Maybe you want to beat your personal best. Maybe you want a new T-shirt. Maybe you need some new sights because the usual races you do are getting very, very boring. Sign up for a race across Canada or around the world, and you'll be extra pumped to push for the finish line. All you need to do is throw your shoes and shorts in a bag and buy a plane ticket. Whether you're looking to qualify for Boston or bask in beautiful scenery, there's a race out there for you.
1) YUKON RIVER TRAIL MARATHON
When: Aug. 7
Why: If you're looking for an off-road adventure, this is the race for you. The Yukon River Trail Marathon is quickly becoming the premier trail running event in the country. But be warned: The route is incredibly challenging, with steep terrain and often narrow trails. To test runners' mettle, the course is designed so that each of its four legs is harder than the last. But with the beauty of Whitehorse to distract you, you might feel less pain. Or you could always opt for the half-marathon.
2) EDGE TO EDGE MARATHON
When: June 12
Why: The Edge to Edge Half Marathon and half-marathon in Ucluelet, B.C., offers such gorgeous scenery that you might not be able to concentrate on the road ahead. Canadian Running magazine has called it "the prettiest race" in Canada. But you'd better pay attention. It is not a closed course, so there's a good chance you'll be passed by not only other runners, but cars as well. If you are looking for a destination race that doubles as a great vacation spot, this is the event for you.
3) SCOTIABANK TORONTO WATERFRONT MARATHON
When: Oct. 16
Why: Anyone hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon should book their trip to Toronto now. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon bills itself as "flat, fast and festive," and there's no doubt all three are true - especially the fast part. Kenneth Mungara's finishing time of 2:07:58 last year earned the event the honour of being the fastest marathon in the country. If you're not going for a personal best, there are always the "flat" and "festive" parts, too.
4) OTTAWA RACE WEEKEND
When: May 28-29
Why: The Ottawa Race Weekend, which offers everything from a 2K race to a full marathon, is Canada's largest running event. Last year, almost 40,000 people took part. And with the Y Kids Marathon, the Ottawa event is also great for the whole family. Teach your kids about fitness and Confederation all at the same time. The pasta dinner is always a blast.
5) SSQ QUEBEC CITY MARATHON
When: Aug. 28
Why: While most of the race is run alongside the St. Lawrence River, it also cruises through Old Quebec to reach the finish line. Soak up the history as your feet fall on the cobblestones. With a marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 5K kids' run, there's no better way for a runner to take in the charms of La Belle Province. (Post-race poutine is optional.)
RACES WORTH AN INTERNATIONAL TRIP
6) ING NEW YORK CITY MARATHON
When: Nov. 6
Why: There is no bigger spectacle in the road racing world than the ING New York City Marathon. Last year's field of more than 45,000 was cheered on by two million spectators. It's also got a worldwide television audience of 315 million. Add to that the large number of celebrities who regularly participate (chef Bobby Flay and former ER star Anthony Edwards were among those who ran it last year) - so you get a chance to brag that you beat some famous names.
7) VIRGIN LONDON MARATHON
When: April 17
Why: No other marathon has as much party atmosphere as the Virgin London Marathon. Sure, the course takes runners past plenty of historic sites, including the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. But it's the spectacle of the runners that's the most eye-catching sight. Ever run alongside Batman? Chances are you will at this event. Last year's run saw not only the Dark Knight, but runners dressed as Hamlet and a whoopee cushion. You can't feel the pain when you're having this much fun.
8) THE BIG FIVE MARATHON
When: June 25
Why: It's wild. No, really. Held in South Africa, this marathon takes runners through a game reserve between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park, where they are just as likely to see herds of antelope and the occasional giraffe as they are to see fellow runners. The terrain may be more punishing than the typical road race - no pavement here, sorry - but at least you won't have to worry about needing to outrun lions. Rangers are there to "marshal" dangerous animals.
9) THE GREAT WALL MARATHON
When: May 21
Why: Consider it the ultimate StairMaster. This highly punishing race, which starts just north of Huangyaguan Village, sees runners making their way up a mountain that leads to the Great Wall of China, and along the Wall with its many incredibly steep ascents and descents. How difficult is it? Well-prepared runners can be expected to finish in five to six hours, significantly longer than most seasoned runners' personal bests. If the full 42 kilometres is too much for you, the event also offers a half-marathon, a 10K and a 5K.
10) HONOLULU MARATHON
When: Dec. 11
Why: Getting away to Honolulu in December should be reason enough for most Canadian runners. The Honolulu Marathon is also one of the biggest in the world, regularly attracting a field of 30,000. The route is almost entirely along the Pacific Ocean and is mostly flat, except for a couple of large hills to climb. Very few runners will enjoy having to get up for the 5 a.m. start, but it's necessary to limit the heat and humidity, which are still considerable.