Ideal Race Course – marathon – Ultra marathon – Running _ Racing

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nichlaus, and now Tiger Woods are world class golfers who eventually turned their talents towards course design and construction. Who better suited to design and build challenging, and beautiful courses then the champions who competed on them? Their works are more than 18 holes of golf haphazardly laid over top an urban or rural county side. These designers web and flow their courses within the offering provided by the landscape which will house and feature them.


During a recent long run while my mind aimlessly counted away the miles, I began to wonder what a marathon course may look like if I could design the perfect marathon course. What would it look like, how would I challenge the runners and what would the 26.2 miles offer in the way of visual attractions and experiences?

My ideal course would start in the city center of a small(ish) country town. The starting line would be at the cross roads of city hall. These streets would be lined by small shops, old homes with side walks featuring old fashion street lights. The starting line would be marked with a banner hoisted from two old tree draped over head of the running field.


The early miles would weave in and out of charming small town streets and country neighborhoods as the route begins to leave town and meander deep into the countryside.

The first third of the course would run thru rolling hills over a network of tree lined country roads. These old growth trees stand proudly towering along the edge of the road with thier mature branches creating a canopy over the paved surface below. When the course is not lined with trees its bordered by fields  full of blossoming flowers offering a rainbow of colors to excite the most oxygen depleted senses.


The middle miles would rambled among local farms. Bordering both sides of the course would be fields filled with live stock, both mature and newly born. On one plot of land would graze an herd of horses that follow the race pack gingerly running along with the marathon field.


The final third of the course would wind over and around a network of local fishing streams where the sounds of cascading movement and small water falls can be heard off in the distance. Where the roads can not avoid a collision with the natural path of the creeks the runners cross over the water features thru a number of wooden bridges. Each one unique in design and wooden architectural foundations.

bridges wood

The closing miles beyond the wall would direct the marathon field back to city center where the finish line would be established in front of a fountain in the middle of the War Memorial park.

If you had the ability to design the perfect marathon what would your ideal marathon course look like?

  • John Flynn

    If you make that into a trail marathon, you are pretty much describing the Umstead marathon. First 8 miles is single track, then on the bridle trails including hitting Cemetary Hill in mile 24. it is pretty awesome.

    • Brian Burk

      will have to run that….