Use a fun, fast course to set that all-important PR.
In most races, you only get two chances to win: the overall and your age group. But whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, there’s a third way to win every time. We’re talking about your PR! After all, your competitors change with every race. The only real constant is you, which makes the PR the true mark of progress for every runner!
It might not come with a podium, but a PR gets you a well-deserved pat on the back and the opportunity to say you’re the fastest you’ve ever been – which sounds cool no matter what pace you ran. If you’re looking to race yourself against the clock, check out our suggested races below. A little training, motivation and these fast courses will give you your best shot at a PR!
Feb. 19, 2017 | Austin, TX
With temperatures in the 60s, you won’t have to worry about the weather in this February half-marathon. The course loops through downtown Austin and increases in elevation until Mile 4. From there, it’s a smooth two-mile decline to give you the momentum you need for a strong second half. With diverse scenery and Austin’s vibrant spectators and local bands lining the course, we promise you’ll stay pumped for a PR all the way to the finish line! After your victory pose at the State Capitol, head down Congress Avenue for a post-PR toast.
September 24, 2017 | Chicago, IL
Why is this one of the best races in Chicago? Traffic-free Lake Shore Drive. That’s right; the home stretch of this half marathon takes you down the famous roadway for epic views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline! Before that, you’ll race on a relatively flat course through the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood and University of Chicago campus. A guaranteed finisher’s medal helps you celebrate your new PR while the post-race running expo will help you prepare for the next one!
April 17, 2017 | Boston, MA
You have to qualify, but running the oldest marathon in the world is worth it! Make a weekend of it with sightseeing and shorter races on Saturday to prepare for “Marathon Monday”, an official holiday in the city. The course goes from Hopkinton to Boston, but don’t let the decline at the start fool you. Save your energy for the infamous Heartbreak Hill at Mile 20. Once you’re over the hump, it’s smooth sailing down to the finish!
March 19, 2017 | Sarasota, FL
Spring break, anyone? This walker-friendly half marathon is perfect for beginners or anyone looking for a breezy, beachside race. Free breakfast, tech shirts, post-race beer and an oversized dolphin medal (the largest in Florida!) make this race just as fun as it is beautiful. Even with the laidback atmosphere, the Sarasota Half Marathon is USATF-certified so you can use your new PR as a marathon qualifier!
June 25, 2017 | Boston, MA
If you’re looking to enjoy the sights of Boston without the marathon distance, or just looking for a freaky-fast course to set your PR, the B.A.A. 10K is your race. This flat, out-and-back course is known for its speed and is frequented by World Championship and Olympic medalists. In addition, its June date ensures good weather as you wind through Boston’s Back Bay featuring scenic neighborhoods, Boston University, and Kenmore Square.
September 10, 2017 | New York City, NY
It’s not just the short distance that makes this race a perfect PR-setter for everyone! The 5th Avenue Mile offers heats for age groups starting at 2 years old to 70+ along with wheelchair, elite, and NYPD/FDNY divisions. The diverse group of runners and sights of New York City make this a can’t-miss race while the mostly downhill and flat course make it less daunting than most.
August 12, 2017 | Georgetown, CO
If big city scenery isn’t your thing, you’ll want to check out the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon in Colorado. This consistently downhill course makes for a quick PR, but the altitude (and the views!) can still take your breath away. The course starts at 8500 feet above sea level and follows Clear Creek through neighborhoods, wooded scenery, and dirt paths, all the way down to 7500 feet at the finish.
May 20, 2017 | Westfield, MA
The name says it all! This Massachusetts 5K is always held the weekend before Memorial Day and serves as a celebration of its own with a fitness expo and post-race block party. You can easily set your PR on this USATF-certified course and maybe even make your money back with prizes ranging from $50 to $500.
January 14, 2018 | Houston, TX
With only a few hills at the middle and end of this course, the Houston Marathon is another relatively flat race that you won’t have to qualify for before running for your PR. The 13:45/mile cut-off pace will keep you on your toes while more than 250,000 spectators keep you motivated with “hoopla stations” including belly dancers, rock bands and Elvis impersonators. Flanked by a two-day expo with more than 100 vendors and a post-race ‘RunFest’ party, the Houston Marathon offers plenty of ways to celebrate your new PR.
October 22, 2017 | Lowell, MA
The Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA is known for being flat, fast, and picturesque. The course runs through the historic town and along the Merrimack River, with enough variation in elevation to maintain your speed without overusing any one muscle group. It’s a favorite of those seeking to qualify for the Boston Marathon and easily tops our list for setting a new PR. A hot bowl of chicken noodle soup at the finish tops off this hometown marathon.
What do you think of our top ten picks for PR races? Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below! If you haven’t been keeping track of your results, you can find and claim past race results at Athlinks.com! We’ll tell you what your PR is for each distance and help you find events to break them.
Remember: as cheesy as it sounds, you only need to do your best – literally!