How to Create Your Running Bucket List

A few weeks ago, I committed one of the seven sins of marathon training: skipping my long run. Some friends and I decided last minute to enjoy a relaxing weekend in the wilderness. As a result, I headed out the door Monday evening to get in my 14 miles. On my way back in hours later, the security guard at my building asked me why I always run for such a long time. His eyes went wide went I told him I was training for a marathon, and he asked why I would want to do this to myself. I said, “I don’t know.” It’s hard to sum up to someone who doesn’t run why the idea of running 26.2 miles appeals to me. But it does.

If you’re reading this, you may already understand why someone would want to run a marathon. It’s the feeling of accomplishment, the comforting long grind of training, those runs with a friend where both the run and the conversation flow in tandem. Sometimes, running is about very specific races and runs, where you can express your love for running at the same time as your love for other things that occur in tandem with those racesโ€”a cause, destination, or event. But since you can only run so many races and routes, so it can be helpful to list those that matter the most to you to create a running bucket list.

Runners in the New York City Marathon
NYC was on Magnolia’s bucket list

Some people want to run the New York City Marathon because they like the idea of being surrounded by thousands and thousands of other runners while making their way through the biggest city in the U.S. Some people would rather run up a specific mountain, alone or with just a few others. Others might want to do both. Unless you are a professional runner, you are running for you, so you get to decide what runs and races would make you happy!

Here are some steps to get your started on your own bucket list:

  1. Pay attention to what others are doing. If you have a friend who ran a race that appeals to you, or read a blog post about one such, write it down so you can remember that. Even if the length, cost, location or qualification standard of the race isn’t feasible for you right now, maybe in ten years you will be in a spot where you can do it. There are people out there who have gone from five hour marathoners to Boston qualifiers and from four hour marathoners to Olympic Trials Qualifiers. No dream is too big!
  2. Do some research. What do you like, aside from running? There are so many themed races nowadays it is borderline ridiculous. You can do a Puppy 5K in Brunswick, Maine, a Mac ‘N Cheese 5K in Denver, a race in Las Vegas where (literally) everyone dresses up as Santa Claus, a Star Wars 5K/10K/Half Marathon at Disney World, an Ice Cream 5K, complete with obstacles during the race and an ice cream eating contest at the finish line, in Centreville, Virginia, and I am sure many more niche races!
  3. Think about what matters to you. If it is important to you to seek races on fast courses where you can get the best time possible, look for those. I’ve heard this is why California International Marathon is so popular for those trying to qualify for Boston or the Olympic Trials. In the words of my coach, Brian Kraft Memorial 5K in Minneapolis is “quite possibly the fastest road 5K course in the country” (you heard it here first!!). If you are inspired by the history of running, you might want to add the Boston Marathon, any race at Hayward Field, or whatever the big historic race in your area is to your list. If you want to run as long a distance as possible, look into ultras.

My running bucket list:

  1. Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati, OH) – I found a list somewhere of the marathons that have the best food on the race course. Apparently, at Cincinnati, they go beyond your standard water, sports drinks, and gels, andย  offer all kinds of fun foods. I can’t see myself stopping to eat pretzels or birthday cake in the middle of a race, but there is post-race food available as well. I love food, and my mom’s family is from Cincinnati so it would be fun to run a race there!
  2. Disney Princess Half Marathon (Orlando, FL) – I was one of those kids who dressed up like a different Disney princess every Halloween. I am now a fully grown adult woman and yet I NEED to run this race.
  3. New Balance 5th Avenue Mile (New York, NY) – Something about racing a mile down Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan and getting to see a bunch of professional runners race there too is really exciting to me. It’s like the big boy version of the Twin Cities One Mile.
  4. Capitol City 10K (Austin, TX) – I grew up in Austin and ran through most of my childhood but somehow never ran this race. It is the largest 10K in Texas, and it’s in my hometown, therefore on my bucket list it shall go!
  5. Peachtree Road Race (Atlanta, Georgia) – This is a historic 10K run in Atlanta on the 4th of July. It’s a very popular race with a lottery system to get in. There is probably a lot of humidity involved so I might regret this one!
  6. Athens Marathon (Athens, Greece) – This marathon is in Athens, aka the end point of the first ever marathon. Imagine running a marathon in the same place where Phillippides ended his. Not to mention, the course looks beautiful. Check out the event website for photos that will have you adding this one to your bucket list as well (Athens Marathon Salty Running meetup?!?).
  7. Birthday run! Someday, on my birthday, I want to run the same number of miles as years of age I am turning. Right now I am 23, so realistically I don’t see myself running more than that number of miles in training. But I could run a marathon on my 26th birthday. And I will be turning 26 on a Sunday (I checked) in May 2022! So basically I will have one shot to accomplish this goal in the way that I want to. Who knows, though? Maybe I’ll lose my mind and start doing ultras and I can run 50 miles on my 50th birthday or something (if climate change doesn’t kill us all by then).

What is the most bizarre themed race you have heard of? What’s on your running bucket list?

I'm a 22 year old in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I work in insurance and enjoy cooking, reading, and calligraphy as well as running. My running goal right now is to adjust from running middle distance in college to longer distances as a graduate! I write about racing, inclusivity and mental health as they relate to running, and cookies.

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