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By Joanna Citarella

Earlier this year I ran the ING Miami Marathon. If you like to run and you’re considering a Miami vacation,  this is a really unique way to see the sights and sounds of the Magic City of Miami.

Joanna Citarella running the ING Miami Marathon

Joanna Citarella running the ING Miami Marathon

Every January, approximately 15,000 runners of all ages and abilities participate in the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. With a fast, flat, Boston-qualifying course, the Miami Marathon offers plenty of interesting scenery and Miami-style entertainment to keep you motivated along the way. This diverse 26.2 mile course will take you along the Miami beaches, across the downtown, and through locations frequently used in movies and TV shows.

Miles 1-9: Port of Miami and South Beach hotels

The first 3.5 miles of the course take you over the MacArthur Causeway to South Beach, offering dramatic views of the Port of Miami as you run past gigantic luxury cruise ships while watching the sunrise on the horizon. In fact, the first 10 miles pass by with relative ease as you continue along South Beach past Art Deco-style buildings and chic boutique South Beach hotels onto Ocean Drive. Here you’ll pass by famous Miami landmarks such as the Cardozo Hotel, Colony Hotel and then onto Washington Avenue past Miami’s infamous nightclubs.

Mile 9-17: the Miami skyline, downtown and Bay Heights

Mile nine crosses the Venetian causeway where you can again view the Port of Miami and the impressive Miami Skyline before you head into the “ING Cheer Zone,” where hundreds of spectators line the road to offer support, loud music and cheers to keep you moving.

Next is downtown Miami.  Typically alive with activity Monday–Friday, the streets of downtown Miami are  restricted to traffic on Marathon day, allowing runners and spectators to take over. Miles 13 – 17 take you through exclusive neighborhoods including Bay Heights where residents cheer you on from their driveways. There are also plenty of opportunities here for spectators to catch up with their favorite runner.

Miles 18-23: Coconut Grove andBiscayne Bay

At mile 18 you pass through the fashionable community of Coconut Grove. This is where I happily spotted my friends and husband cheering me on. Being the supportive bunch that they are, they jumped in to run with me for half a mile only to desert me for breakfast and mimosas at one of the chic sidewalk cafes that line the Grove!

The last 6 miles are undoubtedly the toughest. By this point fatigue has set in and everything hurts. Fortunately the awesome Miami scenery and dedicated volunteers working the course keep you mercifully distracted as you hit the home stretch. At mile 22, you cross the Rickenbacker Causeway; here you have plenty of opportunity to take in the sweeping views of the Brickell Skyline and Biscayne Bay.

Mile 23-26.2: Brickell, the finish line and your poolside lounge chair

View at the Courtyard Miami Beach Oceanfront hotel

View at the Courtyard Miami Beach Oceanfront hotel

The last 3 miles bring you through the Brickell area. Dubbed the “Manhattan of the South,” here you’ll find yourself surrounded by imposing high rises and luxury hotels like the Hyatt Regency Miami, Intercontinental Miami and Epic Hotel. And from here, it’s across the Miami River to the finish line at Bayfront Park.

There are many things I loved about running the Marathon in Miami, but here’s one of my favorites: Within 30 minutes of crossing the finish line, you can be back at your hotel sitting poolside, soaking up the sun and taking a much needed rest. My personal favorite is the Courtyard by Marriott Miami Beach Oceanfront. Not only is it perfectly located close toSouth Beach and the shops and restaurants of Lincoln Road, the hotel is directly on the beach.

Time to suit up, runners. Registration for the 2011 ING Miami Marathon is now open, and there’s no better time than now to sign up and start planning your Miami vacation!

Joanna Citarella is a market manager for Orbitz Worldwide. She grew up in England and moved to Naples, Florida 9 years ago, favoring perpetual sunshine over unpredictable British weather.

Tagged: Florida, Hotels

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn is a travel writer and Chicago journalist whose work appears in Chicago magazine, HuffPost Travel and Condé Nast’s HotelChatter. Globetrotting since infancy, she’s the daughter of a travel agent and considers thrill seeking part of the DNA. Find her on Twitter at @ninakhahn.

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