Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

How to Recover Faster

Once we embrace the joy of running, we find ourselves looking forward to lacing up again for the next run, speed session, or mountain escape. The rate of our recovery determines how fast we can get back out there doing what we enjoy, and this rate of recovery is unique for each individual. When an individual introduces a new training stimulus, increases training volume, or as we grow older, the rate of recovery slows down and requires more attention. The good news is we have the power to influence our rate of recovery at any stage of life or training. Paying attention to recovery allows us to train safely, while minimizing the risk of injury. There are three areas in our recovery: 1) physiological, 2) neural, and 3) psychological. Here are 10 strategies to improve your rate of recovery.

1. Active recovery - Incorporate low intensity or low impact days into your weekly routine such as elliptical, cycling, swimming, and walking. Because of the influx of feel good chemicals that flush into our body during and post workout, we may want to go hard everyday. However, active recovery helps flush soreness or compounding fatigue out of the legs.

2. Foam rolling / dynamic stretching / mobility drills - activation exercises in a gentle manner focusing on proper form helps with circulation and flushing the legs. 

3. Elevate legs - After a difficult training session or at the end of the work day, this allows the blood to recirculate back through the upper body systems so there isn't an accumulation of inflammatory factors in the lower extremities. 

4. Compression gear - From compression leggings, socks and sleeves, there is data showing this gear helps improve circulation. It has been in the past prescribed for pregnant women, individuals will poor circulatory problems in their legs, and also frequent air travelers. Another great addition to recovery is what you wear on your feet when you are not training. The ballerina shoes, thin flip flops, and very high heels above 3" are very taxing on the proper posture of the body and joints. My entire family (except brother, he'll learn once he gets older) uses OOFOS recovery sandals and shoes as lifestyle wear as it helps absorbs 37% of the impact saving your joints. 

5. Refuel wholesomely - What you eat post workout gives your body the building blocks to rebuild for your next workout. Choose wholesome snacks and balanced meals. We may want to indulge in the burger, pizza, or fries -- but remember these items are broken down then used as building blocks to build your tissues, organ systems, and process cellular mechanisms. We wouldn't put cheap gas in a ferrari. Also, supplementation is helpful to fill in any gaps. I use the convenient, pre-packaged Vital4U supplements and fiber everyday to support my microbiome. (promo NADIA saves 15% off first time orders). Opt to be built from healthy fuel choices. Be the ferrari.

6. Hydrate frequently - The viscosity of our blood is influenced by how much we drink and what we drink. The more water and electrolytes we consume (such as Liquid IV), the lower the viscosity of our blood allowing it to flow freely in our circulatory system. Think of it as a free flowing freeway clear of any accidents. We don't want accidents within our circulatory system due to congestion from high viscosity. Drink water frequently.

7. Stress management / meditation - Chronic stress causes a physiological response in our bodies and the longer we don't manage it daily, the more it can cause damage within our organ systems thereby slowing down our healing and recovery process. The stress hormone, cortisol, has a purpose in our bodies; however, continuous elevated cortisol levels makes us immuno-compromised. Incorporate activities that help you unwind. You deserve at least 30 minutes daily to yourself everyday to exhale. The more you give yourself, the more you are able to serve others.

8. Ice baths - Data shows that after intense training sessions or competitions, ice baths help reduce the inflammatory response by constricting blood vessels so inflammatory factors don't leak into the body. Additionally, cold water immersion has shown through physiological studies to boost immune system, boost metabolism, balance hormones. Opt for 10-15 minutes in an ice bath at 50-59F soon after high intensity training. I use my Ice Barrel at home, which can hold water for up to 4 weeks when treated.

9. Heat Therapy / Epson salt baths - Practicing breathing exercises in the sauna or inside warm salt baths help the mind train our neurological systems to regulate our heart rates. We teach our bodies to relax under a stressful state in the sauna and the salinity in a epsom salt bath has been shown to have restorative effects.

10. Sleep - The amount and quality of sleep impacts our energy levels, regeneration rates, and immunity among other factors. Sleep is the golden ticket to increased health in a variety of ways. Invest in a quality mattress (such as lull), pillows, and skip the late night TV watching to be able to go to bed earlier. Investment in your sleep has the greatest return in your body.


All of the above strategies are relatively low cost and can be done easily at home. There is more that we can still do for our bodies! I sincerely believe in investing in our health and wellness because the return is substantially more in lower health care costs, lower rates of injury, and overall a higher quality of life. Here are some more strategies you can incorporate into your wellness routine. 

11. Cyrotherapy - This is the new craze that has public figures and influencers radiating about it's amazing benefits. There is limited data on it's true physiological impact; however, there is a large amount of anecdotal reports of it helping individuals feel better and recover faster. It could be worth a try. 

