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Best Races in MA, NY, MD, & PA |Tuesday Ten: Tuesdays on the Run Edition

Our Best Races in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania

This week’s edition of the fabulous “Tuesday Ten” is doing something a little different from the norm. We are participating in a Tuesdays on the Run Link Up along with many of our comrades from other blogs. “What is a link up,” you ask? I have no idea. Sounds fun though! As I understand it, it’s a single focused topic that anyone can chime in on and is hosted by the awesome bloggers over at MCM Mama Runs, My-No-Guilt Life, and Marcia’s Healthy Slice.

We thought, for our debut offering, it would be fun to have everyone here at Joyful Miles give their own two cents on this week’s topic (which may or may not quite add up to 10, but we’ll let it slide this week): Tell us the best races in your area/state.

Our Best Races in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania!

Rob (Boston, MA)

1.) B.A.A. Distance Medley in Boston, MA

Whenever anyone thinks of running in Boston, they immediately gravitate towards the Boston Marathon. I mean, what’s not to love: a very historic, beautiful, and challenging course; an 11 a.m. Red Sox game, and thousands of day-drinking spectators cheering you on! However, it is an extremely difficult race to get into. You either have to be really fast to qualify, and still hope you can get in, or hook up with a charity (most have waiting lists) where you have to raise thousands just for the chance to run. The B.A.A. also hosts 3 other races, held at different times of the year, and offer a chance to see different areas of Boston during three different seasons.

The first race is actually held the Saturday before the Marathon, and it’s the 5K. The second one held in June, usually around Father’s Day, is the 10K. Both start and finish at the Boston Common. They have similar courses, however, the 10K takes you through Kenmore Square (by Fenway Park) up to the Boston University area and back, while the 5K loops you around to Boylston St, across the actual Finish Line for the Marathon. Being by the Common you are also near many other great Boston landmarks (the State House, Newbury St, the building formally known as the Hancock, the Granary Burial Grounds, and of course, the bar that was the inspiration for the sitcom “Cheers” just to name a few).

The third installment is a different venue entirely. The half-marathon is held in October, during Columbus Day Weekend. The start and end is across town in the Jamaica Plain/Dorchester sections of town, right by the Franklin Park Zoo (which you actually get to run through near the end). The course runs along what is referred to as the “Emerald Ring,” which really is as beautiful as it sounds, and you are running at peak season for leaf peeping in the city. This is by far my favorite race to run here, albeit the most challenging. Once you start out you quickly understand the challenge that lies ahead on this out-and-back course. The start is very much downhill, which means you are finishing the course pretty much completely uphill, a lot of it winding through narrow paths in a woodsy setting. You then enter the aforementioned Franklin Park Zoo. Let me tell you. You haven’t lived until breathing in stinky zoo animals after running almost 13 miles. If you are running in Boston, this is the race I suggest to everyone.

The races, while easier to register for and open to anyone, are limited and can sell out quickly. However, if you register for the Medley, you get access to all 3 races without having to register individually during their respective registration periods.

2.) The Feaster Five in Andover, MA

Running on Thanksgiving has exploded in popularity. Participating in a pre-meal race apparently justifies the needless intake of a week’s worth of calories. Thanksgiving Day races have popped up in pretty much every town across America, and odds are you have your own, so why travel here for this one? Well, two words: Matt Damon!

The Feaster Five started nearly 30 years ago, and was one of the first Thanksgiving Day races around. Now, it draws tens of thousands of participants from around the world, including many local celebrities such as Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, many local news and print personalities, and even Matt Damon! The course is set along a very scenic route, about 25 miles north of Boston, in beautiful Andover, MA, and is actually two courses in one. There is a 5K and a 5 mile option. The hardest part is the long uphill start, which both courses follow. Get to the top of the hill and the 5K group splits off from the 5 milers. I think that is the great appeal of this race. Families are able to enjoy the 5K, while many elite runners conquer the 5 mile. The weather up here can be tricky this time of year. We’ve had sunny conditions with temps in the 60s, and we’ve had freezing temps with snow. So you have to be prepared for anything, but it’s such a festive, relaxed atmosphere. The only downside is you do not get a medal for this race. You do, however, get an apple pie as a prize for finishing though. Perfect for those traveling to a loved one’s for dinner, and too lazy to cook anything themselves.

 

Jackey (Buffalo, NY)

3.) Buffalo Turkey Trot (Thanksgiving Morning)

The Buffalo Turkey Trot is an 8k race up Deleware Ave in the city of Buffalo. It proclaims itself as the oldest continually running public foot race in North America.  Established and run every year since 1896.  (Five months older than the Boston Marathon)

I did this race for the first time this past year. It was a cross between a serious and fun run.  It has some serious competition and some serious costumes!


This run is complete with huge after party at the Buffalo Convention Center and lots of beer!  A great way to start your Thanksgiving Day off right.

