The St Jude Memphis Marathon weekend, offers something for everyone. There are full, half and 5k events, a wonderful charity runner program, and well organized races with a great finish in Autozone Park, the local baseball stadium. Memphis is also a nice place to visit, and the weather in early December, when the race is held, it often perfect.
Memphis Marathon Travel Made Easy
The Memphis Marathon course starts and ends at AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis. The course runs along the river, up Beal Street, through parks and the Zoo area, and through the St Jude Children’s Hospital campus, which is filled with cheering crowds, including patients who come out to support the runners who are also supporting them. There is plenty to see, and tourists can stay in one central area for the race and to enjoy many area attractions.
Getting to Memphis
By Air: The Memphis Airport is an easy ten minute drive from the city center. Most major airlines fly to Memphis, However, Southwest Air does not offer service there. Car rentals are an affordable and easy way to get into Memphis, while many hotels also offer shuttle service. If you are staying downtown near the marathon start and finish, you may find that you need no transportation other than a cab to and from the airport, as Downtown Memphis is relatively compact, with hotels and attractions all within easy walking distance of one another.
By Train: Amtrak serves Memphis, arriving downtown within less than a mile of the hotels near the marathon start and finish. Walking to hotels or getting a cab is not difficult from the station.
By Car: Memphis is a fairly easy city to drive in and around. Parking is easy and affordable, with many hotels offering free parking services. Rentalcars.com offers a good way to comparison shop and arrange for a car rental.
Getting Around Memphis
Downtown Memphis is not a large area. It is compact, with hotels and attractions all within walking distance of one another. If you choose to stay in the downtown area, park the car (if you even bother with renting one) and walk. Race packet pickup is also within walking distance. You can eat, sleep, visit Beale Street, and get to and from the race on foot. Horse drawn carriages are also a regular feature in the downtown area, many of which have their own dogs as well. I stopped and spoke with this corgi and carriage driver when I was walking back to my car from the race.
If you stay outside of the downtown area, a car rental is a must. Memphis is a rather spread out urban/suburban area, with cabs not readily available outside of the city center without calling ahead. Car rental tends to be easy and affordable in the area, and the city is surrounded by a beltway that makes driving from even a rather long distance quite easy. Parking is plentiful in the city, and I easily parked within one block of packet pickup and two blocks of the race for around $5 each time. Your registration confirmation will include links showing the locations of numerous parking areas.
Where to Stay: Memphis Hotels
Hotels Near the Start and Finish
Hotels in the city center near the start and finish tend to sell out quickly and far in advance of the race. Below are our top recommendations followed by links for searching for more. All hotels in the Peabody and Beal street area offer easy access to the race and all area attractions. Use AutoZone Park on maps as a location reference.
(High-End/Luxury): The Peabody: The Peabody is a grand historic hotel, built in 1869 and rebuilt in 1925. This luxury hotel is only 1/2 block from the race start and finish. The hotel includes a world class restaurant and features its famous ducks, who twice each day march to and from the lobby fountain. The Peabody is expensive, but well worth the cost.
(Mid-Range): Double Tree Memphis: The Double Tree is directly across the street from Autozone park where the Memphis marathon starts and finishes. You can’t get closer than this! Rates tend to be good, and the hotel is comfortable and updated.
(Mid-Range): Holiday Inn Select: The Holiday Inn Select is just one block from the race start and finish and offers a fairly affordable room rate with full hotel amenities.
(Budget): Econo Lodge: Only two blocks from the race start and finish, the Econo Lodge offers rooms at a budget rate. For a basic budget hotel near the start, this is our top choice. However, some of the more upscale hotels, or a trip to outlying areas where the hotel costs are cheaper, might be worth the cost or extra travel to runners simply for the upgrade in bed quality and comfort.
Hotels in the Surrounding Area
Because hotels downtown sell out quickly, many find themselves commuting to the race, which is exactly what I did when I ran it in 2010. There are numerous hotels in the surrounding areas and links are provided to assist in your search. But below is one outlying hotel that I specifically recommend based on my experience with them and their location. You will have to account for up to 15-20 minutes of driving with the outlying hotels.
(Mid-range) Memphis Hilton: The Memphis Hilton is located near the popular Gemantown area, with plenty of restaurants and attractions within an easy drive. The hotel is a unique structure in a quiet business and residential area, with very comfortable rooms and wonderful service. I stayed there when I ran the Memphis Marathon in 2010 and would happily stay there again. The hotel is 10 miles from the race, and the drive is easily done on local expressways. I got downtown in about 15 minutes and parked two blocks from the race start with no problems on race day.
Search For Area Hotels: When searching for outlying hotels, the Germantown area is particularly recommended because it generally is a more upscale and safe area. For budget hotels, the area around the airport is also quite affordable and offers an easy drive to the city. However, noise level from the flights may pose an issue in that location.
Where to Carb Load in Memphis
Downtown: The race offers a spaghetti feed, plus runs offers from numerous downtown restaurants. See the Memphis Marathon dining page for full details.
Outside of Downtown: Memphis offers numerous chain Italian Restaurants. I ate at a Carrabas about a mile from the Memphis Hilton when I stayed there.
Things to Do In Memphis
The Memphis Marathon is centrally located to several of the area’s top attractions. Beale street, which offers shops, restaurants, and attractions, is just a few blocks away, and carriage rides are abundant in the area. The other famous Memphis attraction, Graceland, is further away, but is an easy drive. For more good food and shops, visit the Germantown area about 10 miles from downtown.
Specialized Tour Packages
Viator, a company that focuses on specialized tourist activities for many destinations, offers several interesting and fun excursions in a variety of price ranges. A couple of my personal favorites for runners are linked below, but several more can be seen here on the Viator site: Memphis Activities.
The Memphis Music Attractions Pass offers discount admission to four music attractions: Graceland, Sun Studio, Rock and Soul Museum, and Stax Museum.
The Memphis Mojo Music Bus Tour offers a way to rest your feet while visiting. Hear musicians perform blues, rock, gospel and soul in a vintage restored 1950 bus. This tour includes Beale Street, the Civil Rights Museum, Elvis Presley Plaza, and many hidden sites. An upgrade to include a Sun Studio tour is also possible.
Useful Memphis Marathon Travel Links
- Memphis Excursions on Viator
- Memphis Marathon Website
About the Author: Carleen Coulter, Run Gadget’s editor, has traveled to Memphis on multiple occasions and ran the Memphis Marathon in 2010.