12. Sensory Deprivation Tank - There is substantial data showing how creating a space to be one with our thoughts has a deep impact. You float in a warm, high salinity bath within your own private room that has meditation music that fades out if you wish. For me, I feel as if I'm floating in outer space where I get to unplug, slow down, and think about my thoughts. I highly recommend it. (example Just Float in Pasadena)

13. Acupuncture - Thousands of year of eastern medicine have practiced and documented the benefits of acupuncture for its healing, preventive, and treatment benefits. I've incorporated it for over a decade into my regular wellness routine. Once a month at least for maintenance; once or twice a week when I am injured or nursing an ailment. 

14. Sports medicine chiropractor - There are different forms of physical therapy and a chiropractor who is trained to understand the science of an athlete's needs is important. For maintenance, I aim for once per month; during high training periods, I usually opt for once per week. Trusted sports medicine chiropractors I saw regularly were Dr. Andrew Lopez in Central CA and Dr. Edgar Rodriguez in Whittier.   

15. Sports massage therapist - Body work is extremely beneficial for regular maintenance, injury prevention, or treatment of muscular imbalances. During my peak training seasons, sports massages are crucial weekly. Referrals of great therapists work best. My past dependable massage therapist is Franco Bodywork in Highland Park.

16. Compression boots - Similar to compression gear with a high twist. They immensely help increase circulation therefore recovery. Owning my own pair of Elevated Legs and by Therabody, I aim to use them 3x/week 30-90 minutes at a time.

17. Percussive tools - Self massage tools are very helpful in adding to your arsenal of recovery tools such as the Theragun now by Therabody. I use it daily pre runs for mobility activation and post runs for recovery.

Please feel free to share if you feel anyone could benefit from the info above and also contact me if you're looking for an endurance coach to help you with a training strategy to build during the off season or keep you accountable with science based training. Take care of your body. We only get one. Thank you for reading! 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Top 10 Trail Races

Trails are where the soul can escape, dance, smile, and connect to our deepest thoughts. We can share them together or can find solace in exploring in solitude. The trails are where I find often my happiest memories, craziest ideas, and greatest clarity. 

Below I share my favorite 10 trail races for any level trail runner looking for something in the marathon, half, 5K, or relay distance options. If you like something longer, my favorite 10 ultras are here. Extend your trail adventure and explore the surrounding areas as each have hundreds of miles of magnificence. 

10. Yosemite Half
Location: Bass Lake, CA
Date: May
Weather: 40-70F
Results: 1:50:55 (2018)

If you love the outdoors and want a great list to explore of national parks, Vacation Race series offers an amazing to do list of national parks around the nation. The course is a mixture of fire road and paved road through the Sierra National Forest just outside of Yosemite National Park. Runners can camp at Bass Lake to be conveniently next to the start and then extend your trips for days to camp and explore the national park. As my first visit, my friends and I scored a half dome permit and were able to summit safely, even though it was terrifying in hail. Would I do half dome again? Too soon to say since that slippery climb has had some recent reported deaths. Hike safely friends. 

Location: East Glacier Village, MT
Date: June
Weather: 40-70F
Results: 1:45:56 (2017)

Camp at Red Eagle Campground for the expo and race start/finish, then run through rolling hills (1200' gain) on a stunning beautiful point to point course with miles of mountain ranges. Most of the Vacation Races give options to camp, local lodging, or nearby hotels for diverse options. Afterwards, explore the 1500 square miles of more wilderness inside Glacier National Park. With glacier carved peaks, there is 700 miles to explore and let your soul just be. Wildlife ranges from mountain goats and grizzlies. 

Location: Gallatin National Forest, WY
Date: June
Weather: 30-60F
Results: 2:05:42 *injured (2018)

Enjoy the rolling hills of the Gallatin green forest neighboring Yellowstone National Park. Combine it with the 5K for a challenge medal and extend your stay to camp/hike the 3500 square miles of wilderness. After the race, enjoy canyons, alpine rivers, lush forest, host springs, alpine rivers, and the infamous Old Faithful. Camping and visiting here for the first time was the best.

7. Infinite Trails World Championship
Location: Bad gastein, Austria
Date: June
Weather: 30-100F, rain or humidity
Details: 3-person relay teams (25K/60K/45K)

Nestled within the Austrian Alps, this multi day event will bring together 300 teams from around the world to surmount the peaks amongst great beauty your heart can embrace. Beginning on Thursday evening, all runners run the prologue to seed your teams on race day Saturday. Your three person team will be 1st) 6000' gain in 25K, 2nd) 12,000' gain in 60K, and 3rd) 4500' gain in 45K. Each their own unique challenge and your motivation to bring your A game for your team. I was honored to coach 20 runners to their first international mountain race and dominate out there impressing many AR communities from around the world. 