4.) Niagara Falls International marathon, half marathon or 10k

This is one of the few marathons in the World where you start in one country and finish in another.  You will need a passport to do this one:  starting in historic Buffalo and finishing near the brink of Niagara Falls.   They also have a half marathon and 10k distance if the full seems too far. Personally I’ve only done the 10k portion of this race after getting a bib through a legal transfer and it was a beautiful landscape along the Niagara River.  (Tuesday Ten fun fact:  Tanya is apparently Canadian for Jackey.)

5.) Buffalo Bills 50 Yard Finish

This is a race I plan to do for the first time this year. So while I can’t tell you about from experience (yet) I will tell you about why I’m excited to do this one.

Image from www.buffalobills.com

Image from www.buffalobills.com

img_4366-1.jpgThis sounds like a fantastic family event. Starting with a 5k race with the finish line being at the 50 yard line of Ralph Wilson Stadium. Home of the Buffalo Bills. I am a huge Bills fan so a chance to just get to go on field is super exciting for me. Finishers will appear on Jumbotron as they cross and friends and family can be there on the field cheering the runners on. It includes shirt and finishers medal. Love a medal for a 5k!!!!

There is also a fun 1 mile kids run that follows the 5k. There is a beer tent and party afterwards and I’m really looking forward to doing this one with the whole family there.

Laura (Baltimore, Maryland)

6.) Baltimore Women’s Classic 5k

2015 Baltimore Women's Classic 5kI. Adore. This. Race.

Seriously, there so much to love about the BWC 5k, Mid-Atlantic’s largest all-women’s 5k! Running in Downtown Baltimore. The amazing sisterhood vibe. How many ladies use BWC as a first race in their fitness journey. The eight-week pre-race training program with coaching and guest speakers they offer for only $25.00. How this 40-year-old race benefits Cancerve, providing direct support services for female cancer patients and their families across the state of Maryland.

2015 Baltimore Women's Classic 5kThen there’s the towel and rose they give out after a gorgeous finish running by the Inner Harbor. And of course: The amazingly cute bling.

Afterwards, finishers can roam Festival Village, gathering freebies and shopping for things like clothing and jewelry. I’ve ran BWC in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 and although last year was a little rough for me seeing as how my son was recovering from major surgery, I had a total blast each time! I’ll be there again this year, so be sure to leave a comment if you will be, too!

7.) The Frederick Running Festival – Twilight 5k and Half Marathon

Oh Frederick Twilight 5k, you have such a warm spot in my heart. It was my very first race way back in 2008 and although it felt as though I did EVERYTHING wrong, (dressed too warmly, didn’t charge my iPod, started in the back because of low confidence, etc.,) oh my goodness … crossing that finish line was the most amazing feeling ever!

frederick-twilight-5k

frederick-twilight-5k-course-liarNow, the course itself isn’t all that spectacular – it basically just running down two roads and circling back, but this farm gal enjoys the scenic views … and any occasional whiff of country perfume does not bother me. In 2015, (here’s my recap,) they did their best to liven things up with inspirational signs and The Course Liar at the mid-point, who told everyone they were done.

frederick-half-marathonWhat really makes this 5k spectacular, however, is the after party. The race begins and ends at the Frederick Fairgrounds, so finishers are welcomed back with a celebration in the infield, complete with food stands, sponsor tents, a kicking band and … best part of all … two free beers. Not too shabby. I shared mine with Bob last year, which kind of hurt, but was smart since I was hoping to PR at Sunday morning’s half.

Now. About the Frederick Half Marathon. Wow, I ran it for the first time in 2015 and absolutely fell in love with it! What a pretty course … which seems like an odd description, but that’s what it felt like. Pretty. I loved running through downtown Frederick and surround developments. It’s a very organized race with fantastic runner communication and a PR-friendly course with easy, rolling hills … about as flat as you’re going to get in my area!


frederick-half-marathon

Well, there is that total bugger of a hill right before the finish. It nearly did me in last year.

frederick-running-festival-nut-job-challengeBut besides that–and a half mile dismal stretch, it’s great! I was able to knock out a 01:57 PR to be used for the Dopey Challenge and the post-race party was also a blast. Oh, and the best part about this running festival? If you do both the 5k and half, you earn the Nut Job Challenge Medal.

And if that ain’t a great medal for me, then I don’t know what is.

 

8.) Baltimore Running Festival – Half and Full Marathon

Okay, seeing as how I’m A.) a major Baltimore Orioles and Ravens fan who B.) adores Camden Yards and D.) considers Brooks Robinson to be a total hero, it’s no wonder the Baltimore Running Festival is one of my favorite races! In fact, it’s been a major goal of mine after first seeing the finish line while going to my first Ravens game over ten years ago.

IMG_2941But let me put emotion aside and talk about why I think the Baltimore Marathon is a total gem.

1.) The fees is a reasonable $115.00 and they allow medical deferrals for a $25.00 charge.

2.) It is VERY organized with tons of pre-race runner communication.

3.) The Expo, held at M&T Bank Stadium is very organized with tons of parking and shopping opportunites.

