Two of Houston's most perpetually popular sporting events—the Houston Marathon and the Buffalo Bayou Regatta—both began in 1972 with around 200 participants each. Since then, the formerly-named "Reeking Regatta" has become the largest canoe race in Texas, while the now-named Chevron Houston Marathon has become the largest single-day sporting event in the city, drawing over half a million spectators and participants.
To that end, it's become important to stake out a good spot along the race course ahead of time. Remember to bring an umbrella or rain slicker, as some morning showers are expected Sunday, and you don't want the weather to keep you from witnessing one of our city's proudest annual traditions. Below, our five favorite spots across the span of the course:
Memorial Drive and Chimney Rock
Mile Marker: 18
The westernmost portion of the full, 26-mile marathon bends back east towards Houston at this intersection. The marathon begins at 6:45 a.m., which means many of the runners will reach this point within a couple of hours. We suggest posting up on the grassy lawn by the beautiful manmade lakes outside the Ecorp International office building at the corner of Park Laureate Dr. and Memorial. Later, grab a late breakfast/early lunch at the nearby Tacos del Julio on the other side of the Katy Freeway at Wirt and Long Point.
Mile Marker: 15
Don't want to brave the weather? Grab a seat indoors instead, and watch the runners from the comfort of a bistro table over breakfast. The new Whole Foods Market at BLVD Place has a large second-story eating area with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking Post Oak Boulevard and opens at 7 a.m. Sunday morning, offering surprisingly legit breakfast tacos from its in-house Sidestreet Taco Bar. Next door, French outpost La Table opens for brunch at 8 a.m. (just in time to catch many of the marathon runners as they stream past outside) and offers seating in its cozy, first-floor Marché, where you can nosh on fresh-baked chocolate brioche, egg white frittatas or, of course, French toast.
Greenbriar Drive and Rice Boulevard
Mile Marker: 9
The southernmost portion of the marathon takes runners past the Rice University campus and briefly into Rice Village, where you can either grab a spot at this intersection or head a bit farther north to Greenbriar and Bissonnet, where you'll be able to catch both the half-marathon and marathon runners at their 7-mile mark. Mile marker 9 is easier to access in terms of parking, however: Rice University's large visitor parking lot (the one adjacent to the football stadium) is just a block away; enter the campus from the Hermann Park side to avoid road closures. Afterwards, stroll through Rice Village to grab breakfast crepes and coffees at nearby Sweet Paris.
Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard
Mile Marker: 11 (half marathon) and 24 (full marathon)
This is where the going gets tough and the marathon runners need your support most of all. If you're the kind of person who likes to engage with the participants by creating giant, glitter-covered signs and screaming out random runners' names in encouragement as they run past, this is the spot for you—and trust us, the runners really appreciate the signs and the screams. Plan to get here no later than 7 a.m. to stake out a really good spot, as this is one of the most popular vantage points (in one of the city's most popular parks, to boot), keeping in mind that Allen Parkway will be closed. We suggest parking north of Buffalo Bayou Park and taking one of the convenient pedestrian bridges across. Afterwards, you can try to brave the brunch crowds at The Kitchen at The Dunlavy, but we say take part in an older Houston tradition: waiting in line for some of the city's best breakfast tacos at Laredo Taqueria on Washington Avenue.
Lamar Street and Crawford Street
Mile marker: finish line
There's nothing quite like witnessing the sheer bliss (and often tears of joy) on runners' faces as they complete their race. This is what the Houston Marathon is all about. Head to Discovery Green to take it all in as the runners cross the finish line and head into the George R. Brown Convention Center to get their official medals and paperwork, emerging afterwards tired but triumphant. Grab breakfast at nearby MKT Bar inside the Phoenicia grocery store when it opens at 9 a.m., or indulge in Houston's most gloriously over-the-top brunch buffet at Quattro inside the Four Seasons hotel.
Just Trying to Get Around Town on Sunday?
Road closures begin as early as 5 a.m. on Saturday (Jan. 14) and Sunday (Jan. 15). In fact, Avenida De Las Americas, Lamar, McKinney and Walker have already been closed as of Friday for finish line set-up.
Where to avoid:
The starting line areas near Minute Maid Park and Discovery Green are an obvious no-no on race day. In addition, specific driving directions are available for residents of Washington Corridor, Upper Kirby, Rice, West University, the Galleria Area, Tanglewood and Memorial, as well as Memorial Park.
Streets that will be closed on Sunday:
- Congress from Crawford to Smith
- Smith from Congress to Franklin
- Franklin from Smith to Washington (all lanes except one westbound curb lane)
- Washington from Congress to Waugh (all lanes except one westbound curb lane from Franklin to Houston, and one eastbound curb lane from Studemont to Sawyer)
- Heights/Waugh (southbound) from Washington to West Gray
- West Gray/Inwood from Waugh to Kirby
- Kirby (northbound) from Inwood to San Felipe
- Kirby (southbound) from San Felipe to Bissonnet
- Bissonnet from Kirby to Montrose
- Mandell (southbound) from Bissonnet to Sunset
- Sunset from Mandell to Rice Blvd.
- Rice Blvd from Sunset to Greenbriar
- Greenbriar from Rice Blvd. to University Blvd.
- University Blvd. from Greenbriar to Weslayan
- Weslayan from University to Bissonnet
- Weslayan (northbound) from Bissonnet to Westpark
- Westpark from Weslayan to S. Rice Blvd. (all lanes closed except one westbound lane from Newcastle to 610/59 northbound feeder road
- Loop 610 feeder (southbound) from Richmond to Westpark
- Post Oak Blvd. (northbound) from Richmond to San Felipe
- San Felipe (westbound) from Post Oak Blvd. to Tanglewood
- Tanglewood (northbound) from San Felipe to Chimney Rock
- Chimney Rock (northbound) from Tanglewood to Woodway
- Chimney Rock (southbound) from Woodway Dr. to Memorial
- Memorial (westbound) from Chimney Rock Rd. to Loop 610
- Memorial (eastbound) from Loop 610 to Shepherd
- Shepherd (all lanes under overpass) from Memorial to Allen Parkway
- Allen Parkway from Shepherd to Bagby
- Dallas from Allen Parkway to Bagby
- Bagby from Dallas to Lamar
- Lamar from Bagby to Avenida de las Americas
- Avenida de las Americas from Polk to Rusk