on helping second through eighth grade students work toward their personal goals.
SNICKERS Marathon and Half MarathonMarch 5, 2016, Albany, Ga. 5 of 11
The SNICKERS Marathon, a Boston-qualifying race, promises to offer Southern hospitality at its best with a course full of supportive volunteers, cheering spectators and—of course—Snickers and Marathon energy bars. Because what would a marathon be without the appeal of eating whatever you wanted after crossing the finish line?
2016 The Woodlands MarathonMarch 6, 2016, The Woodlands, Texas 6 of 11
Another Boston Qualifier, The Woodlands Marathon traverses the streets of Town Center and finishes along the picturesque Woodlands Waterway. Encourage your friends and family to create a themed cheer zone along the course to compete in the Cheer Challenge, with cash prizes up for grabs.
Little Rock MarathonMarch 6, 2016, Little Rock, Ark. 7 of 11
Self-described as "one bodacious race with the world's largest finisher's medal," the Little Rock Marathon—another Boston Qualifier—serves as a running and walking tour through the charming streets of the Arkansas capital city. With an eight-hour time limit, walkers and slower runners have the opportunity to take their time and enjoy the scenery and on-course entertainment. This year's theme is "Game On," encouraging runners and spectators to deck out in their best casino outfits.
2016 Puerto Rico Marathon & Half MarathonMarch 13, 2016, San Juan, P.R. 8 of 11
This race in a popular tropical vacation destination is the perfect excuse to take some time off work and head south for the winter. Set in the city of San Juan, the course begins near the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and winds through the city before returning to a beachside finish line offering free food and a post-race celebration. With an elevation gain of 361 feet, this Boston-qualifying race is no cakewalk, but well worth the chance to run and experience the Caribbean before tourist season ramps up in a few months.
Big D Texas MarathonApril 10, 2016, Dallas 9 of 11
Starting and ending on the historic State Fair of Texas fairgrounds, the Big D Texas Marathon proves that everything is bigger (and better) in Texas. Runners will pass Dallas notables, including State Fair Circle, White Rock Lake and the Santa Fe Trail. With only one true hill on the course and average temperatures in the 60s, this race provides a perfect opportunity to qualify for the Boston Marathon and achieve a new 26.2 PR at the same time. In true Texas fashion, celebrate your achievement with a "Big D" post-race party, complete with plenty of food, libations and Texas-sized activities.
New River Marathon 2016May 7, 2016, Todd, N.C. 10 of 11
Past runners have called this race "the most beautiful course ever" and describe it "like running through a dream." We can see why, given the rolling course along the lush banks of the New River and the views of North Carolina farmland, serene country roads and galloping horses. On race eve, a pasta dinner is put on by the Todd Community Preservation Organization that serves as a packet pick-up and pre-race fueling stop on your way to an unforgettable event.