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The 50 coolest races you can run this year

US race guide Pin It
Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good

Your gym could have a wall of TVs facing the treadmills and your morning runs might be soundtracked by seriously motivating tunes, but there’s nothing quite as fun (okay yes, and occasionally grueling) as running in an actual race.

Because whether it’s a 5K or an ultramarathon, there’s no denying that buzz you feel from your head to your toes as you step up to the starting line—and the complete euphoria as you cross the finish line. And if it gives you an excuse to dress up as a mermaid, sprint through bubbles, or pretend you’re going to prom? Even better.

Which might explain why races have become so popular, particularly among women, who comprised 57 percent of the 17 million race finishers in the U.S. in 2015. It’s also why we at Well+Good are all about incorporating running into workout routines, even if you’ve never laced up a pair of running shoes before.

Where to start? We sorted through races big and small (all scheduled for June through October 2016) and selected the coolest, craziest run in every state. From kooky themes to routes so picturesque you’ll be tempted to stop and take a photo (PR be damned), there’s a reason for everyone to log some miles.

Keep reading for the 50 running races you should check out this year.

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Running races in USA


Blueberry 5K and Fun Run, June 18

Calling all antioxidant lovers: This 5K ends at the Brewton Blueberry Festival, so you can refuel on the nutrient-rich fruit post-race.


Anchorage Midnight Mayor’s Marathon, June 18

Because the night belongs to runners—especially when it’s the summer solstice in Alaska (which means more than 20 hours of daylight). If 26.2 miles is not your cup of tea, opt for one of the shorter distances (think half-marathon and 5K).


Hopi 10K and 5K, August 6

Ever jogged across a mesa? This summer run is held in the Hopi village of Old Oraibi, meaning there will be some serious history beneath your feet and beautiful scenery all around you.


Jog with your Dog 5K, September 24

Tell your running best friend that she’ll have to sit this one out, since you’ll be hitting the course with your dog instead. A six-legged team is bound to go faster, right?


Hollywood Sign Run, June 4

Even if you don’t spot any on stars during the race (which has 8 mile and 5K options), you’ll definitely see one Los Angeles icon: The run ends with stunning views of the legendary Hollywood sign.


Declaration Brewing Co. Beer Run, July 2

Enjoying a couple free beers after this Denver 5K fun run totally counts as rehydration, right? Named an “un-race,” this is perfect for the runner who wants to avoid the pressure that comes with more competitive courses.


Summer Solstice Trail Run, June 12

Celebrate summer by taking to the trails with your favorite pair of running shoes. This 5.5 or 3.3 mile run in Hebron starts early (7:30 a.m.), but is another opportunity to celebrate what we love about summer: abundant sunshine.


Harvest Hustle 5K, October 22

Run through apple and peach orchards, pumpkin patches, and farmlands in this quintessential fall 5K. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what happens when you combine going for a run and an apple orchard?  


Bacon on the Beach, June 24-26

Running on the beach may sound picturesque (and good for your joints), but it also makes it much harder to speed past the competition. Which is a real win-win for athletic types. This Daytona Beach race runs from Friday to Sunday, with a different distance on each day, ranging from 3K to 10K.


Hotlanta Half Marathon, June 12

Distract yourself from the June heat and humidity as you run by Atlanta’s most noteworthy landmarks, which include the World of Coca Cola and Centennial Olympic Park.


The Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, September 4

If a marathon is on your bucket list, running 26.2 miles on the island of Kauai is arguably one of the best places to cross that one off. We’ve heard there are some pretty epic hills, but when you’re surrounded by that much stunning nature, it’s easy to forget about the climbs… right?


Muddy Miles, July 16

Leave your favorite fitness fashion pieces at home—this messy run traverses two miles of puddles and obstacles.


Hot Chocolate 15K and 5K, October 30

Grab some marshmallows when you stop at the water station, because each finisher receives a mug of hot chocolate when they cross the finish line. Spoiler Alert: The medals look like bars of chocolate, too!


