Runners are a unique part of the population — they wake up at the crack of dawn, often train in bad weather and sign themselves up to suffer through races of all lengths, including ultramarathons. But there are races all over the U.S. that offer experiences that have to be seen to be believed!
From famed locales to events that will impress even the most finicky foodie, there's truly something for everyone. Read on to see 12 unique races and get tips to start planning and training for your next adventure!
1. Cupid’s Undie Run (February)
In more than 35 cities in the U.S., runners celebrate their love of running during the month of love — in nothing but their underwear! Cupid's Undie Run is a fundraiser for the Children's Tumor Foundation and has helped to raise more than $16 million for the organization. With fundraising incentives such as V.I.P. open-bar access at the post-race party, running roughly one mile in your "bedroom best" will be an experience like never before.
"We created Cupid's Undie Run with the sole intent of having a fundraiser that made a bigger splash in the bucket than the other options out there," says Bobby Gill, co-founder and COO of Cupid's Undie Run. "With millions in donations to CTF raised every year, we've been successful beyond our wildest dreams. Plus, we've somehow managed to create the biggest party the charity world has ever seen. Bonus!"
2. The Great American Bacon Race (January)
You may not think that running and bacon go hand-in-hand, but thanks to The Great American Bacon Race in Orlando and Miami, you'd be wrong about that! Runners have the option to run the event competitively timed or as a fun run. No matter what you choose, there'll be plenty of bacon waiting for you at the finish line festivities.
Get the whole family involved thanks to the 1K Kids Bacon Dash or show your speed and try to win a Golden Pig age group award. Who knows? The smell of bacon in the air may even help you reach the finish line faster.
3. Krispy Kreme Challenge (February)
The Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina, began in 2004 as a dare between two college students and has since grown to include more than 5,000 racers. Runners begin on the campus of North Carolina State University and run 2.5 miles to Krispy Kreme, where they must eat a dozen original glazed doughnuts. Before those 2,400 calories have a chance to settle, runners make the 2.5-mile run back to campus.
"Running 2.5 miles, scarfing down 12 doughnuts and running another 2.5 miles might leave you a little nauseous, but the feeling you get after helping the kids at the North Carolina Children's Hospital will instantly calm any unsettled stomach," says Brandon Honeycutt, executive director of the Krispy Kreme Challenge.
4. Bay to Breakers (May)
As "the oldest consecutively run annual footrace in the world," Bay to Breakers is a must-run for any level of runner. Since 1912, runners have hit the streets of San Francisco to celebrate the unique and vibrant culture of the city. In 1986, the race earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest footrace in the world, with 110,000 participants.
Now the event sees more than 40,000 participants and 100,000 spectators filling the streets of the City by the Bay. This 12K starts at the San Francisco Bay near the Embarcadero and ends at the Great Highway, where costumed participants are met by excited crowds at the Finish Line Festival. Whether you run, walk or just watch, this is certainly an adventurous race you won't forget.
5. Carlsbad 5000 (April)
If you're looking for a 5K that sees professional and amateur runners racing side-by-side, the Carlsbad 5000 is for you. Known as the "World's Fastest 5K," the race is actually owned by a team of runners that includes U.S Olympian Meb Keflezighi.
This 5K in Carlsbad is home to both the men's and women's World 5K road records (set in 2006 and 2000, respectively). Runners love the course for both its speed and sweeping ocean views, and if you're looking to see how you stack up against the competition, this is a great place to do it.
6. Hood to Coast Relay (August)
Known as "The Mother of All Relays," Hood to Coast takes 1,050 teams on a 199-mile journey across Oregon. The teams of six to 12 runners start at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and travel by foot to Seaside, Oregon. Runners are assigned to 36 separate legs of the race, traveling by van across the course when not running.
Hood to Coast is the perfect way to push yourself both individually and as part of a team. This historic race began in 1982 with only eight teams and has grown into the monolith it is today, with teams training and traveling for the ultimate relay challenge. Be prepared for an epic weekend with teammates who support you and your die-hard love of running.
7. A Christmas Story 5K/10K Run (December)
Film buffs won't want to miss the chance to feel a part of the classic film A Christmas Story. In December, runners take to the streets of Cleveland, Ohio, and venture from the Public Square (a.k.a. the former Higbee's Department Store) to the famous A Christmas Story House and Museum, conveniently about 5K away.
Participants clad in bunny suits and character costumes fill the streets to run, walk and spend time as a family on the famous movie-set locations. Proceeds benefit the A Christmas Story House Foundation, a nonprofit that serves and enhances the local community. Celebrate the holiday season like Ralphie and the gang and ring in some holiday cheer — and don't be surprised if you see a leg lamp or two!
8. Anchorage RunFest (August)
This is one big race series with a ton of options, meaning there's bound to be a race for any runner. The Anchorage RunFest has events for everyone from ultrarunners to kids, thanks to the six races taking place over one weekend.
Whether you choose the 49K, marathon, half marathon, 5K, The Anchorage Mile or kids' 2K — or enter the Back to Back Challenge and race the mile on Saturday and any other distance on Sunday — this race series is a great way to explore the largest city in Alaska — the northernmost (though noncontiguous) state — on two feet.
9. Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz (April)
Make your way to the Land of Oz and run your way through the Garmin Marathon, Half Marathon or 10K course. Host city Olathe, Kansas, which gets its name from a Shawnee word for "beautiful," will charm and delight runners as they make their way through this Boston Marathon-qualifying course.
The race began in 2004 as the Olathe Marathon, and runners from all over the world travel to this city just 30 minutes from Kansas City. You'll even see some participants dressed as Dorothy and friends! This is a big-time race with small-town charm, complete with local food and drink to celebrate at the finish-line festivities. Your childhood dreams come true in this journey to Oz — and it doesn't even take a twister to get you there.
10. La Sportiva Vail HillClimb (July)
"Runners from all over the country visit Vail during the Fourth of July holiday to race the HillClimb, a true testament to the beautiful views of the Gore Range and Holy Cross Wilderness that are offered throughout the entire run," shares one race director. Both beginners and advanced trail runners can take on the double-track route — with spectators taking an easier trek via gondola ride — offering sweeping views and a day on the mountain unlike any other.
11. Jurassic Trail Runs (June)
Deep in the heart of Texas is where dinosaur fans and runners alike want to spend a summer night racing after sunset. Jurassic Trail Runs take runners on a 13.1-mile, 15K or 5K trail run along some of the same trails where the dinosaurs once roamed (and left their footprints).
Runners are armed with headlamps and flashlights, which illuminate reflective arrows directing the way along the rocky terrain. After the race, stay awhile and get an even closer look at the area by spending your weekend camping in Dinosaur Valley State Park.
12. AJC Peachtree Road Race (July)
Celebrate Independence Day with runners from all over the country in the AJC Peachtree Road Race. This beloved Atlanta race is now the largest 10K in the world. There's a lottery registration system in place, which makes landing a spot in the race a coveted prize.
"Each year, the AJC Peachtree Road Race gives 60,000 individuals throughout Atlanta and around the world the opportunity to take part in a great tradition and celebrate health and fitness," says Rich Kenah, Atlanta Track Club's executive director. "We're proud to continue to be known as the country's largest road race and the world's largest 10K."