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5 bucket list races that make 'Merica great

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

Last week, I wrote about some of the world's best bucket list marathon and half marathons. But, what about here in the United States? We got some great places to explore on foot like our National Parks, Wine Country, and let's not forget our southern most state, Hawaii. So, I've made a list of marathons and half marathons to honor some of America's best bucket list destinations.

Red Rock trails​

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Zion National Park Marathon

Zion National Park, Utah

February 20, 2020

It's a steady climb to the road to Zion. This race starts and ends in Springdale, Utah. Runners travel along the Watchman trail to carefully arrive at the mouth of Zion Canyon. Runners can stop and take in the breath-taking views of of cold snow canyons and snow capped cliffs. Better hurry and register because this race sells out every year.

Race fit for a Disney Princess

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Disney Wine and Dine Marathon

Orlando, Florida

November 3, 2020

This popular race takes place on Walt Disney World Resort. Runners get to run wild through the theme park. Make sure to bring your camera for this novelty race. It is perfect for the Mickey and Donald Duck lovers. Stop and take your picture with your favorite Disney characters every mile. This marathon is great to walk and trot to the finish line which is a food and wine festival fit for a prince…or…..princess or……a fairy………or a cricket.

Get hitched on this marathon course.

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Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Las Vegas, Nevada

November 16-17, 2020

The Rock and Roll race series really out did themselves with this one. Have you ever wanted to dress as Elvis or a Cirque Du Soleil character, listen to your favorite rock band, and run down the Las Vegas Strip at night? Me, too! This race is definitely on my bucket list. There is so much packed in that it takes an entire weekend. This marathon is literally a night race down the Las Vegas Strip. You get to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Vegas. You can even get married on course at Mile 3. Bands play at every mile of the race to keep you pumped up. A Rock and Roll race would not be right if it didn't start with a pre-race performance from headliner Kesha. Can I say #StripAtNight?

Run the rolling hills of wine.​

Pixabay.com

Napa Valley Half Marathon

Napa Valley, California

March 1, 2020

This is known as the "biggest little marathon in the west." This picturesque course starts at the Silverado Trail from Calistoga and ends in Napa Valley. Runners run past the vineyards and wineries. It is the perfect tour of wine country. This race is not just wine. This road race is a Boston Qualifier. You will truly want to Run.Sip.Savor.

Fun in the sun.

Pixabay.com

Honolulu Marathon

Honolulu, Ohau

December 8, 2019

Run in paradise in our southern most state. Sandy beaches, tropical flowers, and palm trees. Kick off the weekend with a luau complete with male and female hula dancers. The 5am start is no hardship with a spectacular fireworks show. The run up Diamond Head Crator is a challenge, but well worth it. You get to experience the laid-back attitude of Hawaiians. It's come one, come all for this race. Everyone and their mama, grandpa, whoever else comes out. There is no time limit or limit of participants. Fun in the sun.

On Tuesday, the Houston Dynamo announced a commitment to develop 15 mini-pitches within the next five years in the Greater Houston area. The project is being led by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, former Dynamo defender and U.S. Soccer legend DaMarcus Beasley and Dynamo co-owners Jake Silverstein and Ben Guill.

Beasley and Guill visited with ESPN 97.5 FM morning show John & Raheel with Del to elaborate on the announcement and answer a few questions on the current state of the Houston Dynamo. The following are three notable quotes from the segment:

Dynamo co-owners approached DaMarcus Beasley

"It started, the idea, with Ben and the other minority owner Jake [Silverstein]. They came to me and asked me what I thought about this idea, about creating mini-pitches around Houston and it was a no-brainer for me. A hundred percent, I'm with the youth of soccer, because that's where the future is. Its in the youth, and to be able to be a part of this program and have this project here in Houston, it means a lot. And, the fact that we have their support - from the Houston Dynamo, the Dash, and a lot of people around Houston - its a no-brainer to start these pitches."

- DaMarcus Beasley, four-time FIFA World Cup participant with USA and former Dynamo team captain


DaMarcus Beasley took part in seeing out the creation of the first futsal courts in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana last year. The U.S. Soccer Legend has publicly expressed his desire to remain in Houston and to be involved in youth development in his retirement, whether that be with the Houston Dynamo or elsewhere.

Two months removed from capping off a 20-year career, Beasley has taken on his first post-retirement project and one that shows his potential of filling the void as a much needed connection between the ownership group of the club and the Houston soccer community.

2026 FIFA World Cup "a big part of it"

"Clearly its a big part of it but - even without the World Cup coming up - Jake Silverstein, who has become very involved with U.S. Soccer in Portland and has built some of these mini-pitches, and I decided it's just the right thing to do. It's the right thing to bring the game to parts of the city that don't have the opportunity to play in a safe and fun environment. We work with U.S. Soccer and have commited a bunch of money to build 15 of these mini-pitches over the next five years. It will be important to the 2026 bid and hopefully it will be very good for the Dynamo as well."

- Ben Guill, Houston Dynamo minority owner and board member of Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee

The biggest side effect of the United States hosting the 1994 FIFA World Cup was the creation of Major League Soccer, the country's longest-running first division league that will celebrate its 25th season next year. With the USA joint-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup with Canada and Mexico, it seems the youth game could stand next to benefit.

This initiative comes from the Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee Grow the Game strategy and "is part an overall vision for Houston that seeks to create and maintain 30 mini-pitches and expand the U.S. Soccer Foundation's Soccer for Success program in the area."

It is also part of the U.S. Soccer Foundation's plans to install 1,000 pitches by 2026 as part of their national It's Everyone's Game movement "to create greater access to the sport and its benefits in underserved communities nationwide."

The Houston Dynamo and other MLS clubs have already installed several of these futsal-style "mini-pitches" as part of their charitable programs in conjunction with an MLS WORKS initiative that began at the 2015 MLS All-Star Game.

Making Dynamo, Dash more relevant in Houston

"The important thing for the Dynamo is we need to do a better job and be more a part of the Houston community. We need to fill up that stadium every game. One reason, its a lot of fun to go and we hope with that efforts like this, that Jake and I are doing, and all the efforts the team make - the Dynamo and the Dash - will just make us more and more relevant to the city."

- Ben Guill, Houston Dynamo minority owner and board member of Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee


There's no secret the Houston Dynamo, and Houston Dash, have trouble filling up BBVA Stadium on a consistent basis. The average for Dynamo matches has declined steadily since the 2015 season and reached a new club-low in 2019.

The Houston-based Guill is right about one thing: the Dynamo could potentially make up a lot of ground by extending the olive branch to the community.

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