Bubble Run, June 18

“Good Clean Run” (ha!) is their motto, and tells you just about everything you need to know about this 5K. At every kilometer mark, you’ll run through a foam bog—covering you from head to toe in colored foam.


Dam to Dam Half Marathon and 5K, June 4

The nearly 40-year-old classic road race is meant to give you a taste of all things Iowa, starting in the cornfields and ending in the city.


Cookie Daze, June 18

If you’re a fitness fanatic with a sweet tooth, this race is for you. Cookies are provided at each water station, giving runners the chance to indulge before moving on to the next water station. (You can also grab-and-go, lest you’d prefer to enjoy them once you cross the finish line.)


Funky Prom Run, June 4

Instead of simple medals, top finishers are crowned and sashed at this prom-themed 5K. Luckily, you don’t have to wear any horribly uncomfortable high heels this time around.


Cane Field Classic, October 22

Does your normal jogging route take you through a sugar plantation? Run among the sugar cane and take in beautiful views of classic Louisiana—plus, be rewarded at the finish with fresh cut sugar cane and Cajun music.


Sailors and Sirens Run, June 18

Sea creatures of all kinds compete side-by-side (and in costume!) at this waterfront 5K. Watch out for pirates along the way, and don’t forget your nautical-themed ensemble. (Too bad mermaid fins are a bit tricky to run in….)


Crab Run, June 25

This 5K is part of Baltimore’s Crab & Beer Festival, so plan on refueling with some suds and seafood after you’ve finished the race.


Old Sandwich Road Race, June 5

This race uses the first public road (ever!) as its course. So when you lace up your sneakers, you’ll be running along the same trail that the Wampanoags and, eventually, stagecoaches once used. Choose a 5k, 10k, or half marathon distance and run back in time.


Harvest Stompede, September 10

Work up your thirst while running either 7 or 3.1 miles through vineyards on the Leelanau Peninsula, and enjoy a wine tasting once you’ve crossed the finish line. Cheers!


Lakes Region Run, June 4

Forget counting miles: You can count lakes in this run held in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (cute nickname, Minnesota!). The running event offers lots of distances, so you can run for as little as one mile or go up to a half marathon.


Hotter than Hades Half Marathon, June 18

They weren’t joking with the name. Beat the extreme heat with upgraded water stations, complete with wet towels, fans, and mist to cool down runners as they race through the Mississippi Delta.


MO’ Cowbell Marathon, October 2

A 100-pound cowbell awaits you at the finish line so that you can properly ring in your victory!


Yellowstone Half Marathon, June 11

Take in the sights of one of the country’s most beloved national parks on foot, as you race through the western part of Yellowstone.


Oregon Trail Run of Nebraska, October 22

What’s better than playing The Oregon Trail on the computer? Literally following in the footsteps of pioneers who headed West—this race course is comprised of sections of the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, and the Pony Express. (No river fording necessary.)


ET Full Moon Marathon, August 21

No, they won’t be playing the movie on repeat—instead, the marathon starts at midnight and the course leads participants down Extraterrestrial Highway (famous for its UFO sightings), on the outskirts of Area 51.

New Hampshire

Mount Washington Road Race, June 16

This is no normal road race: The course takes you up Mount Washington, New England’s most famous peak. And we thought our hill repeat workouts were steep….

New Jersey

Chickie and Pete’s Boardwalk 5K, August 20

The famed Atlantic City boardwalk doubles as the course of this oceanside 5K, which ends with free beer and crab fries for those who need to refill their sodium depletion.

New Mexico

The UFO Museum Alien Chase, July 2

Take your alien obsession to the next level with this 5K and 10K race in Roswell, part of the paranormal town’s annual UFO Festival.

New York

Hairy Gorilla Half and Squirrelly Six Miler, October 30

Get ready for Halloween with two of the most spirited costume trail races in the country. And if you’re looking to shave a couple of minutes off of your time, the gorillas and squirrels chasing you down the course (located just west of Albany) may help with that.

