There's something soulful, primal, and downright animal-like about running alone in the woods or on a marathon course with thousands of other racers. It sure as hell beats running on the treadmill. So we considered a large number of America's foot races – trail runs, marathons, ultras, obstacle courses, local races – and picked the best 15. What makes these the best? In each case it's different. They range from the most prestigious (Boston) to the most difficult (Badwater) to the most-likely-to-include-nude-runners (Bay to Breakers), and everything in between. Whether you're an accomplished ultrarunner or simply training for your first marathon, this list has something for everyone who thinks running is more than just exercise. Launch Gallery >>
Honolulu Marathon (Honolulu, HI)
Hunter S. Thompson, covering the Honolulu marathon for ESPN, asked a question that most runners have forgotten by the time they're doing marathon distances: "What kind of sick instinct, stroked by countless hours of brutal training, would cause intelligent people to get up at 4 in the morning and stagger through the streets of Honolulu for 26 ball-busting miles in a race that less than a dozen of them have any chance of winning?"
There are lots of good answers or none, depending on whom you ask. But if you plan on busting your balls for 26 miles, you may as well do it in Honolulu. Besides requiring no qualifying time to enter, this marathon features a luau on the Friday before the race and free shiatsu massages at the finish. Plus, the run takes place mostly along the waters of Maunalua Bay and Mamala Bay (including Waikiki Beach). The first ever Ironman triathlon in 1978 included the same course as the Honolulu marathon (now it's on the Big Island).
More Information: Honolulu is pay-to-play, with no qualifying time and no limit on the number of participants. [Second Sunday in December; honolulumarathon.org]
Credit: Courtesy of the Honolulu Marathon