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.
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.
Where to start? We sorted through races big and small (all scheduled for June through the end of the year) 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.
Blood Rock 100 and 50 Mile Trail Run, September 29 + 30
Looking for a little more than a 5K? How does 100 miles sound? Terrifying to me, but I know we have some brave runners to trek through the gorgeous Alabama Oak Mountain State Park.
Anchorage Midnight Mayor’s Marathon, June 23
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 11
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, October 27
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?
Firecracker 5K/10K Run, July 4
Typically on Fourth of July, we watch fireworks and eat some delicious barbecue. Why not celebrate America’s birthday with a 5K too? The run is part of the Anaheim Hills 4th of July Celebration, which also includes live music, food, a patriotic dog show and an Independence Day parade.
Declaration Brewing Co. Beer Run, November 17
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 17
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 20
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?
Tampa Bay Shark Week 5K, June 23
What is our favorite week in the summer that scares us from ever going in the ocean again? That’s right: Shark Week is approaching. So why not celebrate this entertaining, yet terrifying week with a 5K in Tampa, located on the Gulf of Mexico, for those brave enough to go in.
Hotlanta Half Marathon, June 10
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 2
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 21
Leave your favorite fitness fashion pieces at home—this messy run traverses two miles of puddles and obstacles.
Hot Chocolate 15K and 5K, November 4
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.
Lake Red Rock Balloon 5K/10K Walk or Run, July 7th
If you’re a runner and a fan of the movie Up, then you are going to love this race that is completely surrounded by hot air balloons.
Cookie Daze, June 16
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.)
The Hundred Acre 5K, June 23rd
Forget skipping through meadows, let’s run through the beautiful State Botanical Garden of Kentucky instead.
Cane Field Classic, October 13
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 16
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 23
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.
Spectacle 5K and Fun Run, June 16
This race takes you through the historic Spectacle Island, complete with panoramic views of Boston Harbor.
Harvest Stompede, September 8 + 9
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!
Midnight Sun, Midnight Run, June 22
Going out Friday night? This midnight run in Duluth, Minnesota may end up being even more fun than bar hopping, and will certainly make you feel better the next morning.
Hotter than Hades Half Marathon, June 16
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 7
A 100-pound cowbell awaits you at the finish line so that you can properly ring in your victory!
Yellowstone Half Marathon, June 9
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.
Terrain Racing 5K, August 18
If you don’t mind a little (or a whole lot) or mud on your running clothes, give this terrain run a shot. It’s full of obstacles likes cargo nets and rope walls that will make you feel like a superhero when you finish.
ET Full Moon Marathon, August 25 + 26
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.
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….
Halloween Half Marathon, October 21
Get into the Halloween spirit with this half marathon that features candy at water stations and prizes for the best costume. Just a tip: running with a cape is definitely more exciting than running without one.
It’s all about the scenery for this race. Running through the gorgeous New Mexico mountains will make you forget about any soreness and will take your breath away. Did we mention the race is 8,300 feet in elevation?
Hairy Gorilla Half and Squirrelly Six Miler, October 21
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.
Moonlight Bootlegger 5K, July 14
You’ll be guided by candlelight on this nighttime run to the finish line where you’ll be welcomed by live bluegrass, moonshine cocktails, finishers mason jar glasses, and some sweet 5K prizes.
Insane Inflatable 5K, June 16
This race takes “pumped up” to a whole new level. The 5K course directs runners through giant inflated obstacles (think slides and wrecking balls).
Red Velvet Cupcake Run 5K, June 16
Usually, it would be torture to think about sweets when you are running a race, but at this race, it is more than encouraged. The top 3 male and female runners leave with a medal and a dozen red velvet cupcakes. Best prize we’ve ever heard of.
24 The Hard Way, October 20
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 11
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 15
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.
Ocean Road 10K, September 30
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.
Mud, Sweat and Beers Trail, June 23
This 5K is full of mud pits, waterslides and climbing elements. Your reward for all your hard hard work, sweat and muddy legs? A nice, cold brew.
Run Crazy Horse Marathon and Half Marathon, October 7
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 11
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 23
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.
Bryce Canyon Half Marathon, July 14
This scenic run through the desert canyons also has a 5K and color run option. We know what you’re thinking—it’s going to be pretty toasty in Utah in the middle of July. The run is located close to a waterfall that runners are welcome to cool off in.
Maybe you’ve spent some time in the winter on one of Vermont’s most popular skiing destinations. Explore the challenging terrain that lies beneath the snow with this trail race up to the top of the mountain. Talk about some stunning views
Anthem Wicked 10K, October 26 + 27
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.
Beach to Chowder Challenge 5K or 10K, June 15
Ever wonder what it’s like to run on the beach like Erika Eleniak in Baywatch? Well give it a shot at the beach in Sumner, Washington. Feel the ocean spray on your legs and once you’ve finished, chow down on some clam chowder, which is free for all runners.
Army 10-Miler, October 7
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.
Freedom’s Run, October 6
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 14
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 18
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.
Originally posted May 31, 2016. Updated June 19, 2018. Additional reporting by Katie Kane.
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, a high ponytail is crucial (for both keeping your hair out of your eyes, and keeping things selfie-ready).
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