Run on vacation?  Why would anyone do that?  Sometimes the running is the reason for the vacation.  If you like to mix work and play, choose destination races in  locations that double as an interesting and fun “racecation” to make the most of your efforts.  The Southeast plays host to a number of top notch events that offer runners more than just a great race course but a memorable vacation weekend too.

The Asheville Half Marathon & Marathon on the Biltmore Estate makes a memorable destination race.

The Asheville Half Marathon & Marathon is run entirely on The Biltmore Estate. Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive Traveling Mom

Find Your Motivation In Destination Races

I started running just before I turned 40.  I want to tell you that my running journey began because I was concerned about my health.  Or because I wanted to be an inspiration to my sons.  No, I started running so I could justify registering for the Disney Princess Half Marathon and take a trip to Walt Disney World. Since then, destination races have been a fantastic motivator to keep running while exploring some of my favorite places in the South.

If you're a country music fan, grab your running shoes and choose Rock 'n' Roll Nashville as your next destination race!

Hanging out at Honky Tonk Central before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Half Marathon with our coincidentally coordinating outfits. Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive Traveling Mom

Races in Nashville, TN

Formerly known as The Country Music Marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series has rebranded this April race as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville.  I ran this one with my birthday twin Kristen, and we had a blast!

The course is a great introductory tour of Nashville as it starts in the middle of Nashville’s club scene on Broadway, takes you down Music Row and passes pretty Belmont University before ending at Nissan Stadium.  Be forewarned – there are plenty of hills in this one.  But the course was enjoyable and the after party fun.  Rock ‘n’ Roll always has a band lined up for a free concert at some point after the race which gives you another reason to kick back and stay a while longer.  Much like the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville has selected Tennessee based St. Jude Children’s Hospital as its main charity beneficiary so you can throw in some fundraising for good measure.

The Rock 'n' Roll Savannah 5K is a destination race for touring the city like a local.

Touring Savannah like a local during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah 5K. Photo Credit: Inquisitive Traveling Mom Amy Albers

Running Races in Savannah, GA

Being a Georgia resident, I’m partial to our beautiful coastal cities.  I’m also partial to race courses that are flat as a pancake, so I’m a frequent runner of Savannah.  The Rock ‘n’ Roll Series holds a race in Savannah each November and that includes a marathon, half marathon, 5K and 1 miler over the course of the weekend.  I liked running both the half marathon and the 5K since they were held on consecutive days in different parts of the city.  This gave me a chance to see more of the Savannah that the locals see.

Running is so much easier with the tree-lined squares of Savannah along the Savannah Women's Half Marathon course. It's a beautiful destination race.

The running is made so much easier when you can enjoy Savannah’s tree-lined squares along the Savannah Women’s Half Marathon course. Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive Traveling Mom

If you prefer to tour Savannah in the spring, look into the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon in April.  This weekend includes a half marathon and 5K on the same course and men are more than welcome to join the ladies for either run.  The course is different from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah as you get to view more of the residential historic district.  Both the Savannah Women’s Half Marathon as well as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah courses end in historic Forsyth Park.

Run the City of Atlanta, GA

There is no better way to see the best of Atlanta than on foot.  Atlanta offers so many opportunities to run the city that include distances from 5K to marathon.  The Atlanta Track Club is a world-class organization that makes planning your running tour of Atlanta easy!  One thing they can’t do?  Flat. Atlanta is truly a city on a hill.  Hills.  Lots of hills.  Train accordingly.

Choosing the Publix Georgia Half Marathon as a destination race means getting a peek at Atlanta during sunrise.

Catching the sunrise over Atlanta during the Publix Georgia Half Marathon. Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive Traveling Mom

The Publix Georgia Half Marathon

This course takes you past some of my favorite local sites.  The tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with its eternal flame, the funky Virginia Highlands area and Piedmont Park.  True Story:  A couple of years ago the song “I Have A Dream” from the Tangled soundtrack played on my iPod right as I approached the King Memorial.  I had to stop and Facebook it which cost me a PR by 41 seconds.  Even the crushing hills of the Georgia Tech campus are a welcome site to this University of Georgia fan because I know that I’ll soon be to the finish in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.  There is also a marathon distance for this event that takes you through the lovely Druid Hills area of “Driving Miss Daisy” fame.  This race is typically held the weekend nearest St. Patrick’s Day.

Even the crushing hills of the Georgia Tech campus are a welcome site to this University of Georgia fan because I know that I’ll soon be to the finish in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.  There is also a marathon distance for this event that takes you through the lovely Druid Hills area of “Driving Miss Daisy” fame.  This race is typically held the weekend nearest St. Patrick’s Day.

Food, fun and cheeseballs are in abundance during Atlanta's Peachtree Road Race. There is no more famous 10K destination race!

Letting strangers throw things in my mouth during Atlanta’s biggest party of the year, the Peachtree Road Race. Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive Traveling Mom

The Peachtree Road Race

Held on the 4th of July for the past 41 years, “the Peachtree” is the world’s largest 10K.  And in this case “10K” means “party”.  With 60 thousand runners you would think there wouldn’t be anyone left to spectate but the sidewalks are full and people are in the spirit!  During this year’s “run”, a term that I use loosely, we found mimosas, Chick-fil-a biscuits, pizza, beer and the cheeseballs pictured above all being handed out by spectators along the route.  Speaking of the route, it winds through Atlanta’s Buckhead and Midtown neighborhoods, reminding me of my well-spent young adulthood.  The course highlights a great mix of old and new Atlanta while our city shows hospitality at its finest.

During this year’s “run”, a term that I use loosely, we found mimosas, Chick-fil-a biscuits, pizza, beer and the cheeseballs pictured above all being handed out by spectators along the route.  Speaking of the route, it winds through Atlanta’s Buckhead and Midtown neighborhoods, reminding me of my well-spent young adulthood.  The course highlights a great mix of old and new Atlanta while our city shows hospitality at its finest.

Speaking of the route, it winds through Atlanta’s Buckhead and Midtown neighborhoods, reminding me of my well-spent young adulthood.  The course highlights a great mix of old and new Atlanta while our city shows hospitality at its finest.

Getting over the Cooper River Bridge is the fun of this destination race.

Attempting to “get over it” at the Cooper River Bridge Run. Photo Credit: Amy Albers, Inquisitive Traveling Mom

Spirited Run in Charleston, SC

Charleston’s Cooper River Bridge Run gives off much the same spirit as Atlanta’s Peachtree.  This April race is a 10K and has a light, fun-filled atmosphere.  The course is mostly flat with the exception of the namesake bridge but the view is so spectacular that you might not even mind.  I had been to Charleston before but I had never strayed outside the absolute tourist attractions.  The race starts in the lovely Mount Pleasant area and ends smack in downtown Charleston with restaurants, shopping and plenty of music & vendors.

Scenic and Beautiful Runs in Asheville, NC

I’ve run 19 half-marathons, and I am telling you that the Asheville Half Marathon has the most scenic and beautiful course of them all.  Both the half and full marathon are run entirely on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate.  A smaller field of runners allows for the start line crowd to thin quickly and you get plenty of elbow room.  The first half is along paved paths through forested area while the section after the Biltmore House is on a gravel path that winds along the French Broad River.  The marathon course includes areas that are not typically open to the public.  The North Carolina mountains in March offers crisp temperatures and the scenery is peaceful and zen-like.

I have more southern cities on my race-cation bucket list but I’m quite satisfied with my touring so far. By tackling new cities on well-thought out race courses you just might find unexpected delights you would have missed otherwise.

Leave a comment with some of your favorite cities to run!