Family Run-Cations: Running Holidays the Whole Family Can Enjoy

With all the electronic gadgets in front of our kids, parents are always looking for ways to encourage healthy activity. More and more families are considering a “Destination Race” as the centerpiece to their family vacation. Perhaps Mom or Dad are training to finish a marathon, and want to celebrate with their family after crossing the finish line. Better yet, find a race the kids are excited to run, and spend quality family time training together in the weeks and months leading up to the event. Take a look at our list of races that could serve as the focal point for your family run-cation.

2013 runDisney Expedition Everest Challenge


Magic every mile is the mantra of runDisney races, and with courses winding through princess castles, fantasy lands, and character lined streets of Disney theme parks, it’s easy to plaster a smile on your face. The runDisney race series consists of eight race weekends spread over the year including the crown jewel Walt Disney World Marathon in Florida as well as the highly themed Avengers Super Heroes and Star Wars Half Marathons, both staged at California’s Disneyland Resort. runDisney races are extremely beginner friendly, and family fun run 5Ks and kids races make runDisney events perfect for the whole family. Plus, it’s simple to package your race and theme park reservations together to make a seamless family vacation.


2014 Walt Disney World Marathon finish, photo by Preston Mack courtesy runDisney

Women’s Races

According to Running USA, 57% of race finishers are women, and event organizers are specifically catering to women with jewelry prizes, chocolate, wine and roses. The largest female-centric event is October’s Nike Women’s Marathon and Half Marathon in San Francisco, California. If you’re one of the 20,000+ to complete the course, you’re rewarded with a Tiffany pendant – and yes, it comes in their signature blue box. runDisney has two women-only races of their own with the Princess Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World and Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland. In addition, there’s Iron Girl, See Jane Run, and Divas Half Marathon series taking place throughout the year at various locations all across the country. So gather your extended family and add chocolate, champagne, running, and massages for lots of mom/daughter bonding.

Skywalking Princess Half Marathon

Rock ‘N’ Roll Races

If you’re more “a little bit Rock ‘n’ Roll,” then perhaps Competitor group’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons are more your style. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathons capture the energy and vibe of a rock concert throughout the 26.2 or 13.1 mile course. The series’ headliner is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and ½ in San Diego, California late May/early June. The inaugural San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon burst onto the scene in 2008 with 18,000 participants, live bands & cheerleaders every mile, and a finish line festival featuring a spoltlight big name concert. Over the years, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series has expanded, and includes “tour stops,” all across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and even four races in Europe. Running, music, and great destinations like Phoenix, Arizona in January, Madrid, Spain in April, and a night time race down the Las Vegas strip in November, all sound like the perfect ingredients for a rockin’ (and running) family vacation.

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, photo courtesy of Competitor Group Inc.

Stand-Alone Destination Races

Wherever you want to vacation, chances are you can find a destination race to serve as the center of your trip. Hawaii, California, the Caribbean, and even cruise ships all host fantastic running events (see Great Alaskan Running Cruise for one example at sea). Considering taking the family to Hawaii for the holidays? December’s Honolulu Marathon might fit the bill; with no cut off time to finish the race, Honolulu typically attracts 30,000 runners and walkers each year. Repeatedly voted as one of the most scenic races in the country (if not the world), the Big Sur International Marathon winds its way along California’s Pacific Coast Highway hugging the contours of rocky cliffs. Canada’s oldest and largest race is the Vancouver Marathon, known for panoramic city views, blooming cherry trees, and a scenic coastline. Vancouver’s noted family-friendly outdoor attractions will tire out the kids while you burn energy on the course. Spring break in the Caribbean can be healthy too during the Puerto Rico Marathon. After the race, treat your family (and your legs) to a soak in one of the island’s remarkable bioluminescent bays or relax on the beach, and remember no U.S. passport is required for this rich cultural running vacation.

Big Sur International Marathon

Big Sur International Marathon, photo courtesy of Big Sur International Marathon

Adventure Races

Finally, a running event doesn’t have to go the full marathon or half marathon distance to get the family moving. Mud races, color runs, foam fests, scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, and zombie dashes are all fun for kids (and parents), and perfect ways to encourage fitness during your vacation.

With a little advance research and planning, it’s simple to find the perfect race at your vacation destination to match your family’s interests and abilities.

This article originally appeared on For more running adventures, family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I’m a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.