Location: Anchorage, AK
Date: June
Weather: 60F/75F
Results: 4:22:12 *injured (2012)

For any outdoor enthusiast, Alaska has everything for your tantalizing soul to explore from glacier cruises, hunting, hiking, to city and wildlife tours. In the summer, the climate is pleasant and 24hrs of civil twilight around the Summer Solstice will be a very unique experience. Those heavy hotel drapes will come in handy for sleep. With rolling hills, the point to point course is a mixture of trail on rocky tank trail and mostly road. Occasional bear sightings have not been uncommon. A wonderful city, well organized event, and great state to visit and return. 

Location: Napa Valley, CA
Date: March
Weather: 40F/55F
Results: 3:40:13, 1st FOA (2008)

Calming streams will be your soundtrack as you run along a lush single track within Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Rolling hills, stream crossing, and some technical sections makes it a rewarding oasis in a local treasure untapped by tourists. Located minutes from the area's great restaurants, wineries, and hotels, the event is capped at 300 selling out every year in it's 30th annual. It was a hidden gem my family and I were able to share together in 2008.  

Location: Los Padres National Forest, CA
Date: November
Elevation: 5000' gain
Results: 6:17:02 (2013)

As part of the allwedoisrun series by RD Luis Escobar, the Red Rock trail races, located just outside of Santa Barbara, are miles of challenge. The single track course for the marathon climbs over 5000' through tree covered steep and long ascents. Course support is minimal; therefore, you're required to carry minimum of 60oz fluid. When the RD says it's your fault you get lost, it is in his races. Great painful fun. 

Location: Manitou Springs, CO
Date: August
Elevation: 7K gain to 14K altitude
Results: 7:10:16 (2011, 2013)
** favorite feature: high altitude

As “America’s Ultimate Challenge,” PPM fulfills its name. Claimed as the most difficult marathon in the US (Inca Trail Marathon for N. & S. America), the race begins at 6,300 elevation climbs for 13 miles to the summit at 14,115 then descend back to the start. At this altitude, the mountain controls the day so be prepared for anything as you crush your quads hands on knees to the summit in thin air. Pro tip: try to find your appropriate placement with the first couple miles before it goes into single track. Add 2-4hrs to your regular road marathon time depending on climbing fitness and altitude sensitivity. If you want double pain, you can opt to do the Ascent the day before, too.  

Location: Birling Gap, Sussex, UK
Date: March
Elevation: 4200' gain
Results: 4:55:57 1st US, 4th FOA (2013)
** favorite feature: severe weather

With the world famous Seven Sisters and far reaching views over the English Channel, the marathon shoulders the coastal towns of Eastbourne and Seaford, which lie on the eastern section of the South Downs National Park. Where white chalk cliffs meets the sea, this course has produced one of the most iconic landscapes of Britain. With four distances to choose from, there is something for everyone to enjoy. In 2013, I ran the marathon with 4200' gain where it faced one it's worst race weather on record with risk of being cancelled up until the day before. Race day, we faced 30F, 30mph winds dropping windchill factor to 15F as we pushed through hail that pierced our rain jackets. An joyous punishing that I would do again-- probably the worst weather I raced in, substantially worse than Boston 2018 (record coldest race day). Mountains have a unique offering.

1. Inca Trail Marathon
Location: Inca Trail, Peru
Date: July
Elevation: 10,700' gain
Results: 10:32:57, 3rd FOA (2012)

A backpacker's thru hike dream usually completed in 3-5 days: the Inca Trail can now also be done in one day as the most challenging and beautiful 26.2 miles I have ever done. Race participants camp at the start line at 8000' altitude and prepare before dawn to trek through 5 ecological zones in varying weather of heat, cold, wind, rain, hail as you climb to the highest point on the course at 13,7000' over Dead Women's pass. With a firm cut off 11 hours due to Peruvian government restrictions, two thirds of the field did not finish in 2012 under the cut off and were forced to camp overnight to finish the next morning. Be prepared to ascend over 3000 steps through history as alpaca graze the land around you until you are greeted with your magical finish line: Machu Picchu. 


If you would like to visit more of my top lists, below are some more of my favorite categories. Feel free to email me if you're looking for a new fitness / training program to keep you motivated and accountable through the changing circumstances. 
Thank you for reading! 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Top 10 Trail Ultras

The human psyche functions strongly when we look forward to something. Whatever that may be for you, I invite you to follow it with small steps each day. The world is changing everyday and the event industry will be adapting in the future. I share below my favorite 10 ultras in the trails I am grateful to have experienced. Reflecting on our progress helps shape our vision for the future: what goal do you want to set for yourself this fall/winter? Motivation comes and goes. Inspiration for a greater purpose is what keeps us going. Let's get inspired for what we can do.

10. OTHTC Desert 50K
Date: Early December
Location: Ridgecrest, CA
Typical Temps: 50/80F
Gain: 2500'

A small feeling event with SoCal local trail runners looking to squeeze in one more fast trail ultra before the end of the year. With minimal gain, this 50K is great for beginners, first timers, or the avid looking for a fast 50K. Course mixed with service road, single track, and sporadic sandy spots. Three time finisher as top 3 females. 

