Many people resolve to get in shape at the start of a new year. And, if you plan ahead, you can easily turn your training into a great excuse to travel. Whether you choose to run a 5k, 10-miler or marathon, there are plenty of races friendly to first-timers. Here, we take a look at three different road races around the country that are perfect for the new (or renewed) athlete.
Will Power 5k, Franklin, Tennessee
Race Day: April 5
If you think training to run three miles is hard, imagine retraining your brain and body to perform everything from walking to talking. Through determination and, yes, willpower, 13-year-old Franklin resident Will Nesmith has regained much of his speech and physical ability after suffering a spontaneous brain hemorrhage in 2012. This 5k was created to celebrate Nesmith’s progress and to help fund his ongoing rehabilitation. Set in downtown Franklin — a historic southern main street lined with high-end boutiques and restaurants — this 3.1-mile race offers its small field of runners a chip-timed course, an affordable registration fee ($25) and a chance to support an honorable cause. Since the race is only in its second year, it’s bound to attract new runners (and some walkers), too.
Where to Refuel: After burning a few hundred calories in the race, stop in for lunch or dinner at Gray’s on Main, a newcomer that has blown locals away with its re-imagined Southern classics such as braised rabbit pasta, milk-braised short rib and a host of classic cocktails highlighting Tennessee whiskey.
Where to Stay: Just a 30-minute drive north of Franklin, historic Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Hermitage Hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Nashville, giving you a chance to explore a growing cosmopolitan city at night, after enjoying a quaint town on race day.
Army Ten-Miler, Washington, D.C.
Race Day: October 12
Perhaps you need some healthy competition or a dose of patriotism to get you moving. The Army Ten-Miler celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with a 10-mile course open to a massive field of 35,000 runners, who will race alongside active-duty soldiers, veterans and Wounded Warriors (injured service members). As if that weren’t enough to motivate even the most seasoned couch potato, the course starts and ends at the Pentagon, and includes inspiring views of Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, the Kennedy Center, the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol Building and the Jefferson Memorial — all while cheering spectators and Army bands give extra pep to your step. The 10-Miler opens for registration sometime in May and typically sells out in a matter of hours — so if you want to participate, make sure to race to your computer, too.
Where to Refuel: Trust chef James Barton of The Fainting Goat with your post-race munchies. His newly opened restaurant in the U Street Corridor of Washington, D.C., boasts a one-page menu full of delicious courses such as braised goat with carrots and turnips, and the not-to-miss shrimp roll with thick-cut fries.
Where to Stay: For a luxury stay after hitting the pavement, book a room at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Hay-Adams, a 1920s hotel named for John Hay, former secretary of state, and Henry Adams, a then-accomplished writer and descendant of President John Adams. The D.C. gem categorizes its 145 rooms by view — White House, St. John’s Church and Lafayette Square — all of which inspire the kind of presidential grandeur you’d expect from the nation’s capital.
Anthem Richmond Marathon, Richmond, Virginia
Race Day: November 15
Known as America’s friendliest marathon, Richmond’s race has much to offer newbies: a scenic (albeit hilly) course through the city’s autumnal landscape, live bands, a downhill finish and a complimentary massage once the run is over. And with less than 10,000 runners, the Anthem Richmond Marathon promises to be an approachable introduction to the 26.2-mile distance. But if you do well, you may just find yourself running again with a much larger crowd — the Anthem Richmond is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. If you need more motivation to register, just search “#100Reasons to #RunRichmond” on Twitter. The digital encouragement will keep flowing until race day.
Where to Refuel: After four hours of running (or more, depending on your pace), you’ll need some serious calorie intake for recovery. Skip the gourmet restaurants known for small plates and run (or limp) to Cupertino’s New York Bagels and Deli for the city’s only made-from-scratch boiled bagels — add extra meat to any sandwich for some much-needed protein. For a late-night cocktail, find your way to Richmond’s newest bar, The Rogue Gentlemen, and order the classic Blood and Sand (scotch, Heering cherry liqueur, Dolin sweet vermouth and blood orange). Just make sure you’re well hydrated beforehand.
Where to Stay: Located less than a mile from both the start and finish lines, Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Jefferson Hotel is a prime spot to call home for the marathon weekend. Giving you a glimpse into Richmond’s past, this historic hotel offers elegant rooms with extremely comfortable beds (which will prove to be a very important amenity post-race). If you don’t take advantage of the complimentary massage at the finish line, be sure to book an in-room treatment or take a dip in the indoor pool.
Photos Courtesy of Sports Backers and Brian Kent