North Carolina

Run the Runway, June 4

Flat road has never been so accurate of a description. This 5K and 10K takes place on the 9,000 foot runway of the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro. How’s that for an unexpected race course?

North Dakota

Insane Inflatable 5K, June 4

This race takes “pumped up” to a whole new level. The 5K course directs runners through giant inflated obstacles (think slides and wrecking balls).


Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket 5K, June 12

Feeling inspired by the Tom Brady diet? Finish this 5K and you’ll receive a medal in the shape of the coveted NFL Super Bowl ring.


24 The Hard Way, October 22

If you’re a well-seasoned runner and searching for your next crazy challenge, look no further: Participants can choose between 6, 12, and 24 hour races, where the goal is to run as far as you can in the allotted time.


Crater Lake Rim Runs, August 13

It’s hard to compete with the beauty of this scenery—but you can try as you run a marathon, half marathon, or 6.7 miles along trails on the rim of the country’s deepest lake.


Quadzilla 15K, July 17

This is the trail race for the runner who wants a major challenge (and sore quads). The course is notorious for its hilly, rocky terrain—which you’ll be able to power through, thanks to the slices of watermelon handed out at water stations along the way.

Rhode Island

Ocean Road 10K, October 2

Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but this Narragansett race has big ocean views. The 6.2 mile course starts at an old lighthouse and ends at the town’s main beach, and every step of the course features classic coastal scenery.

South Carolina

5K Flash Mob, July 15

If you love the adrenaline rush of road races, this 5K is for you. All the details are a surprise until the midnight prior—you’ll be running in Charleston, but the start location and course are a secret… for now!

South Dakota

Run Crazy Horse Marathon and Half Marathon, October 9

The races, held in South Dakota’s Black Hills, start with a drum ceremony—which is way cooler than the usual starting line gunshot.


Elvis Presley 5K, August 13

This Memphis 5K is dedicated to the King himself. Run through the original rock star’s hometown streets, and leave with a medal featuring a dancing Elvis.


Fit Foodie 5K, June 25

Not like you need motivation to cross the finish line, but at this Austin 5K there are healthy foods, drinks, mini fitness demos (post-refueling, natch) and goody bags packed full of swag and samples waiting for you once you complete the race.


Thelma and Louise Half Marathon & Relay, June 4

If you and your running BFF were looking for an excuse to take a road trip, this is it. Pair up and split the distance of this Moab Desert half marathon.


Covered Bridges Half Marathon, June 5

Running under the covered bridges and along the quaint backroads of scenic Vermont is exactly as picturesque as it sounds.


Anthem Wicked 10K, October 29

Test out your Halloween costume as you run along the Virginia Beach boardwalk alongside witches and goblins. Whether you’ll be running towards the finish line or away from a scary costume behind you, we can’t say for sure.


The Fro Yo Run, July 23

The medals are shaped like spoons—and for good reason: Finishers are treated to a frozen yogurt and topping bar. Consider it the ultimate cool-down.

Washington, D.C.

Army 10-Miler, October 9

The Pentagon, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, National Mall… not stops on a tour of the capital, but some of the monuments you’ll pass on this 10-mile race.

West Virginia

Freedom’s Run, October 1

This half marathon is practically a history lesson: The course takes participants from Civil War sites to Lewis and Clark’s launching point to the spot where the steamboat was invented.


Twisted Maze Run, September 9

Although this evening race is in a corn maze, don’t start panicking: It’s pre-marked, so that you’ll find your way to the finish in no time. (You will, however, want to pack a headlamp.).


Run with the Horses Marathon, August 20

Whether you run the full marathon or opt for the half marathon or 10K options, there is one constant to this race: wild horses running alongside you throughout the course.

Before you step up to the starting line, you might want to try a quick meditation for a serious—and science-backed—mood-boost. And no matter which race you run in, an of-the-moment high ponytail is crucial (for both keeping your hair out of your eyes, and keeping things selfie-ready).