Marathoning Around the World

PLAY: August marks the end of the puffin-nesting season on nearby Lundey Island. See these colorful, comical birds, as well as whales, via boat. Tours leave from Reykjav?k's Faxafl?i Bay, a popular whale-watching area. You're practically guaranteed to see minke whales and possibly humpbacks.

Whale Watching Reykjav?k (whalewatching.is) claims a 98-percent whale-sighting rate. Dress warm; it's cold on the sea no matter what time of year. 

Rio de Janeiro City Marathon, Half and Family Run

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | June 2010 | maratonadorio.com.br

RUN: The Rio de Janeiro City Marathon dances along the edge of the city, parallel to Rio's most famous beaches, including Copacabana and Ipanema. Expect spectacular scenery and humid temperatures in the high 80s. (Don't expect a PR.) Lively locals provide plenty of water and Gatorade along a course that rewards runners with views of the famous 120-foot-tall Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain.

EAT: In Brazil, you'll find pasta, seafood, beef and chicken dishes, typically served sweet instead of spicy. Rio's undisputed gourmet mecca is a windy street called Rua Dias Ferreira, on the far edge of Leblon. Try Zuka for seafood dishes such as crab in phyllo pastry or grilled tuna in a cashew-nut crust. 

Across the street you'll find Carlota, deemed one of the 50 most exciting restaurants in the world by Cond? Nast Traveler.

SLEEP: Copacabana, pulsing to the beat of samba, has been Rio's hot spot since the 1930s. Stay at the Hotel Sofitel (accorhotels.com.br), located directly opposite the Copacabana Fort. The hotel's U-shaped design guarantees full or partial ocean views from nearly every room. For a less colorful, but perhaps more authentic experience, stay near the race finish in Flamengo. This historic bairro (neighborhood) is not on the beach, which means it's far from tourists.

PLAY: Engage in a little debauchery after the race; Rio's nightlife is legendary. Head to one of the hot samba spots in Lapa: Rio Scenarium, Carioca da Gema or the Centro Cultural Carioca. After three or four hours, you'll be ready to eat again at Pizzeria Guanabara or Jobi, both in Leblon and open until at least 5 a.m. Wander down to the beach to catch the sunrise and then call it a night.

Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k 

Negril Beach, Jamaica | Dec. 4, 2010 | reggaemarathon.com

RUN: Chanting Rastafarian drummers, along with a pre-dawn start lit with flaming bamboo torches, ensure a marathon like no other. A nature lover's dream, this flat, out-and-back course drifts along Negril's coastline. Runners catch gentle breezes and the pulsating strains of reggae music in the Jamaican capital of cool.

EAT: Norma's on the Beach at Sea Splash features reasonably priced Jamaican and international cuisine characterized by regional ingredients such as callaloo (a spinachlike vegetable), papaya and free-range chicken. For beach dining at its best, head to Kuyaba on the Beach, where tables are on a wood deck over the sand. Favorite dishes include crab and pumpkin cakes with a papaya mustard, and coconut curried conch with a mango-and-papaya chutney. For dessert, it's a toss-up between the Jamaican rum cake and the mango cheesecake.

SLEEP: Negril has a blend of mega resorts and smaller, locally owned hotels. If you're partial to all-inclusives, our landslide favorite is Sunset at the Palms Resort & Spa (sunsetatthepalms.com), located just eight minutes from the race start.

Treehouse-style guest rooms stand on stilts in a forest located across the road from Bloody Bay Beach. A favorite among ecotourists, the resort's 10 acres of gardens are planted with royal palms, bull thatch and a rare variety of mango trees.

For something with more local color, consider heading to the funky West End, and stay in a cottage on a sea cliff at Xtabi (xtabi-negril.com).

PLAY: Lounge clothed or topless on Seven Mile Beach. Discovered by hippies in the 1960s, you'll still find the same clean, aquamarine waters and coral reefs against a backdrop of palm trees. You're in Jamaica, mon. It's time to chill. For more info, visit negril.com.

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