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Nadia Ruiz Gonzales’ Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons

Nadia Ruiz Gonzales’ Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons

Veteran marathoner Nadia Ruiz Gonzales has run 74 marathons to date.  She ran her first marathon at the age of 14-years old at her hometown Los Angeles Marathon.

Here is a look at some of her favorite marathons that she has run from the West Coast all the way to Europe.

Nadia’s Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons:

20. Rock’n Roll New Orleans Marathon – (Website)
Location: New Orleans, LA
Race Date: 2/13/11
2011 Finishers: 3,140
2011 Race Temps: 40F/55F
2011 Results: 3:20:48 BQ, 54th total

Looking for a fun city on a fun weekend full of beaded necklaces, boas, masks, drinks, and more? New Orleans is the place to be during Mardi Gras! The race offers a flat course with several turns, cool temps, and typical Rock’n Roll pre and post race support providing very favorable conditions for PR attempts but watch out for uneven roads at times. I enjoyed this race with friends and hitting a PR made it even sweeter!

19. Extraterrestrial Midnight Marathon & 51K – (Website)
Race Location: Rachel, NV
Race Date: 8/14/11
2011 Finishers: 173
2011 Race Temps: 50F
2011 Results: 4:37:08, 1st FOA 51K

Starting at midnight, the marathon and 51K ultra start at the infamous black mailbox outside of Area 51 for a point to point scenic course in the desert. You run under a full moon and star lit sky going slightly uphill continuously for the first 13 miles then rolling hills thereafter. Be aware the RD from Calico Racing does charge extra for glow in the dark items, required reflective tape, and shuttle bus ticket from Vegas. 1st overall award was a glass bottle of salts. Still very entertaining race with neon lit runners and alien themed. Don’t get abducted!

18. Red Rock Canyon Marathon – (Website)
Location: Red Rock Conservation Area, NV
Race Date: 3/5/11
2011 Finishers: 175
2011 Race Temps: 35F/50F
2011 Results: 3:38:59 BQ, 2nd FOA, 55th total

Another race from Calico Racing as it offers an absolutely gorgeous out-and-back course at elevation with views of red rock formations but be prepared for a large amount of hills on the roads! I love scenic courses so here is one that the views and hills will not disappoint. Watching the sunrise over the horizon is as breathtaking as they get.

17. Pasadena Marathon – (Website)
Location: Pasadena, CA
Race Date: 5/15/11
2011 Finishers: 868
2011 Race Temps: 57F/61F
2011 Results: 3:20:04 PR, BQ, 59th total

With slight hills on this road race, the course meanders throughout the beautiful homes and greenery of Pasadena with some beginning miles around the Rose Bowl Stadium. The course is not your typical PR flat course but I was well trained for hills that spring season so I earned my PR that day. If you like a small, very well organized marathon, this is a great one! Check their FB fan page as they often offer contests for free VIP entries.

16. Malibu International Marathon – (Website)
Location: Malibu, CA
Race Date: 11/15/09
2009 Finishers: 330
2009 Race Temps: 50F/69F, windy
2009 Results: 3:38:01 BQ, 7th FOA

Point to point course begins in Camarillo and ends in Zuma Beach: first 10 miles are flat through the fields of Camarillo then the remaining 16 miles are along the beautiful CA coastline on PCH with possible strong headwinds and significant rolling hills. Beautiful beach marathon with a large towel and reusable lunch bag for finishers. Since its inaugural year in 2009, I have returned every year and the race continues to grow in participation where marathon participation was almost 500 in 2011.

15. Bermuda Marathon – (Website)
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 off the east coast and enjoy the beauty of the island’s two-loop course through its neighborhoods all along the shoreline. The locals are friendly and very welcoming to tourists. They also offer their Bermuda Triangle Challenge for runners interested in racing three days for extra bling!

14. Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon – (Website)
Location: Two Harbors-Avalon, Catalina
Race Date: 3/10/12
2012 Finishers: 382
2012 Race Temps: 50F/70F
2012 Results: 5:16:32 pacer, 3rd Div.

Starting in Two Harbors and finishing in Avalon, you will run on trails through the hilltops of Catalina with miles of ocean views. Offering over 3,500′ of elevation gain, the course is enough to challenge any runner but merciful so you can enjoy the beauty of the island. Generally the rule of thumb is add about 1hr +/-15min to your regular road marathon time to predict a finishing time on Catalina. Watch out for buffalo!

13. Bellingham Bay Marathon – (Website)
Location: Bellingham, WA
Race Date: 9/26/10
2010 Finishers: 401
2010 Race Temps: 62F, light rain
2010 Results: 3:38:48 BQ, 48th total

Commented by many reviews as “the most beautiful marathon in the Pacific Northwest,” you will run along the beauty of Bellingham Bay, San Juan Islands, with mountain views running on roads, bridges, and a touch of trails. A wonderful variety of beauty with slight hills definitely a favorite of mine.