9. Avalon Marathons, 50K, 50 Mile
Date: mid-January
Location: Catalina Island, CA
Typical Temps: 50/80F
Gain: 4500'

A great way to stay motivated through the holidays is to plan a nearby island vacation to kick off the new year with friends. Running almost every Catalina Marathon hosted, Avalon 50K brings me back five years for the friendships and clients I have trained through the years. Course is mostly service road with majority of gain within the first four miles then rolls through the island gently until the last harsh three miles downhill on asphalt. The race has grown to a few hundred each year. A great way to kick off your year and this one helps me stay on top of my training through the holidays to bring a test in progress placing in top women each year. 

8. Bishop 50K, 50M, 100K
Date: early June
Location: Bishop, CA
Typical Temps: 50/80F
Gain: 5500' up to 8000' altitude 

Had the honor to coach 20 runners for this event, most as their first ultra. Get ready for anything from service road, single track, heat, altitude, to a technical finish that will be probably longer than the prescribed distance. All of my athletes did amazing and I am happy to support a local race with a hard working RD, Tom. The icing on the cake: won first female overall leading some of my fastest (sub 3-hour) road marathoners, Ferdinel and Duvan, to their first 50K.

7. Harding Hustle 50K
Date: July
Location: Santa Ana Mountains, CA
Typical Temps: 80-100F
Gain: 3500' up to 5600' altitude

Summer heat is a given. Challenge yourself in a mixture of service road and single track to climb some gorgeous vistas in SoCal. Exposed landscape, this one will test your heat tolerance and tenacity. Finished 4th Female Overall in this toasty one. 
6. Bryce Canyon Half, 50K, 100M
Date: June
Location: Hatch, UT
Typical Temps: 30-80F
Gain: 5300'

A great excuse for a road trip and visit everything in between. As a gift to my little brother for graduating college, we went on a week long trip to Bryce, Zion, and Vegas-- suffering must be included. While I did the 50K and he did the half, we car camped and endured the summer heat to see some gorgeous terrain. A must do, even more than once. 

5. Caballo Blanco 50K, 50M
Date: February
Location: Copper Canyons, MX
Typical Temps: 70-100F
Gain: 7000'

The Tarahumara culture is absolutely inspiring. They run through the scorching heat within these canyons in sandals, cultural dresses for women, and jeans for men to endure the absolute toughest conditions not as training but as a way of life. It was an honor to run side by side, experience, and see what I did. Trek into the depths to see how far down you can dig into your soul. This race was it. 2nd Female Overall taking home a cash prize I donated. I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

4. Antelope Canyon 55K 50M, 100M
Date: March
Location: Page, AZ
Typical Temps: 40-60F
Gain: 3700', SAND

One of the most magnificent places to see. From Horseshoe Bend to the sand colored canyons, you will be mesmerized on every turn and challenged as you trudge through sand for about 48 miles out of the 50. I'm grateful for what I saw and know that our beautiful Earth deserves respect. 

3. Speedgoat 50K
Date: July
Location: Snowbird Ski Resort, UT
Typical Temps: 50-80F
Gain: 15,000' up to 11000' altitude 

Claimed as the most challenging 50K in North America , I would say in the world given its gain in 34 miles. It packs a punch in quad crushing pain and landscape to view for miles on end. I feared this one for awhile-- with the push of some avid 100 mile friends, I look the plunge and committed training for it. The fear of doing something I was absolutely afraid of propelled me to give one of my best trail performances beating both of my 100M friends who run regularly 3-hour road marathons. There is something special about doing something you are really afraid of. The RD, Karl Metlzer, is a hard ass and there's a reason for it. 

2. Transrockies 120M
Date: August
Location: Colorado Rockies, CO
Typical Temps: 30-80F
Gain: 20,000' up to 13000' altitude 

I've traveled to half the US states and 27 countries; Colorado remains one of my favorite mountain feels. This was my first stage race and kicked off the mental acceptance that I may be a stronger mountain runner than I acknowledged. There is a 3 day and 6 day event. The RD, Kevin Houda, really looks out for all his runners so this will be the ultimate "adult summer camp" that you won't forget. 7th female overall after a strong competitive field with past Olympians. Want to hike the entire thing? You definitely can, as all levels are completing this event. 

1. Hardrock 100M
Date: July
Location: San Juan National Forest, CO
Typical Temps: 30-90F, hail, heat, anything
Gain: 34000' gain up to 14K altitude several times

If you're a seasoned ultra runner, you know this one. The bucket list for any ultra veteran to suffer the extreme majesty with over 60K gain/loss probably in the most mesmerizing terrain the US has to offer. I was honored to pace at HR100 2017 and hope to return in 2020 if it doesn't get cancelled or postponed. A heart clenching experience to see veteran 100 milers grind out the most pain possible. Dream big they say. Definitely, yes. 

