The USRA Half Marathon Running Series-- Experience a Great Half Marathon Near You

A perfect weekend getaway awaits the running community as the next USRA half marathon approaches. Take your pick in your region or use any of these terrific events for a great weekend get away, a racing destination in scenic, interesting locations around the country. Though most are in small cities, many are also close to major metro areas and convenient transportation. Each one has been carefully chosen for its unique character and excellent venues.

The next race will be held in the greater Omaha area, Iowa and Nebraska, as the Council Bluffs Half Marathon and 5K blast off on October 30, 2011. This is the third annual, and runs from the Mid America Center in historic Council Bluffs, just across the river from Omaha. It has long been known as a railroad center and the museums there are worth the trip. The race crosses the mighty Missouri River with excellent views of both sides.

Council Bluffs will be followed a week later, November 5, 2011, with the second annual Amish Country Half Marathon in Paradise, Pennsylvania, where your running speeds up as the Amish region experience in general slows to a relaxing, wonderful and unique experience. It is near Lancaster, PA and there are wonderful villages and beautiful farms like nowhere else. You will likely run with the Amish horse and buggies along these roads, which lead to Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse, Strasburg, Ronks, and Gap. This is Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Come hungry, eat and run in this storybook land, and leave happy.

The first weekend in December there is another second-year event in beautiful New Mexico shows off the southwest, and offers beautiful desert landscape and mountain vistas at the Las Cruces, New Mexico Half Marathon on December 4, 2011; it is near new Mexico State University and only 45 miles from El Paso. This is the only USRA Half currently scheduled in the southwest, and what a beautiful course and venue it is!

Also coming in mid December, the third annual Columbia, South Carolina Half Marathon will speed through the nearby town of Cayce on December 17, 2011. Nearby Columbia is home to the University of South Carolina and is, of course, the capital. Cayce is a suburb of about 14,000 residents conveniently located near the Columbia Airport. It is historic, having been the site of two Revolutionary War battles (Fort Granby) and much earlier on of the first European settlements north of Florida. The Congaree River flows through town, and they have developed a lovely river walk for recreation—great place to run, perhaps before or after your half marathon.

And after the holidays the USRA schedule resumes with two half marathons in Florida, the third annual Palm Coast Half Marathon near St. Augustine on January 15, 2012 ; followed four weeks later by the inaugural Charlotte Harbor Half Marathon and 5K on the southwest Gulf Coast on February 12, 2012.

Rounding out February at the opposite end of the country will be the Tri-Cities Half Marathon running in the fantastic Columbia River valley through southern Washington State's wine country—Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick. There are at least 160 wineries in the area, and the running weather is ideal at this time. It is located at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Hanford Reach National Monument is only part of the natural beauty of this wonderful valley. Mark that one on the calendar for February 26, 2012.

Each of these USRA events includes a 5K and usually a fun run, so there is literally something for everyone.

As noted on the complete list below, four events include Marathons along with the Half and 5K: Dade City in Florida, Worcester, Massachusetts, Freeport, near Portland, Maine, and the above mentioned Hoosier Marathon and Half Marathon in Bloomington, Indiana.

You can run the event of your choice, or several. With so many options you may be fortunate enough to have one held in your region. Or you can use the opportunity to plan a great getaway to run in a warmer climate or run and experience a new region of the country—these locations are carefully selected because of ease of access and because they highlight an area that is unique to participants, a true experience worth enjoying along with the terrific event itself.

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