12. Napa Valley Trail Marathon – (Website)
Location: Calistoga, CA
Race Date: 3/29/08
2008 Finishers: 45
2008 Race Temps: 40F/55F
2008 Results: 3:40:13, 1st FOA

Capped at 300 participants for the full, half, and 10K, the Napa Valley Trail Marathon offers a challenging yet rewarding course on a single track in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Surrounded with lush greenery all around and running streams as your soundtrack, the course does require hill preparation for a great experience! Even though I twisted and sprained my ankle in the second half (grade I sprain), it was sweet to cross the finish line for my first win in this intimate, friendly marathon.

11. Nike Women’s Marathon – (Website)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Race Date: 10/16/11
2011 Finishers: 6,322
2011 Race Temps: 64F/69F
2011 Results: 3:37:29 BQ, 65th total

With an entry via lottery only and a very large female representation, this race offers many nice perks such as a four day Expotique with several fun free vendors, finisher’s Tiffany’s necklace given by firemen, and a hilly course finishing at the beach offering something slightly different than the San Francisco Marathon. Very large event with most of the participants in the half marathon so be prepared for large crowds but still very fun.

10. Napa Valley Marathon – (Website)
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 had made many top lists such as Top 10 marathons worth traveling for, Top 100 road races in North America, and it sure made my Top 20. In it’s 34th year, it still takes care of their runners with cool swag of giving runners a duffle bag, tech shirt, spinner medal, and a great post-race festival with warm soup, massages, showers, & more. If that doesn’t excite you, the beautiful, peaceful course through the vineyards of Napa are certainly a plus. Net downhill course but do be aware of the continuous, gradual uphill in the last 10K. This race closes every year so sign up early.

9. Barcelona Marathon – (Website)
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Race Date: 3/7/10
2010 Finishers: 4,054
2010 Race Temps: 45F/60F
2010 Results: 3:37:52 BQ, 38th total

Traveling internationally for me is such a treat and to be able to combine it with a marathon makes it even more memorable. Europe travel in the spring is in its low season and much more affordable plus you will find favorable cooler racing temps. The course travels through many tourists sights in Barcelona so you get a great taste of the city. Enjoy a paella de Mariscos, great bottles of wine, and make it a vacation to remember! Note: European marathons tend to have fluid stations only every 5K.

8. Walt Disney World Marathon – (Website)
Location: Orlando, FL
Race Date: 1/9/11
2011 Finishers: 13,522
2011 Race Temps: 44F/49F
2011 Results: 3:23:01 BQ, 52nd total

Want to be a kid again and run through multiple magical kingdoms as the sun rises before the crowds hit the amusement parks? The race is a hefty price tag but travel to Orlando in January is in it’s low season so why not. Enjoy the magic of the race with the half, full, or be Goofy and do both! Always sells out so sign up early.

7. San Francisco Marathon – (Website)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Race Date: 7/31/11
2011 Finishers: 5,920
2011 Race Temps: 57F/60F
2011 Results: 3:35:06 BQ, 61st total

Want a marathon in the summer with almost guaranteed cool race temps and an early 5:30am start? SFM is the only race where it shuts down the Golden Gate just for its runners. The first half is hillier than the 2nd half but it isn’t as bad as SF could be. I personally love running on the Golden Gate, Embarcadero, Golden Gate Park, and other SF hot spots so I’ve ran this race for 5 consecutive years. It’s definitely a favorite and an excuse to have some seafood in SF.

6. Pikes Peak Marathon – (Website)
Location: Manitou Springs, CO
Race Date: 8/21/11
2011 Finishers: 728
2011 Race Temps: 68F/60F
2011 Results: 8:41:47, 62nd total

As “America’s Ultimate Challenge,” it fulfills its name. Claimed as the most difficult marathon in the US if not the world, the race begins at 6,300′ elevation climbs for 13 miles to the summit at 14,115′ and then you have to run back down. Ask any mountaineer, the mountain at that elevation controls the day so be prepared for anything and to have slower than normal mile splits. Add anywhere from 2-3hrs to your regular road marathon time. I was on target for a 2hr addition but when a hail storm hit the summit, the boulders became slippery, and I sprained my ankle at Mile 18. I hopped to the finish and grateful that I did. I love mountains!