*** What am I currently training for? If you are following me on strava, I'm currently moving 2-3 times/day in mini training sessions for sanity, faster recovery, and progress for the fall. Join me in this journey to look forward to challenging ourselves into something absolutely extreme for clarity, cleansing, and liberation of one's own inhibitions. Below you can find a short documentary clip about Ultra X Mexico and lists of my other favorites. Stay daydreaming. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Top 10 International Races

We long daydream for our perfect vacation. What that means for each individual differs from mood to mood and circumstance to circumstance. There are moments where I want to escape to the depths of the forest, jungle, or mountain peaks and then other times where I enjoy exploring the tasty cultural cuisine the city has to offer. Some of my best trips have been when I give myself the time to exhale and enjoy the moment, whether it be in a bustling city or serene landscape. Here are my most memorable international ROAD races I would recommend on your next spin around the globe. 

Location: Jakarta, Indonesia
Race Date: February
2016 Race Temps: 90F, 90% humidity

As the capital and providence of Jakarta, you can enjoy the metropolis, openness of the seas, and suburbs in the outskirts. Proclaimed to be one of the world's cities with highest traffic similar to Manila and Mexico City, I visited Jakarta to host a coaching clinic for triathletes, help launch a coffee product, and enjoy a local large running event with the warm community. Be ready for some heat and warm, welcoming locals alike. 

Location: Legazpi City, Philippines
Race Date: August 2015
2015 Race Temps: 99F, 100% humidity
2015 Results: 1st US, 4th FOA

Reclaimed as the most scenic, challenging race of the Philippines, Mt Mayon is a tropical paradise for any traveler comparable to if not more than Hawaii and Costa Rica. Beaming in biodiversity of green lush, food, culture, and kind locals, the triathlon will begin in crystal clear water adorned with coral reef below then continue through the city's hills. The first and only triathlon I did without a wetsuit due to heat. Get ready to SUFFER in the high heat and humidity. Having the locals and children cheer your name as an internationally known triathlete, the Filipino community are a favorite. 

8. Bermuda Marathon 
Location: Hampton, Bermuda Island
Race Date: 1/18/09
2009 Finishers: 76
2009 Race Temps: 60F
2009 Results: 3:58:11, 22nd total

Take a vacation during Bermuda’s low season located off the east coast and enjoy the island’s two-loop course as it hugs the perimeter along the shoreline. Locals are friendly and welcoming. The event offers the Bermuda Triangle Challenge if you're interested in racing three different distances on three consecutive days. 

Location: Havana, Cuba
Race Date: October
2017 Race temps: 80F, 90% humidity, HOT
2017 Results: 3:54:55, 14th FOA

A destination I always wanted to visit.  For my father's 59th birthday, we made it a trip to visit and as his ultimate race trip planner, I found an affordable AirBnB, amazing spots to dine and experience all the music, culture, and food. My dad was a child again revisiting all the history of Cuba with the 1950s car culture. The two-loop course runs through the city and oceanfront with the majority running the half marathon -- we learned this the hard way. The second loop is lonely and mostly international runners (the locals know better) as it was exposed, 
extremely  humid creating a huge positive split. I would highly recommend it overall and would return for the half marathon next time. 
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Race Date: August
2019 Finishers: 40,000
2019 Race temps: 80F, 40% humidity
2019 Results: 3:55:00

In 2019, I partnered with JLab Audio to launch a product and event during race weekend and was able to visit the city, meet wonderful people, and enjoy delectable cuisine. The course is rolling hills point to point at 7,300' altitude. Given I was out of shape in July/August 2019 as my off season after a very heavy coaching season in Winter/Spring 2018-2019, I was humbled. It is a large field so you will never be alone on the course. The latino energy of the spectators makes your heart inspired.

5. Barcelona Marathon
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Race Date: 3/7/10
2010 Finishers: 4,054
2010 Race Temps: 45F/60F
2010 Results: 3:37:52, 38th total

A cherished trip memory because I was able to combine it with visiting my family in Spain and it was the last marathon I ran with my mom. I cannot say enough how wonderful Barcelona is for its cuisine, culture, history, and kindly natured locals. The course meanders through many historical sights. Enjoy a paella de Mariscos, great bottle of wine, and make it a vacation to remember. I dropped tears of joy as I finished through the fountains and museums of Barca.