4.) The course, while very challenging, is very diverse, going through the Baltimore Zoo, historic areas such as Droid Hill Park, Patterson Park, and Clifton Park, and looping around Lake Montebello after u-turning at Under Armor Headquarters. It then ends with an emotional run through Camden Yards, (where I always tap Brook’s #5,) before crossing the finish line at Ravens Way by M&T Bank Stadium, all with tons and tons of spectactors cheering you on!

baltimore-marathon

It’s just fantastic – here’s my recap for more details. Oh, and speaking of spectators, there’s always lots of them passing out snacks, beer, and shots of wine. One guy did that last year while wearing a red Speedo. My apologies for not getting a picture. Blogger fail.

Megan

9.) LV Health Network VIA Marathon – 5K, Half and Full Marathon (and Marathon Relay)

The Lehigh Valley (in Pennsylvania) has a number of fantastic races.  One of these – the Via Marathon has recently been named the 2nd fastest marathon in the US.  As a result, this is a big Boston qualifying race (for those of you that are interested). This is also a weekend of running beginning with a 5K, a walk and kids races on Saturday and the half and full marathon on Sunday.  It has traditionally been the 2nd weekend in September (or the weekend after Labor Day).   Another great option for this race is the marathon relay – which is the only way I have run this race.

This race starts at the Lehigh Valley Hospital and heads out through a neighborhood before looping back to the Parkway – which is a nice gravel running path until you head back to the road.   The majority of this race is along the Lehigh Canal which stretches from Allentown through Bethlehem and finishes in downtown Easton, PA.    The half marathon starts in the Christmas City (Historic Bethlehem) and loops into the same course as the marathon.  Both the half and full start at the same time – just in different location or about 13.1 miles apart.

The marathon relay is a blast – at least that has been my experience.  I hadn’t planned to run this year, but I became the last minute ‘fill-in’.  It was my 3rd year running it.  I am not sure what is more entertaining – the running or trying to get to the next exchange point (and finding a place to park) before your teammate finishes their leg of the race.  It’s just a really great team event – regardless of the outcome.

It’s a well run race (pun intended) and very popular – heck it ends with beer (you have tickets on your bib).  Whether you try it solo for a half or full or join in the team spirit (with 4 of your fellow runners), give it a try.

10.) Runners World Half Marathon and Festival

Since Runner’s World is located in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, what better place to hold their ‘own’ race.  This is truly a festival weekend featuring kid races (Friday), 3.8 mile train run (Friday), 5K and 10K (Saturday) and Half Marathon (Sunday).  And, not to be leave anyone looking for multiple races out, there is The Hat Trick – 5K, 10K and Half Marathon or The Five & Dime – 5K and 10K.  The location for these races (or actual race ‘headquarters’) is the ground of the refurbished Bethlehem Steel Mill and ArtsQuest SteelStacks campus.

The racecourses feature Bethlehem’s historic neighborhood which include some of the town’s original 1741 settlement, Moravian College and the former Bethlehem Steel complex – where the backbone of the nation was literally forged.  The course was changed to be a little ‘less hilly’, but there still are a number of hills; you’ll have a hard time finding  flat course in this area of Bethlehem.   The dates for this year’s festival are October 14-16, 2016.

11.) St Luke’s Half Marathon – 5K, Kid Races, and Half Marathon

This race begins and ends in relatively the same area.  Much of this run occurs on the road except for a few miles through the beautiful Lehigh Parkway.  Because this is a spring-time race (usually the end of April), you could have questionable weather; but once you are committed – go with it.

Because this race looks to get everyone involved (as with the other races I noted), there is a kids race on Saturday.  Both the 5K and Half Marathon are on Sunday morning with the 5K starting a little before the Half Marathon.  The beauty of the start is that you go down a steep hill – giving you momentum – although it could be equally challenging in that you go too fast out of the start.

This race finishes in the J Birney Crum Stadium.  I highlight this as someone was kind enough to let me know that once you enter the stadium, you still have to finish on the other side of the track.  It was great to have that heads up – at least from a mental perspective.  How cool is it to finish in a stadium of people cheering you on????

(Okay, so our Tuesday Ten ended up being Eleven. But these races are all fantastic. Couldn’t leave one out!)

 

About the author: Robert is a 35-year-old father of a 2-year-old boy, with another, yet-to-be determined baby on the way! As a total Disney nut who loves to travel, he started running to get in shape, but now he takes vacations so he can run races with the other crazy Joyful Miles ladies! He also loves useless trivia and has a vast knowledge of TV. Go ahead. Ask him anything about Seinfeld!

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Marcia May 31, 2016, 10:05 pm

    I’ve heard great things about many of the races you listed. You are lucky to live in an area with so many good ones. Thanks so much for linking up!

    • Laura Bowers June 1, 2016, 7:45 am

      Thanks, Marcia, we had some bobbles with our first link-up attempt, (like a lost draft – thank goodness for recovery,) but I’m having fun visiting some of the other participating bloggers! Thanks for hosting this!

  • Tania June 1, 2016, 10:12 am

    Nice list! I’ll definitely have to check out the Baltimore Women’s 5K. That Niagara Falls race looks very cool, too!!

    • Laura Bowers June 15, 2016, 3:54 pm

      You’d love the BWC 5k! It has some hills but there’s such a great vibe. I’ll be taking lots of video two weeks from now if you want to check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

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