5. Boston Marathon – (Website)
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

Down to the Top 5! It’s many runners’ dream to qualify and run the infamous Boston, and it definitely delivers a memorable experience. Marathon Monday is a holiday for Bostonians, and they welcome the running community with full energy. It is full of excitement, cheer, emotion, and thrill from the moment you start to the moment you finish. I’ve been very fortunate and grateful to qualify every year for the past 13 years; however, travel to Boston during this race weekend is sure to surprise you with its prices. Fortunately with friends to share the experience, I will be returning anxiously for a 3rd year in 2012. Work for it friends. It’s worth it at least once!

4. ING NYC Marathon – (Website)
Location: New York City, NY
Race Date: 11/6/11
2011 Finishers: 46,795
2011 Race Temps: 40F/65F
2011 Results: 3:39:37 BQ, 66th total

As one of the largest marathons of the world, the unheard of energy of this race is in great competition with Boston. I was pleasantly amazed with the great organization of this race as it runs through the five boroughs of NYC. Don’t look for your fastest time here with the multiple bridge crossings and so much excitement to absorb in this amazing race! It’s NYC!

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

Passing through over 20 tourist sites in Rome, some course highlights are running through the Vatican City, Pantheon, Fountain de Trevi, but most notable is starting and finishing around the infamous Coliseum. The entire run is as majestic as they can get and listening to the spectators cheer you on in Italian makes the entire experience unforgettable. Nothing disappoints in Italy: it was the best pizza, best wine, best city, best gelato, and best company a runner can ever ask for earning the #3 favorite of marathons in my heart. Make it a week long vacation and you will not regret it.

2. Big Sur Marathon – (Website)
Location: Big Sur to Carmel, CA
Race Date: 4/25/10
2010 Finishers: 3,442
2010 Race Temps: 49F/70F
2010 Results: 3:45:08, 41st total

Beautiful, gorgeous, and breathtaking do not give the Big Sur Marathon justice how magnificent the course really is. It is the only marathon that closes down PCH for its runners from Big Sur to Carmel running along the jagged edge of the western world. You have miles of green beauty to the east and miles of blue beauty to the west. You will be mesmerized almost every step of the way especially when you run across Bixby bridge and listen to the echoing harmony of the pianist playing just for its runners. This is a must in a runner’s lifetime!

1. Los Angeles Marathon – (Website)
Location: Los Angeles-Santa Monica, CA
Race Date: 3/1/99
1999 Finishers: 16,861
1999 Race Temps: 55F/73F
1999 Results: 4:05:55, 1st marathon

And finally for #1, the world renown LA Marathon. Over the fourteen years of my running career, I have ran LAM every year and experienced several course changes, changes in management ownership, and a variety of weather conditions from scorching heat waves to the monsoon that hit LA in 2011. Now with a net downhill course still with several rolling hills, it runs from the Dodger stadium to the beach in Santa Monica. What brings me back every year? The memory of running 26.2 for the first time with my father: we ran our first together in 1999 and we continue to run the LA Marathon every single year. Then in 2012, it was the first time I ran a sub-3:20 earning myself a 3:18:17 PR. As they say, you never forget your first!

“I hope you enjoyed my Top 20 marathons. Continue to make your memories. Continue to make your heart beat with excitement for your races. Continue to make your journey yours! The world is our playground and I intend to keep playing as long as my legs will carry me.” – Nadia

Nadia’s Blog
Nadia’s Facebook Fan Page
Nadia’s Marathon Results

Honorable Mentions:
Carlsbad Marathon
California International Marathon
Philadelphia Marathon
Rock’n Roll Denver Marathon
Surf City Marathon

Posted in Marathon, RunningComments (0)

John O’Regan Running through Machu Picchu in Peru

John O’Regan’s Top 20 Most Favorite Marathons

[This post is part of a series where we ask runners from all over the world what some of their favorite marathon and ultramarathon races have been.]

“Running has given me an excuse to travel and one race usually leads to  another.  Listed below are some of my favorites.” – John O’Regan

1.  Spartathlon: This must be the toughest and most satisfying ultra Marathon in the world because of its unique history and background.  The thought of this race scared be as I knew by the consistently high dropout rate of 70% that the chances of not finishing were quite high but fear of failure isn’t a good enough reason not to do something you really want to do.  This race traces the footsteps of Pheidippides as he ran from Athens to Sparta to seek help from the Spartan Army in the battle of Marathon.

2. Antarctic Ice Marathon, Patriot Hills, Antarctica:  When I heard rumours of a Marathon to be held on mainland Antarctica.  Stepping off the plane onto the ice runway and feeling the cold while taking in an incredible vista is a memory that will stay with me forever.  Running a Marathon in Antarctica made me want to run a Marathon on each of the 7 Continents.