Location: Quito, Ecuador
Race Date: September
Race Temps: 50s, marshmallow clouds

As the capital city, Quito is nestled in the sublime Andes Mountains at 9,000' elevation. With rolling hills everywhere, you will be challenged with thin air and blessed with warm energy of Ecuadorian people. Aid stations are every 5K with individual closed packets for hydration-- a typical feature of international Latino events. Embrace the energy of the culture as you see many locals push through winds, altitude, and hills.  I ran this for a couple years as my birthday race with my dad until it ended. Instead, Quito 15K continues, which is a very popular long running event drawing runners from all over South America and world. I highly recommend the Quito 15K for the energy, great organization, and large field size. As our family is in Ecuador, we usually extend our trip, hike up to 15,000', and enjoy the humble life of Quito. With my Incan blood, I hope to return soon again. 

3. Great Wall of China Marathon
Location: Beijing, China
Race Date: 5/22/16
2016 Finishers: 2,500
2016 Race Temps: 85F, 80% humidity
2016 Results: 5:07:35, 25th FOA

With over 70 countries represented in the field, the marathon, half and 10K draws in 2,500 from around the world to participate in one of the most historic landmarks of the world: the Great Wall of China. Completed as my 127th marathon, this was my 3rd most difficult marathon (after Inca Trail and Pikes Peak) that forced hands on knees crawling up the concrete block stairs in blistering heat. The marathon has over 5,000' vertical gain with 5,164 steps in the heat, humidity of May. A memorable experience to share with my dad running the marathon and mom running the half. 
Location: Berlin, Germany
Race Date: September
2019 Finishers: 45,000
2019 Race Temps: 57F rainy
2019 Results: 3:44:32

One of the most historical international experiences for road races. The field is massive, energy is high, and is nonstop from start to finish. You will be accompanied by runners from start to finish pushing for their goals in this world major as you run through amazing historical sites of Berlin. It was an honor to experience this for the first time in 2019, even if it was a downpour the entire time. As a sustainability race, it was difficult to get to my gear, get a post race wrap, and find my post race location as a foreigner. Learn through my mistakes: make the extra purchases and ensure you have it all translated beforehand in your phone in order to orient yourself post race.

1. Rome Marathon
Location: Rome, Italy
Race Date: 3/22/09
2009 Finishers: 11,010
2009 Race Temps: 39F/55F
2009 Results: 4:01:21, 25th marathon

My favorite international road marathon. I love everything about Italy. Everything. Passing through over 20 tourist sites in Rome, some course highlights are running through the Vatican City, Pantheon, Fountain de Trevi, and notably the start and finish are at the Coliseum. The entire run is as majestic as they get and listening to the spectators cheer in Italian makes the experience unforgettable. It was the best pizza, best wine, best city, best gelato, and best race vacation I can ask for. After the marathon, I took a tour via train of the northern cities Florence, Milan, and Venice. My only regret was not staying for several weeks. 


Hope you enjoyed my tour of favorite international road races. Feel free to enjoy my other top lists below and thank you for reading! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Top 20 Road Marathons

Running over 500 races around the world, I am asked: What are your favorites? There are thousands of road and trail events worldwide, increasing in numbers every year as the running community grows globally. Race directors have evolved their events to appeal to all different types of runners, depending what experience you are looking for: field size, location, course, degree of difficulty, time of year, post race experience, etc.

Personally, I enjoy all different types of races and attempt to explore as many different kinds locally and internationally. It keeps my training interesting and each event gives a different feel. From Ironmans, triathlons, ultras, obstacle course races, roads, trails, mountains, and marathons, I enjoy to mix it up. My favorite distance: the marathon. Here in a several part series, I share my top 20 road marathons in the US. You can find my top 10 international races, top 10 ultras, and top 10 trail races as separate lists. Enjoy! 

20. Houston Marathon
Location: Houston, TX
Race Date: 1/15/2012
2012 Finishers: 8000
2012 Race Temps: 50F/65F
2012 Results: 3:37:37

A Texas visit is always great with friends to experience the open space, meandering highways, and hearty food. Decided to visit this growingly popular race when the Olympic Trials arrived. It was an absolute treat to watch both the elite men and women in a loop course battle it out for their personal achievement. The next day, all marathoners can run the regular course exploring the city with great energy. The race has substantially grown since 2012. 

19. Portland Marathon
Location: Portland, OR
Race Date: 10/04/2009
2009 Finishers: 8000
2009 Race Temps: 50sF, cloudy
2009 Results: 3:39:05

The Pacific Northwest is always a treat! It is my favorite place to visit after Colorado in the US. Traveling with my fellow LAUSD educator, we enjoyed hiking, sightseeing, and embracing the lusciously green terrain in the outskirts of Portland. A beautiful place to visit, extend your weekend, and visit the locals. Race has changed in management since 2009; however, the city remains a great place to explore. 

18. Route 66 Marathon
Location: Tulsa, OK
Race Date: 11/18/2012
2012 Finishers: 2000
2012 Race Temps: 45F/60F
2012 Results: 3:30:02, 18th state

Travel eastward in the fall is a great treat for city dwellers who live in a city without seasons. First time exploring Oklahoma with beautiful colors, amazingly great energy, and a highly recommended marathon amongst my traveling marathoning friends. This one is worth it. 

