Take the Scenic Route: 5 Most Beautiful Running Races in the South
Maybe you want to take a break from your northern trails and scenery by running a race in the South. Or maybe you’ve had a small taste of the delicious foods of the southern states and are itching for an excuse to go back. Whatever your reasoning, you’ll find plenty of destination races in the South that combine spectacular views with an incredible racing experience. Let’s take a look at 5 scenic runs in the South that attract marathoners and runners for fun.
From Chattanooga’s pine-covered hills and creek crossings to the beautiful beaches of Charleston, the South has several races that are becoming more popular with each passing year. If you want to take advantage of their stunning views and Southern hospitality, mark these races on your calendar and start training.
Flying Pirate Half Marathon – Kitty Hawk, NC
The historic beach town of Kitty Hawk is the picturesque setting for this half marathon and 50K, which takes runners (often outfitted in pirate garb) through the natural splendor of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. You’ll run along some of the most breathtaking spots in the scenic byway, catching glimpses of sea otters, herons and egrets. You may even spot a ghost or two as you make your way through Memorial Trail, near the final resting place of the famous Wright brothers.
Weaving through residential areas, lush maritime forests and open trails, the course consists of pavement, dirt roads and narrow trails that provide a balanced mix of easy and challenging terrain. Once you make it to the finish line, get ready to party with your pirate crewmates with live music, food and beer.
Bridge Run – Charleston, SC
In this annual 10K in Charleston, SC, participants run across the city’s most iconic bridge while taking in spectacular views of the Charleston Harbor. The race begins on the Mount Pleasant side and takes runners across the 2.5-mile long Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge before ending in Historic Downtown Charleston.
As if the scenic views from on top of the bridge weren’t enough, you’ll love running the portion that takes you through streets lined with the historic homes and mansions. The city’s towering church steeples, which give it the nickname “the Holy City,” are also a spectacular sight to see.
Rich in history and attractions, the Holy City can be difficult to experience in a single weekend. Consider extending your trip by booking a vacation rental in Charleston, SC with your friends. After race day, you can relax on the city’s unspoiled beaches, nosh on culinary delights and visit one of Charleston’s historic plantations.
Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon – Lexington, KY
Often referred to as “America’s Prettiest Half Marathon,” this race takes place in Lexington, the Horse Capital of the World. The Run the Bluegrass race will take runners through an incredibly scenic route, including the historic Old Frankfort Pike and some of the state’s most majestic thoroughbred farms.
The course features beautiful, rolling hills which can pose a significant challenge to runners, so be sure to train for them in advance. While this may not be a good race for setting a new PR, you won’t mind once you catch sight of expansive grasses, galloping horses and distilleries along your route.
Key West Half Marathon and Hemingway Sunset 5K – Key West, FL
Both the Key West Half Marathon and the Hemingway Sunset 5K are incredibly popular destination races for runners across the country—and the world, for that matter. The flat, scenic course take runners through the city’s historic Old Town and its waterfront, giving them a spectacular view of the western point of the Florida Keys.
The half marathon is an out-and-back 13.1-mile course that takes place in early January, while the famed Hemingway Sunset 5K is held in July. Although you’re guaranteed stunning ocean views for both races, the Hemingway Sunset 5K occurs alongside a paddleboard race—something to consider if you have family members who want to wax their paddleboards and get in on the fun.
Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race – Chattanooga, TN
With its majestic mountains and meandering waterways, Chattanooga has long been a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts and trail runners. If you’re itching for an excuse to visit the “River City,” you don’t want to miss signing up for the Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race.
A 10.2-miler set in the Prentice Cooper State Forest, the loop trail kicks off the running season for trail runners each year. The technical, single-track course is considered one of the most beautiful trails in the Chattanooga area and offers gorgeous views of the Tennessee River.
Quick Tips for Running a Race in the South
There is no doubt about it: The Southern states boast some of the best racing events in the nation. To ensure that you have a positive experience at your next racing event, here are a few things you should know about running in the South:
Train for the Heat: There is a good reason why most southern running races are held in the spring and the fall. The heat and the humidity can make running in the South a challenge for those who haven’t become acclimated to the subtropical climate, so prepare accordingly.
Adjust Your Water Intake: On a similar note, remember that you’ll be sweating more in the South and will need to adjust your water strategy. Runners who sweat profusely will also need to replenish their electrolytes to avoid hindering their performance.
Be Polite: Finally, don’t forget to bring your manners. The South is famous for its friendly nature and hospitality. A friendly smile and polite small talk will go a long way, so be respectful and say “excuse me” when passing others on the course.
Experiencing the South’s Scenic Beauty
If you’ve already missed some of the races on this list, don’t fret too much. Just put them on your bucket list for next year! The South has some of the most beautiful landscapes that shouldn’t be missed. Plus, you’ll have plenty of time to plan your next destination race so you can fully enjoy all that the South has to offer.
About The Author: Traci Magnus is a realtor for Dunes Properties located in Charleston, SC. She was born and raised on the Charleston coast and attended the College of Charleston before obtaining her real estate license. When she’s not working, you can find her writing, spending time with her husband Glenn and son Max or wandering the historic streets downtown.