3.  North Pole:  When I heard there were plans for a Marathon at the North Pole my first thought were, how do I enter?  To add to the experience I ran this while guiding a blind runner ‘Mark Pollock’.  To say it was tough is an understatement but it was very rewarding and I’d love to go back.

4.  Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru:  It takes 4-5 days to do this trek but running the Marathon gives you the opportunity to cover the trek in less than 1 day.  Along the way you pass many interesting sights before the final approach to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gates.  The final Vista before you ascend to the finish line is enough to stop you in your tracks and makes the effort worthwhile.

5.  Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, Nepal:  You can’t have the lowest without the highest and that’s what made me choose this race.  It starts at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall just above Everest Base Camp and finishes 26.2 miles down the valley in Namche Bazzar.

6.  Dead Sea Ultra, Jordan:  With the lowest finishing line in the world I just had to do this one and to top it off you get to relax with a dip in the Dead Sea.  Another highlight of this race was an opportunity to visit Petra which then became one of the 7 Wonders of the World.  The accidental tourist.

7.  Marathon des Sables, Morocco: Probably the most famous Ultra in the world, 6 stages over 7 days covering 150 Miles in the Sahara Desert and my first introduction to Ultra Running.  This race taught me that anything is possible once put the work in and it’s a race to need to experience rather than read about.

8.  Run Connemara 80K, Ireland:  A trail race in the west of Ireland that also doubled as the 2011 Trail World Championships.  One of the most amazing races I’ve ever ran which took in all aspects of the Irish countryside.  It was a new experience and sometimes you forget what’s on your own doorstep and the grass isn’t alway greener on the other side.  Think about and appreciate what you have before you look for more.

9.  North Face 100K, Australia: 100K through the Blue Mountains in Sydney.  This is an opportunity to see the one of Australia’s natural wonders without feeling like a tourist.

10.  Yukon Arctic Ultra, Yukon Territory, Canada: 100 Miles along the Dawson trail following in the wake of the famous Yukon Quest dog sleigh race.  Competitors haul their required kit and must remain self sufficient throughout.  There’s also a longer option of 300 Miles and 460 Miles. Thinking back I wish I had signed up for the longer race but I wasn’t feeling that way at mile 90J

11. Energia Belfast 24-hr Race:  We all want to know how fast we can run and this race gives you the opportunity to find out how far you can run.  Unlike a regular race where you cover a set distance in the fastest possible time in a 24-hr race you try cover the maximum distance in a set time.  This is a true test of mental and physical strength and you will soon discover your weaknesses.

12.  Donadea 50K, Ireland:  A very enjoyable trail race through 243 hectares of mixed woodland with plenty of squirrels to cheer you on.  The race consists of 10 * 5K loops but the route is so interesting you never get bored.

13.  Run Winschoten 100K, The Netherlands:  I did this race when it doubled as the World Championships and it consisted of 10 * 10K laps through the suburbs of Winschoten.  The course was almost pancake flat and all the locals embrace the event giving it an almost party type atmosphere.

14.  Celtic 100K, Ireland:  This was my first introduction to the 100K distance and it consisted of almost 50 laps along Salthill Promenade in Co.Galway.  The thoughts of running so many laps was slightly overwhelming at the start but this race taught be a lot about the benefits of proper pacing and how to control the mind.

15.  Self Transcendence 100K, Scotland: This race took me to the historic town of Perth in the heart of Scotland.  A flat looped course along the banks of the river Tay which to me was a memorable distraction.  The Tay is a world famous salmon fishing river and I spent most of the race looking into the water in the hope of seeing a fish jumping.

16.  Boddington 100K, England:  A small friendly race in the English countryside and also includes 50k and marathon options.

17.  Dublin, Ireland:  My hometown Marathon and one that I’m proud to say is known as the Friendly Marathon.  This was my first ever race and one I always look forward to doing and it feels so different every time because it just keeps getting better.

18.  London, England:  I have ran this race on a few occasions as part of the Runner’s World Pacing Team.   I seldom do the same race twice but make an exception for London because of the carnival type atmosphere on race day.

19.  Dingle, Ireland:  A very scenic Marathon which follows the Dingle Peninsula.  I found it hard not stopping during this race as the views are breathtaking .  If you need an excuse to visit Ireland, this is it.

20.  Longford.  A relatively flat Marathon which takes in 3 counties and although quiet along the course it has a great finish.  At times you could almost forget you’re running a race and sometimes that can be nice.  I was the first entrant in the first Longford Marathon and wore race No1, for that reason more than any I will always remember this one.

“Some experiences should be remembered and not repeated and I seldom do the same race twice but if I was asked and given the opportunity to run one of my big races again it would be the Antarctic Ice Marathon.”

John O’Regan

Posted in Marathon, Running, Ultra MarathonComments (1)

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