17. Bellingham Bay Marathon
Location: Bellingham, WA
Race Date: 9/26/10
2010 Finishers: 401
2010 Race Temps: 62F, light rain
2010 Results: 3:38:48, 48th total
Reviewed as “the most beautiful marathon in the Pacific Northwest,” you will run along the serenity of Bellingham Bay, San Juan Islands, and mountain views running on roads, bridges, and a touch of trails. A wonderful variety of beauty with slight hills is a favorite small race of mine to share with my little brother.

16. San Francisco Marathon
Location: San Francisco, CA
Race Date: 7/31/11
2011 Finishers: 5,920
2011 Race Temps: 57F/60F
2011 Results: 3:35:06
Larger field growing each year, several distances / challenges to choose, cool race temps, great city to visit. At the time, SFM is the only race that shuts down the Golden Gate for its runners. The first half is hillier than the 2nd half. Running this event 8 consecutive years, I enjoyed running through the winds on the Golden Gate, smell the fresh sourdough bread of Embarcadero, and get a taste of peacefulness through Golden Gate Park. A great excuse to have some fresh seafood and clam chowder.

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Race Date: March
2011 Finishers: 3,200
2011 Race Temps: 40F/55F, sunny
2011 Results: 3:20:48

My first visit to New Orleans with friends to experience the great food, music, and city energy. Jambalaya remains my favorite! Flat, fast course through the city and a high energy finish line festival.

Location: Hoover Dam, Nevada
Race Date: January
Race Temps: 30s/40s
Race Results: 2012-13 1st FOA

A beautiful road course that almost seems like a trail race with open views of landscape, lakes, the dam, and runs through several tunnels. Tends to be pretty chilly as it's in the desert during the winter -- optimal racing weather. I ran this race with my dad and usually see several marathon maniacs. Highlights have been winning first female overall two consecutive years. 

Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 
Race Date: March 
2012 Finishers: 2,000
2012 Race Temps: 44F/66F sunny
2012 Results: 3:20:39

First time visiting the state and heard great things about this race from marathon maniac friends. Relatively flat course with sporadic ocean views. Pleasantly surprised with great weather, ambiance, and beaches made a great race weekend. 
12. Walt Disney World Marathon
Location: Orlando, FL
Race Date: 1/9/11
2011 Finishers: 13,522
2011 Race Temps: 44F/49F
2011 Results: 3:23:01, 52nd total
The place to run through multiple magical kingdoms as the sun rises before the crowds hit the multiple amusement parks. Travel to Orlando in January is low season. Typically, Disney races have you rise very early with their 5:30am race start and very crowded corrals. Many Run Disney events sell out and typically are very large field sizes for the half. If you're a speedster and start in the front corrals, you can enjoy no lines for the characters, which are mostly in the first few miles. Enjoy the magic of the race with the half, full, or Goofy Challenge.

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Race Date: 11/22/09
2009 Finishers: 7,465
2009 Race Temps: 50F
2009 Results: 3:29:42
If you love autumn colors, visit the east coast when all the trees change into a splash of beauty. Philadelphia is a great city to visit in autumn with comfortable, cool temperatures. Rich in US history, there is plenty to explore in museums, food, and local city culture. Race is well organized, energetic, and relatively flat course great for fast fall marathon times. Don't forget to visit and run up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and relive the Rocky moment. 
10. SLO Marathon
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
Race Date: March
2014 Finishers: 700
2014 Results: 3:42:54

If you love small town races that offer great organization, countryside courses and wine tasting opportunities, this one is it. Located three hour drive north of Los Angeles, my dad and I ran this one a few times. The multiple decade running event offers the marathon, half, relay, and 5K with an energetic post race festival. The rolling hills course is peaceful in the blossoming spring green fields and flowers. Worth supporting this smaller event with a big event feel.
9. Red Rock Canyon Marathon
Location: Red Rock Conservation Area, NV
Race Date: 3/5/11
2011 Finishers: 175
2011 Race Temps: 35F/50F
2011 Results: 3:38:59 2nd FOA, 55th total
Another majestic rolling hills course for the outdoor enthusiast with red rock formations and sandstone peaks for miles ahead. With a smaller field, the energy is at the start / finish then peaceful escape during the run. Watching the sunrise over the horizon is as breathtaking as they get. A great destination race to combine with other outdoor activities while visiting the Vegas area.
8. Napa Valley Marathon
Location: Napa, CA
Race Date: 3/4/12
2012 Finishers: 1,794
2012 Race Temps: 39F/68F
2012 Results: 3:22:47 BQ, 72nd total
Named the "world’s best little marathon", it has made top lists such as Top 10 marathons worth traveling for, Top 100 road races in North America, and my top picks too. In its 34th year, it pampers their runners with a duffle bag, tech shirt, spinner medal, and great post-race festival with warm soup, massages, showers, and more. Very worth your registration fee, especially at the time. The point to point course is net downhill lined with the vineyards and green open fields of Napa. This race closes every year so register early.

