Many runners often joke that they plan their family vacations around particular races. I can’t say that I blame them, destination racing can be a great way to see a new city, as well as check another race or location off of your running list. But did you know that racing can also provide valuable history lessons?
While I wouldn’t necessarily write a letter to your son or daughter’s history teacher trying to excuse their absence so you can run another race JUST yet…there ARE races out there that will allow you to step back in time and learn a little bit about the past.
During the summer of 1863 Civil War’s most historic battle fought between the North and the South took place on the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. More than a century later, runners can now take part in the Gettysburg Marathon, a race that takes runners through the hallowed grounds of the battlefield. What’s more, runners “choose a side”, the North or the South, to race for. At the end of the race, points are tallied based upon runners finishing times, and the winning side earns a commemorative prize.
In February of 1836, during Texas’ war for independence from Mexico, a group of 200 Texans defended the Alamo for 13 days, despite being vastly outnumbered by the Mexican forces. The defenders were eventually overpowered, but or Texans, the Battle of the Alamo became a symbol of heroism and their struggle for independence, which they won later that year. Now, runners can also “fight to the finish” at the Alamo 13.1 half marathon. The race starts and finishes at The Alamo, passing through historic San Antonio, Texas, along the way.
Escape from Alcatraz
Grab your swim goggles and bicycle: the ever popular Escape From Alcatraz is a triathlon. And it only makes sense, as Alcatraz Island and it’s now closed infamous military and federal prisons, are known for the numerous failed escapes through the freezing cold, shark infested water. In this triathlon, you can make your OWN escape from Alcatraz. The race starts with a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay (though you get to start from a ferry, instead of the islands shoreline). The race continues with an 18-mile bike ride out the Great Highway, through the Golden Gate Park, and concludes with an 8 mile run through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The Hatfield & McCoy feud is considered to be one of the most famous family feuds in American history. The two families lived in the Tug River Valley that separates West Virginia and Kentucky. The feud covered everything from land ownership, livestock, love, and eventually even murder. At the Hatfield McCoy marathon, runners have a choice of races to participate in, depending on which family they are rooting for. A full marathon course, two separate half marathon courses, and the option of running BOTH half marathon courses allow runners which of the two states to start in (KY or WV) and which to “conquer”.
Old Sandwich Road Race
This half marathon, 10K , and 5K in Plymouth, Massachusetts, passes by historic sites that date back to the days of the early American pilgrims and settlers. The race follows the Old Sandwich Road, which was originally a trail used by the Wampanoag native American tribe, and later became the nation’s first true public road.
Why not run where the “marathon” began? Most runners already know the story, but let’s have a little historical refresher: In 490 BC the first battle for democracy was fought at the Greek village of Marathon. Though outnumbered by an invading Persian Army, the citizen-soldiers of Athens prevailed. Legend has it that, when the battle was won, the Athenian messenger Pheidippides ran twenty-four miles to Athens, carrying news of the victory. Once the message was delivered, the exhausted runner collapsed and died. The modern marathon commemorates this feat. Though fun fact: the marathon remained at a distance of 24 to 25 miles until the 1908 Olympic games held in London, when the extra mileage was added to supposedly accommodate Queen Alexandra and the British Royal family, for their viewing pleasure.
Today, the 26.2 mile Athens Marathon follows what is believed to be the same course that Pheidippides ran.
These are just a few of the countless races that cover historic grounds. Sure, theme parks and beautiful coast lines can be appealing, but think outside of the box: add a little historical education to your next race!