While female distance runners constantly prove they have the ability and confidence to conquer any marathon, there are a few events that are specifically tailored to the top women runners. Legendary female racers such as Paula Radcliffe, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Roberta Gibb and Kathrine Switzer are the inspiration for many women endurance runners to prove to themselves that they can run their first marathon, set a personal record or even qualify for the Boston Marathon, the sport's holy grail.
The Nike Women's Marathon (San Francisco)
In the few short years since the inaugural race, the Nike Women's Marathon has quickly become an American favorite, with 22,000 participants. The October race benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is preceded by a three-day fitness expo held in Union Square. The marathon course winds past many popular San Francisco landmarks, including Fisherman's Wharf and the waterfront, that offer spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Fort Mason and Lake Merced. While runners should expect to tackle elevation challenges, there are no "cable car" hills on the course. Each finisher receives a Tiffany & Co. necklace (designed for the race) and a Nike Dri-FIT tee. Added perks? A pedi-care station and Ghirardelli chocolate mile make going the distance worth the effort. With an exciting majority of female participants and an event motto of "Run Like a Girl," it's easy to see why the Nike's Women Marathon fills to registration capacity within days.
The Nike Women's Marathon
San Francisco, CA 94101
Telephone: (866) RUN-NIKE
26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer (Jacksonville Beach)
Women runners looking to make a difference in the world should consider participation in 26.2 with Donna: The National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer. The race was started by Donna Deegan, a breast cancer survivor and Jacksonville native. Held each February in her hometown, the race donates 100 percent of all raised funds to breast cancer research and patient-care services (through the Mayo Clinic and the Donna Foundation). The inaugural 2008 race raised more than $800,000 for donation, an extraordinary measure of the passion behind 26.2 with Donna. The scenic course winds along the coast, passing the beautiful sights of Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach. Two-and-a-half miles of the course is on packed sand, providing a refreshing break for both the knees and the mind. Additionally, 26.2 with Donna offers plentiful spectator support and musical entertainment along the marathon course.
26.2 with Donna Marathon Race Office
1015 Atlantic Blvd. Suite 144
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
Telephone: (904) 355-PINK
No marathon is more famous and prestigious than the Boston Marathon. As the most significant running event in the world--and the world's oldest annual marathon--Boston is a race with rich history. In 1966, Roberta Gibb hid in the bushes near the marathon's start and became the first "unofficial" woman to run the all-male Boston Marathon. The following year, Kathrine Switzer did not clearly identify herself as a "female" on the entry form (utilizing her initials as a gender-equalizer) and was issued a bib number by unsuspecting race authorities. Then in 1972, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) formally changed the Boston Marathon rules to allow female entrants. Interested women endurance runners must qualify to race Boston by meeting a finish-time goal on a certified course (Nike Women's Marathon and 26.2 with Donna are two Boston qualifiers). Approximately 25,000 athletes from across the globe participate in Boston each year. The Boston Marathon boasts one of the world's most challenging marathon courses, complete with Newton's legendary "Heartbreak Hill." The history, prestige and difficulty of the Boston Marathon is unparalleled by any other endurance running event in the world, making it one of the best marathons for women runners.
The Boston Marathon
Boston Athletic Association
40 Trinity Place, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02116
Telephone: (617) 236-1652