7. Honolulu Marathon
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Race Date: December
2015 Finishers: 22,000
2015 Race temps: 75F, 81% humidity, HOT
2015 Results: 3:49:19

All the main islands of Hawaii have their amazing marathons and triathlons to choose from, the birthplace of the Ironman in 1978. As one of the largest for Hawaii, Honolulu marathon starts at 5:00 am in an attempt to beat the heat. Needless to say, be ready for high temps and humidity, especially after the sun rises. Enjoy ocean views, luscious foliage, and great post race experience. 

6. Big Sur Marathon 
Location: Big Sur to Carmel, CA
Race Date: 4/29/12
2012 Finishers: 1,786
2012 Race Temps: 50F/62F
2012 Results: 3:26:45
Mesmerizing every step of the way. It is the only marathon that shuts down PCH in this segment from Big Sur to Carmel running along the jagged edge of the western world. You have miles of green enchantment eastwards and miles of blue beauty westward. Your heart will dance in delight as you run across Bixby bridge and listen to the echoing harmony of the pianist playing. Since 2010, the event added the Boston to Big Sur Challenge to add for any competitive runner who runs the Boston Marathon the same year, usually falls within 1-2 weeks of each other.

5. Marine Corps Marathon
Location: Washington DC, US
Race Date: October
2016 Finishers: 20,000
2016 Race temps: 85F, 80% humidity
2016 Results: 3:49:11

It was my father and my first visit to Washington DC; therefore, we walked about 10-13 miles per day sightseeing before and after his birthday marathon-- we felt it race day. Normally, MCM has cooler racing temps, however, 2016 was an abnormally warm race day. Great organization, amazing history, and a vast amount of things to see and do all race weekend. 

4. Los Angeles Marathon
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Race Date: 3/1/99
1999 Finishers: 16,861
1999 Race Temps: 55F/73F
1999 Results: 4:05:55, 1st

As my first marathon, I ran it side by side with my father. For 22 consecutive years, we return each year to toe the line through all forms of weather from extreme heat waves to monsoons, course changes, management changes, and race date changes. As of 2020, the field has grown to about 20,000 with a net downhill course from Dodger Stadium through iconic spots of LA to finish oceanfront in Santa Monica. Note: it does have a fair share of hills so a great race course strategy is keen for those racing for personal records. It was my first, my current personal record, and recent my fastest in this decade of my life. You never forget your first marathon. 
Location: Chicago, IL
Race Date: 10/7/12
2012 Finishers: 37,455
2012 Race Temps: 42F/50F
2012 Results: 3:18:40, 17th state

Capped at 45,000, this World Major Marathon produces everything you can desire in a very large event. With Chicago friends, I ran this event four times prior to it being transformed into lottery. Weather is a toss up in this month; typically, it tends to be very optimal racing weather. By 2014, the race is by lottery or qualification. Qualifications are more lenient than Boston or NYCM. The energy, spectators, deep dish pizza and great race atmosphere makes this world renown marathon worth running at least once.
2. Boston Marathon
Location: Boston, MA
Race Date: 4/19/10
2010 Finishers: 22,588
2010 Race Temps: 42F/52F
2010 Results: 3:28:32 BQ, 40th total
Many runners dream to qualify and run Boston, and it does deliver a memorable experience. Marathon Monday is a holiday for Bostonians, and they welcome the running community with full energy. It is full of emotion, non stop spectators cheering, and thrill from the moment you start in Hopkinton to the finish. I enjoy training throughout the year and grateful to have qualified 75 times. Expect  increased flight, hotel, and food prices on race weekend. Be prepared for any type of weather as I have experienced their historical hottest race day (2012), coldest race day (2018), and the unforgettable day that turned the running world in shock (2013). It is an inspiring international gathering worth the hard work of qualifying. 

1. ING NYC Marathon
Location: New York City, NY
Race Date: 11/6/11
2011 Finishers: 46,795
2011 Race Temps: 40F/65F
2011 Results: 3:39:37 , 66th total
As one of the largest marathons in the world, the energy is not only in the field but also in the 3 million spectators that line the entire course. Runs through the five boroughs of NYC with multiple bridge crossings; usually not a PR course as age groupers and elites tend to run a few minutes slower than to a flat course. Pro tip: practice fueling strategies for a late morning start given you will need to wait a few hours from wake time to start time, similarly to Boston. In 2011, it was my first visit to NY to run it, and I've returned a couple times for work, equally as memorable. A definite must do and favorite US road marathon.


If you enjoyed my top 20, please feel free to share or email me if you are looking for an endurance coach or personal trainer in the Los Angeles area to keep you accountable. Thank you for reading!